This is not me. But I’m getting there…
I have a problem with inversion. I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel, a handstand, or a headstand. On my high school swim team, I was consigned to the backstroke because I couldn’t dive off the blocks.
(I balk, I panic, I freak out, I fail. It might be some instinct for self-preservation, or perhaps I wasn’t swung by the toes enough as a child.)
Over the past ten years, I’ve developed an otherwise dedicated and intense yoga practice that happens to include curling up in a little ball whenever people start balancing upside down.
And then a few weeks ago, my Ashtanga teacher said something so weirdly profound that at first I dismissed it as yoga-patchouli-lemongrass speak. “Don’t just try to do a headstand,” she said. “Do a headstand as if you already knew how.”
This was so different from the usual advice (Strong core! Straight legs!) that I decided to try. It would require a mental leap, but then mental leaps are what writers do best. It was more acting than yoga: I am a person who loves headstands. What’s my motivation? Upside-downness.
I was so into my role that I wasn’t even shocked when my legs started floating up, when my body locked into a balance that felt as familiar as bike-balance, as walking-up-stairs-with-a-coffee balance.
I started thinking that night about the writing students I’ve seen struggle with confidence in their projects and their own skills. They’ll often stop and examine their insecurities, as if dissection and analysis might get them past the fear that they’re writing the whole thing wrong. I wonder, though, if there isn’t a more expedient solution.
This is what I’m going to tell them from now on, what I’m going to wish for them: