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My handstands took a setback — but so what?


“Life is the ability to start over again.” — Joan D. Chittister

I’m now eight weeks out from my hip replacement surgery, and it probably goes without saying that I haven’t gone back to handstands in the middle of the room — yet. I’m pretty sure that by the end of July I’ll be ready for the attempt. But for now, I’m back at the wall again as my hip recovers and I re-learn how to use my leg for kicking and balance. Yeah, it sets me back a bit, but so what? I didn’t have to go back to the drawing board of completely re-learning how to put my hands on the floor, while overcoming my fear of kicking my feet up, nor did I permanently lose the ability to do a handstand, but I did have to stop for a few weeks before carefully moving back into my practice.

The thing is, setbacks are common in life, not just in handstands, but they don’t have to be detrimental. In his article, “How I’ve Learned to Overcome Setbacks in my Life and Career,” Chris Winfield refers to setbacks as “hiccups” in that they don’t actually stop you, and says they’re more like speed bumps –- they simply slow you down. Winfield suggests thinking of setbacks as a problem that makes your progress harder or success less likely.

This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced problems that made my progress harder. Since my handstand journey began, I’ve been seriously setback by two separate shoulder surgeries, a foot laceration, and now my hip replacement. After each of those incidents, some people assumed I’d give up on handstands. And I could, I suppose, use any of the above as good, legitimate reasons (that just about any sane person would understand) to throw in the towel and quit kicking up. I am 57, and handstands are not normally on the list of expectations for 50-something-year-old grandmothers. Nor would people shake their heads in disappointment or think less of me if I threw up my hands and said, “I can’t do it! I give up! No more handstands for me!”

For some reason though, I can’t, or won’t, give up. Wait, that’s not true; I know the reason. I can’t or won’t give up because I love doing handstands. I know I’ve said many times that handstands make me happy — and it’s true. But it’s more than putting my hands on the floor and kicking my legs into the air; it’s the euphoria of finding that magical combination of strength and balance, mixed with the right amount of leverage and concentration, that becomes a handstand. It’s the knowledge that with consistent practice and determination, I’ve made great strides in accomplishing a goal that seven (almost eight) years ago seemed unattainable — if not laughable.

Now I am laughing — every time I get a little handstand hang time. I’m laughing when I tell someone how much I enjoy doing handstands. I’m laughing that I learned later in life that I really can accomplish seemingly unattainable things if I set my mind to it. And now I’m laughing every time I overcome yet another setback.

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