Being physically flexible as a youngster was not my forte. I remember elementary gym class where we were required to do stretching exercises and basic gymnastics. I hovered at the bottom of the totem pole. Touching my toes, only if I bent my knees. Front and side splits, forget about it. Back bends made me dizzy. Furthermore, I was not willing to work at it. So I stayed physically stiff and certainly not gymnastics material.
But I LOVED dodgeball. For me dodgeball was about strategy, grit and releasing pent up energy.
I think this is one of the reasons why gym teachers loved Friday dodgeball. A great way to expel all that extra emotional and physical adrenaline. Get it out on the court, so it didn’t inappropriately manifest itself and send you to the principal’s office.
Another reason, like many sports, is the gym teachers/coaches can tell a great deal about a student/player by how they conduct themselves on the court. True personalities surface when a little team competition is involved.
Yes, dodgeball did expose the class bullies that felt the need to exercise their power over us minions. But the key was solid, hyper-aware gym teachers calling the shots. Making sure no one kid or gang of kids were dominating the play. There were wipeouts, tears and bruised egos, but man it felt good if you did not end up on the floor reeling in pain or on the sidelines in tears. Total release.
The physicality, teamwork and intense interaction of dodgeball was more attractive to me at the time than the individual hard work and finesse of gymnastics. And foremost, it signified a basic foundation for the give and take flexibility I would need down the road.
Flexibility in Our Foundation
Our behavioral foundation begins in childhood. What we learn through the actions and interactions of our parents/caregivers, friends, school, environment lays it out for us. The residuals of this foundation may not be what we expect as we grow out of our youth and into the reality of adulthood. We may come to realize those learned behaviors need to change.
What often holds us back is the disfunction and various forms of trauma that are a part of everyone’s life. Those who face the truths about our personal foundation know this is where pivoting or flexibility comes into play. Flexing your mind and ultimately your behaviors is a means to move beyond the space you do not want to be but in which you find yourself.
I grew up in a place that rewarded hard work and following traditional paths. A foundation which seemed narrow and stifling as I grew into adulthood.
This may be why I never had any real passions in high school. I was involved in the arts because that is where I felt some level of comfort and belonging, but barely. Never felt I was very good, always comparing myself to my classmates. And frankly, because those activities did not carry much weight in the overall scheme of things, I did not take them seriously.
I was inflexible to my own internal and unrealized passions laying dormant.
Flexing My Mind
My mind was not very flexible with regard to what was possible. At least I did not let on in any external sense. Anything outside the norm of my environment was considered a pipe dream. Shyness and low self esteem prevented revealing my dreams for fear of ridicule. Probably an exaggeration, but feelings I harbored in any case.
Although, a revelation did occur during my senior year in high school. After being asked by an instructor what I would like to do in the future. I confidently said, “Travel the world and paint my experiences.”
Where that came from, I have no idea. Well I do, but I can’t believe the statement was uttered out loud. My dreams were filled with fantasies of travel, mostly as a bird flying overhead and through the clouds, but travel nonetheless.
My internal self was beginning to come to the surface. Flexibility toward the possible was hesitantly exerting itself.
I indeed began traveling. Maybe not to the far reaches of the earth at first. But by the age of 25, after a discussion and planning session with some college classmates we were off to Europe visiting the art and architecture of places we had only read about in our art history books.
I lit a spark that day when answering the “future” question. I believe my subconscious chose that particular time to reveal a true passion. And my mind was flexible enough to carry it through.
Being Globally Flexible
That first realized trip overseas was overwhelming for this naive twenty something. Our diverse group viewed the long plane ride as a grande party at 30,000 feet above the earth. We were too excited and nervous to sleep. Once we landed everything felt new, unique and certainly unknown. Most of what we witnessed was older than anything most of us had seen before.
The architecture, the ruins of cultures past, lands which had seen countless battles over the centuries, all met with wide eyes and wonder. The time change, food, music, panoramic views, narrow streets, cramped quarters, fresh air, language barrier, public transportation, and the people we met were all powerfully fascinating to me.
The first full day, I lost my brand new camera. It fell to its death over a cliff as I was taking a picture and not fully aware of the immediate surroundings. Lost my footing and thus my grip on the camera.
Proved to be the perfect omen. Forcing me to pay more attention to what I was experiencing as opposed to the next good photo op. My mini travel nightmare became an opportunity to flex my travel intention.
Over the years my desire when traveling has shifted more toward experiencing and observing with a more global intention as opposed to an individual one. Absorbing and being a part of the environment without disrupting the flow of the people and places I visit. Eating what the natives eat, learning the basics of the language spoken. Respecting cultural traditions and blending in.
Exercising global flexibility.
Money and Flexibility
Money is a huge issue when it comes to flexibility. Not having any makes it difficult to pivot far, if at all. This is where so many get stuck in a rut with a mindset that there is no where to go, but down.
But somehow as a poor college student, I was able to persist. Dealing with what I wanted to do in increments. Being patient and driven to complete the tasks or participate in opportunities I could afford.
Changing my behavior to that of someone willing to work, scrimp and save for the things that stirred my soul. My finances may not have been flexible, but a mindset shift is what helped me to rotate my thoughts and behaviors regarding money.
Don’t get me wrong, living pay period to pay period was anxiety producing. But, for me, anxiety propelled my determination to overcome.
Ingenuity and creative problem solving abilities have always been in my wheelhouse. Making the low points more palatable and temporary. I have always made due with what was available. A valuable lifetime skill.
Necessity, the mother of invention.
This financial and creative flexibility carried me through my college years and still does to this day even as I moved beyond living pay period to pay period. But one never knows what is coming down the pike. For me, being creatively and financially frugal is a welcomed personal preference. Thinking twice about whether I need this or that despite what marketers, influencers or trendsetters may want me to believe.
Pivoting my behaviors toward focusing on my needs and not what others think they know I need.
The prompt for this work centered my thoughts regarding water and its scarcity on some levels but as well as its natural healing properties. Consider ways we must learn to conserve water. Behaviors that will require flexibility when it comes to personal use or we risk losing this precious commodity.
Water’s fluidity has the ability to cleanse, heal and nourish. Think of water rushing down a river and how it maneuvers the rocks as it flows. Nourishing the plants and creatures along the way. Much like how we manage our own daily lives. We can resist those obstacles or we can be flexible to what comes up, nourishing ourselves and others along the way. Allowing the opportunities to present themselves.
Well done, Michelle
Thank you Eva!