I was stretching after my workout on Friday and realized I hadn’t told a soul about a massive, milestone achievement I unlocked two days before. I kicked up into a handstand. Totally by myself. And held it. For a good, solid amount of time.
This might not sound like a big deal to some people, but for me, it’s HUGE. I’ve wanted to do a handstand for YEARS. I mean, seriously...YEARS. Like maybe twenty five. I started yoga back then and I could never do one. I didn’t even really try very hard; it just seemed like something that was unavailable to me. It didn’t feel safe. It didn’t feel possible.
Two years ago I started doing Crossfit. I discovered soon enough that they do handstand there, too. Aiy. Again, my brain said Nope. Absolutely not. Not going to happen. When we worked on it in class, I’d try to kick up, but never quite got there - one leg flew up, sure, but the other one somehow wouldn’t follow through. I’d stop myself. I also noticed one arm would always kind of buckle, bending out towards the side, which made me nervous. I can’t hold myself up. I am too heavy. I’m not strong enough. I don’t want to hurt myself. All these whispers in my head.
Last year I set a goal to finally work through all that - to move beyond the fear, to get physically strong enough, and to be kind and patient with myself through the process. I’d stay after class and try to kick up at least ten times before leaving. I was usually achy and sore and it never worked. After a few frustrating months, I got discouraged and threw in the towel. I stopped practicing, but I never stopped thinking about it.
I mused over what was holding me back: Fear. Fear of what? Of hurting myself. Of not being strong enough. Of feeling like an idiot. I recognized this as very old stuff, stemming from childhood and tied to an identity I was ready to shed: the heavy girl.
I realized my whole life I’d identified with heaviness. First off, I was heavy; I was an overweight kid. We’d call it bullying now, but back then it was teasing. I was teased endlessly, ridiculed and singled out because of what I looked like. That made gym class and playgrounds dangerous, particularly when confronted with things that little girls are supposed to do, or want to do, like gymnastics.
I associated gymnastics with skinny, spritely types. My mind would immediately shut down when presented with things like the vault, uneven bars or any kind of acrobatics. I wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of being able to do it. I was embarrassed by my body and wanted no part of being exposed, in any way. Cartwheels? Round offs? Handstands? Hard pass. How could I put myself in the vulnerable position of trying something like that, something I would surely fail and be laughed at for? Something I couldn’t possibly have the strength to do.
I had also been deeply affected by a traumatic event in my early years that effectively revoked my childhood birthright of happy-go-lucky and carefree at a really young age. So trying things that seemed potentially life threatening? I didn’t have that luxury. I knew death, intimately. I knew it could happen and it did; it was permanent and unchangeable. It left an invisible anchor inside of me.
Over time I lost weight, but I’d embraced heaviness in other ways: in attitude, in predilection, in heart and soul. Penetrating and fusing inside me, heavy (and it’s twin sister dark) informed my preferences, my art, my identity. I was heavy. I was deep. It was something to hold onto. Lightness scared me. It seemed so fleeting, so inconsequential, so elusive. I didn’t want to be that. I was solid. Unmoveable. You couldn’t break me.
Internalized and so inwardly tied to my self perception, it served me for years, protecting and bolstering. But now I’d begun flirting with the idea of Light. Entertaining the possibility of inviting more of it into my life. Trying on the essence. Lightness. Being light. Can I be that? Can I allow myself to be? Because all this heaviness is sexy but it can also drag a girl down.
Back to handstand, and last week.
Though I hadn’t tried it in months, I didn’t think about it too much when the coach said, “Ok, we’re going to do handstand at the wall; you’re going to hold it for 30 seconds.”
I went over and started kicking up. The first few tries revealed the same issue I always had: the second leg not following through. But I noticed my arm didn’t buckle at all when I started the kickup. That was new. It gave me confidence. Watching me, the coach directed, “Try moving your non-kicking leg a little closer to the wall.”
I did. And magically, rather effortlessly, I floated up and felt both feet hit the wall behind me.
There’s a unique weightlessness you feel when you turn yourself upside down - a moment of sheer, fluid, upward movement as you’re seemingly lifted by an invisible force. It’s extraordinary in it’s quiet splendor. And there’s something so very empowering about knowing that you can hold yourself up - that no matter what - even upside down - You’ve got yourself.
After the initial shock of Holy Crap, I’m UP, I’m doing this! I tried to move my feet away from the wall, and balanced that way for several seconds before coming down. Immediately, I had to make sure it wasn’t a fluke…and there I went, up again! Look, Ma, I’m flying!
What I loved most about the whole experience is that even though I hadn’t been actively working on it, it happened…because I was ready. I’d laid the groundwork. I’d put in the physical effort of getting stronger, and I’d also worked on it in my mind. Every realized desire needs to exist there first.
It’s worth noting that after about two minutes of basking in the glow of my achievement, my brain started cutting me down. “Well, yeah, but you’re still at the wall…and you didn’t hold it for a full thirty seconds!”
That old habit of downplaying my accomplishments is tired and misguided; I’m so done with it. That’s why I’m sharing this story with you on the page. Today, I allow myself to honor my victories and achievements, no matter how big or small, with no caveats. Do I still have far to go? Sure I do. But I also get to feel happy about where I’ve come from, and how far I’ve traveled to get here.
To anyone who might need to hear this today, consider me a messenger: The work you’re doing resonates! It’s changing the very fiber of your being. Even if you don’t see results for years, one day when you least expect it, the outcome that seemed so unattainable at one time, will be right there for you.
And on that note, I would like to hear about any of your latest victories, big or “small” (because they’re all big, as far as I’m concerned!) Anything you want to share? …Something you glossed over, brushed off or downplayed, perhaps? Please do speak up. I would love to celebrate with you!
(And if you can’t think of anything…let me know what you’re working on!!)