Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bend Don't Break

Willow trees fascinate me.  Our privacy-seeking neighbor was wise enough to plant a wall of willows in his backyard.  They grow tall and fast with roots that are remarkable for their toughness, size, and tenacity to live even in the poorest soil conditions.

As I watch the willows behind our house flail wildly in the strong wind I am amazed by their ability to arc with the force and still return to upright as if nothing had happened.  They shed some leaves and small branches but post-storm they stand tall as ever, no worse for the wear.  Such resilience.  Such strength in their flexibility.  Willows know it is better to bend than break.  

They remind me of my daughter.  She demonstrates her flexibility in life and in her gymnastics. Unfazed by the winds that life sends her way.  She has strong roots in which she trusts that allow her to reach and grow. 

I watch her balance precariously on the beam attempting to perform a back walkover.  Concentration furrows her brow as she reaches high above her head, palms upward. She bends her limber body in half and makes contact, planting her hands securely on the beam.  I am in awe of the confidence and trust she must have in herself to do this thing.  To blindly reach back.

Later as we drive home, I ask her if she is afraid. She tells me the scariest part is supporting all of her weight on her hands with no one to catch her if she falls.  That surely is the scary part.  

She started gymnastics when she was just three in a preschool class and she loved it.  She was invited to join a developmental team when she was five-years old.  I remember at the time thinking it was too soon for her to specialize in one sport.  I wanted to keep things fun. 

Boy was I wrong.

She continued on sportsing - soccer, softball, gymnastics, cheer and dance.  She tried everything.  However, by the time she decided that she wanted to focus on gymnastics we were told it was too late, the ship had sailed.  She would NEVER be team material.

She was crushed.  I was furious.  She was nine years old...not 39.  How could it be too late???  This gymnastic czar was fierce and final.  My daughter was welcome to continue taking gymnastics classes but the "team" was out of her reach.
The next day I contacted another gym where the coach listened to my sad story.  It was not her first rodeo.  "Bring her in for a tryout.  I can't promise anything but we would love to see her."

Within weeks, my "washed-up" gymnast had earned herself a spot on the ICG Team.  Not a pathway to Olympic dreams but that was never the intention.  My girl just wanted to learn new skills and compete in her sport.

Over the past year she has improved as an athlete by literal leaps and bounds.  She has strengthened her body and her resilience.  When she fell recently on bars while competing at Regionals in Wildwood, New Jersey, she hopped back up and finished her routine. She continued on to her last event and while I would have been shaken to my very core, she was steady and determined.  She nailed her beam routine and earned a 4th place finish out of 20 competitors.   

Just like the willow, she returned to upright no worse for the wear, showing her true strength is her ability to bend not break. She amazes me every day.

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