Cartwheels and Muscle Memory


I’ve only recently heard about a thing called muscle memory. If you are a fitness buff or a weight-lifter then you are probably all to familiar with this term. Basically, and I’m sure I’m going to WAY over-simplify this, muscle memory is when your body learns to do a specific task so well that you don’t have to think about it. Building muscle memory saves time and energy because you simply do the task and don’t have to stop and figure it out. Some examples of using muscle memory might include riding a bike or typing on a keyboard. Fitness people can grow their muscles (and their muscle memory) by lifting similar weight sizes until it’s not a big deal any more. And then they lift more weight. It’s how those P90X people do all those heart-pounding moves and make it look effortless. They’ve done it a million times and now their bodies just do it. And it looks smooth. Where I look like I’m having a seizure.

When I was a little girl I was not very graceful. It took me forever to learn to ride a bike because my balance was slightly off and my fear base was more than slightly off. When all my friends were doing cartwheels on the playground I stood by pretending to be the judge, giving them all perfect 10’s. When I was in about third grade my mom suggested I take a gymnastics class so that I wouldn’t feel so out of place with the other girls and maybe, as a bonus, I could gain a bit of gracefulness.

I learned to do a cartwheel right away because that was really all I cared about. Anybody can do a forward roll and only the girls with grand visions of cheerleading needed to learn the fancier flips. I needed a cartwheel so I learned a cartwheel.

A lot of thought goes into learning a cartwheel. At least I required a lot of thought. It didn’t feel natural to fling myself towards the ground. Being upside down felt wrong. But the more cartwheels I did the better I got at cartwheels. They became smooth and dare I say, pretty. I could do them fast, whipping my legs over my head. I could do them slow, with ballerina type precision. I could do a long string of them across my yard, becoming dizzy and falling into the grass. Cartwheels were my jam.

I’m not sure when I did my last cartwheel. I’d imagine it was some time in high school, but maybe after. I never mad a decision to stop. There was no proclamation stating, “Today is the day I stop cartwheeling!” I suppose there just stopped being opportunity or need. My experience has shown that adulting rarely requires cartwheels, which is a little sad if you think about it. Maybe your experience is different. Maybe you do cartwheels every morning. I’m not sure I could do a cartwheel today if I tried. If I stood in my office right now and put some serious thought into it…maybe. But my fear base of cartwheeling is great again – like it was when I was little. What if I fall? Or pull something? Falling is less of a deal when you are 7 than 38. I feel pretty sure the injury would be greater and then I’d have to go to work and explain that I’m in a sling or a cast because I failed at cartwheeling. I can only imagine Pastor Al’s face. While I have a touch of sadness that cartwheels will most likely only exist in my past, I’m also mostly okay with that fact.

I recently lost my assistant. She’s not hiding somewhere. I know where she is and she’s still my friend, so it’s cool. She just doesn’t assist me anymore. Her family supposedly needed her more than I do – which I believe I could have argued if they had just come to my office. Family is the most important thing though so I sent her off with my blessing. I was sad, but I still blessed. I quickly realized, however, that I had lost some muscle memory for a few things. Actually a lot of things. Okay, all the things. My personality lends to more dreaming, visioning, casting of ideas. The details of how to make those things happen can easily overwhelm and paralyze me. Last week was spent making lists and notes in the hopes that I could get a handle on things before they tumbled down hill. I still have the vision but now I need to make the copies to pass out. I managed but in a wild haired, frothing at the mouth, drinking too much coffee sort of way.

Yesterday I woke up and put my big girl panties on. January was crazy enough (I had pneumonia) and February is going to be better. It has to be. I need to build back some muscle memory for organization, list making, and task busting. I worked for a thousand years without an assistant so I know I can make it work again…for a little while. I’m still totally looking for a new assistant. But in the meantime I’m looking fear in the face and saying, “Bring it, Sucka!” I’ve got my planner open, I’m making notes, I’m moving forward.

Moving forward is the key, whether it’s in cartwheels or life. Fear wants to creep in and tell us that there’s no way. Fear wants us to stop, dig a hole, and climb in. But that’s not God’s plan for us. He has created us to be over-comers. The same God who overcame death is living inside of me right now; He’s inside of you. We all get knocked down but He is there beside us saying, “Give me your hand. I’ve got this.” What has knocked you down recently? I know some of you have been pummeled by some pretty huge things.  I’m praying for you this morning. Let’s get up together, find a soft hill, and start with some forward rolls, shall we? And when we get comfortable with the feeling of being upside down again maybe we kick up our heels and do a cartwheel. And maybe, just maybe, on our way over, when our feet are flying through the air with the greatest of ease, we kick fear right in the throat and tell it to back off. What do you say?