On the Multi-Dimensionality of Progress (or why you shouldn’t feel bad that you probably haven’t got all of your shit together all of the time)
21st August 2020
It is a well-known and often quoted fact that progress isn’t linear; but let’s not forget that it isn’t one-dimensional, either.
As my life, horizon and physical practice are wildly expanding, contracting, imploding and blowing my mind these days, I am realising – and oddly, accepting more often than not – that some days, I won’t be on top of my handstand-game.
My presses have been stronger, I used to be more dynamic and the number of pull-ups and seconds in a one-arm handstand that I could perform has definitely been higher than it is at the very moment of writing this, but do I really want to compare that to my health, my happiness and, you know, balance? No thanks.
Handstand training keeps teaching me a great deal about myself, my body and the way I live, curiously including the parts that aren’t much about handstands at all but about balance, dedication and progress.
Having recently moved back to my home country, I am currently working on establishing myself as a freelancer in a system that doesn’t seem to like the concept of freelancing all that much, greeting our idealism and creative approach to a work-life-balance, self-actualisation and contributing our skills to our community in a meaningful way with stacks of dusty paperwork, rusty obstacles forged from decades of conservative labour-force tradition and a great deal of the socially expected fear of freedom (Freedom? Freedom is an illusion as well as a representation of a shocking lack of safety! My dear, why would you want that? Janis Joplin sang about how “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” and we know what happened to her!)
Now I could choose to focus on the familiar voices of self-doubt, the external and the internal ones, like I have in the past, or I could just take baby-steps, be proud and keep moving. On some days, that will mean that I train really hard for hours on end. On other days, it could mean any combination of the following and/or something else entirely.
My multidimensional progress contains and isn’t limited to:
– The ability to prioritise other things over my training without fear or guilt
– Coming back to handstands after a two-day break and having my body remember the important bits, be they somewhat sloppy
– Spending hours facing my fears: of touch and of heights, of the bureaucracy in my home country and too many calories consumed, of small things and big ones
– Putting the hours in in front of the laptop, the social media and the stacks of intimidating paperwork, claims, proposals and applications
– Being proud of myself for the baby steps
– Keeping my head up and keeping going instead of indulging being all upset with myself for being human
– Improving my teaching, listening and observation skills every time I use them
– Remembering some of what makes me me: how to write a really good letter or simply a song lyric on a post-it note in my best handwriting; how to cook fabulous dinner for no-one but myself, a family of twelve or someone close to me, tell a really good story over a bonfire, paint a scene with words, sing on the top of my lungs into the wind on the open road, windows rolled all the way down, allowing my lungs to surprise me with their capacity;
– Accepting that some days I prefer to run for hours on end and some days I’d rather read a book or do nothing, nothing at all
– Accepting that some days, my progress will be limited to eating all of the chocolate (and the bread and the ice cream and the fruit and whatever was left in the fridge) and then moving on and simply being OK with trying again
– Breathing, and then breathing differently, and then not breathing at all, and then breathing without realising that I am breathing and simply letting the oxygen diffuse out of my lungs into my body
– Showing up real and raw, with all my flaws and hopes and dreams and the desire to connect with the people around me
– Allowing myself the vulnerability of doing it again every single day, regardless of whether I have been met with acceptance, compassion, kindness, tenderness or with harshness, incomprehension, fear or rejection
– Performing something in front of others that I know to be less than perfect
– Connecting with myself, my craft and the beautiful beings around me
– Actually trying, knowing full well that I will get hurt, that I will fail, that I will embarrass myself and that I will grow every single time
…because if handstands have taught me one thing it’s Hans Hoffmann’s old adage “Art like love is dedication.”
Whatever your type of forward motion is today, embrace your multi-dimensionality, because progress is never only one thing.
You, my darling, are never only one thing, so please do yourself and the world a favour and stop trying so hard to fit your complex beauty into a simple box.