I Would Tell You If I Could

This week, everyone’s had trouble blogging, but that’s not why I’ve been quiet. On Monday, I lost interest in smoking during General Hospital – which I can’t explain – and simply didn’t smoke another cigarette. Sister #1, who shall remain pregnant for the foreseeable future, calls every day to offer positive reinforcement but it’s not necessary. On Tuesday nights, my girlfriends – some of whom lack a critical X chromasome – and Miss Sasha were a little shocked when I didn’t want a cigarette after they ate dinner. I can’t really explain this. All I can say is that it is so.

I *can* tell you how it feels. When I started gymnastics in the mid-seventies, girls didn’t dare start in the sport without years of ballet first. I had seven years of ballet before I began learning the basics of tumbling, so I can tell you this with certainty: when a person first tries to kick into a handstand, the body is young and rubbery and does not respond well to being upside-down. Gradually, the patient student learns to feel his or her own palms, the shoulders, the middle back, the hips, the knees, ankles and toes. Gradually, the student learns through kicking up many times against walls and falling down, or kicking up toward a spotter and slapping a shoulder that strength and a new sense of upside-down-ness grow. Time passes. Sometimes a student takes the body’s hints and moves forward. Sometimes not, and the student goes nowhere. Of the teenagers who take the hints of their bodies, some learn a secret – and it is a tremendous secret: the word ‘handstand’ is a misnomer. To stand upright, weight resting on one’s heels, is nothing. It’s ordinary, and there’s not really anything much to say about it. A handstand, however, is a contradiction in terms. A person doesn’t really stand on his or her hands so much as place the palms on the ground-most surface and push the whole body as straight and taut as the body can manage toward the toes, and if possible, past them an inch or so. It sounds crazy, but that’s what it is, and it you watch a really good athlete on the high bar or uneven bars, and try to feel where they’re putting their weight, you will see what I mean. It’s called amplitude and it’s only exotic if you’ve never studied gymnastics or wave function.

So there’s a gangly body, And it tries to be upside-down, which is a foreign sense of itself. And it reaches toward impossibly straight walls. And it resists the hands of persons knowledgeable in this endeavor. One day, the body kicks into handstand, and all the weight feels like it is stretched away from earth into the pointed toes, and the spotter, surprised, feels his hands instinctively note where the other, upside-down body is centered and balanced. That balance is now separate from the spotter in this moment, and the spotter moves his hands a centimeter, then another. The spotter knows first and now removes his hands. The student knows second: balance has been achieved. The body accepts inversion. The line away from earth is straight and perfect.

So. I have not smoked another cigarette in just about a week. It is not something I accomplished, really; I was simply there, and the time was right, I haven’t smoked a cigarette since last Monday, and I am stretched away from earth…

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