“Um…no, I’ll break a hip,” I said tartly one night in an early January taekwondo class, giving my instructor the side eye and choosing to hop daintily to the side of the pads set up for flying side kick practice rather than leaping over them. Ah, flying side kick, the bane of my existence, the barometer for my physical prowess…or lack thereof.

“It’s OK, I know you’re scared,” the instructor said. Wait a minute, hold up, WHA? I didn’t want to own up to it, but I definitely was afraid. Of what? Falling on a soft mat? Drawing some muffled giggles out of prepubescent boys too shy to look me in the eye and who probably think I’m older than their mom? Bruising my pride or my ego? Exposing the holes in my confidence? I pride myself on being healthy and athletic, and all I can muster is a tentative flop a foot off the ground. How dare I be less than a gazelle in white pajama pants?

How often do we stop short of taking a leap? How often do we let the fear of failure derail us before we even get off the ground? I’ve faced seemingly much larger challenges than that. I’ve done two successful stints in grad school, I bought a home with no financial assistance, and other than a recent bout of good luck in the boyfriend department, I’ve faced the pain of disappointment and rejection time and again. I’ve been the housewife AND the breadwinner for a better part of a decade. I have learned (the hard way) to savor solitude rather than linger in loneliness.  I’m am doing what women fought for the right to do for generations and living a freedom that countless people around the world can only dream of doing.

Why couldn’t I do what comes so easily to children? The weight on our shoulders gets heavier as the years click by: the obligations, the regrets, the triumphs and mishaps. Worry and Logic perch on opposite shoulders and make their countering arguments. My ability to trust has diminished.

Let’s look at the other side of it–when do we need to listen to our limits? Sorry to disappoint–I’m a glass half-empty kind of girl. I bought a wine called “Pessimist” just for the name. (It turned out to be a delightful syrah). The sky is not the limit, the world is not your oyster, we cannot all grow up to be President. I’ve probably just earned some haters. For me it makes for a more peaceful mindset. If you vehemently disagree that’s fine. Whatever works for you. Enjoy the whirlwind and send me a postcard.I’ve said “no” many times in the name of efficiency and my own sanity and well-being. Do you really need to take on that new project when you have 20 others halfway completed and piling up on your desk? Do you need to stay in that toxic relationship that is emotionally draining? Do you need to train for that triathlon when you haven’t recovered from a nasty injury? What are we trying to prove when we push ourselves too far? I’m on the wrong side of 30, and there are some things my body just won’t do. I can run a half marathon, swim the butterfly stroke, and beat those same goofy preteen boys from class in pushups. I have legs that run and dance and jump, strong lungs that pump air, and a healthy heart that keeps beating. Life is pretty good.

So how do I find that balance–pushing myself past my comfort zone while being patient and accepting of the equipment I’ve been given?  I know I need more strength training and drills to build up the power in my legs. That just takes time. Technique doesn’t happen over night. There’s something to be said for being planful over being pushy.
I’ve found that when I trust things will be OK, when I let up on the mental or emotional grip I have on the outcome things work out more sweetly than I could have planned. The trick is relaxing while running full speed ahead….we’re still talking about kicks, right?During the December ice storms I did a spontaneous gleeful flying front snap kick in my living room when I learned we had yet another day off work. Maybe pleasant surprises are what I need to get my feet off the ground.

7 thoughts on “Fear of Flying (Kicks)

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