not all of us ever learned to do cartwheels. We also harbored more than a little wretched resentment of the girls, who did, which we exhibited in the language of righteous indignation. "What a show off." "Who does she think she is?" "Cheerleaders are such exhibitionists."
a 40 something woman even contemplate cartwheels today? Mary Lou Retton would suggest that it’s all part of her fitness program. But, what about the non-gymnasts among us—the Sorely Lacking in Agility Society, where lots of us claim to be proud members? Why in the world would we possibly think of not needing something we never felt a need for in the first place?
cartwheels are about performing. Who among us has not spent a good deal of her life executing all manner of tricky maneuvers—juggling, peddling, fancy footwork and whatever else was required to keep our worlds "balanced." We have managed schedules, relationships, jobs, households, travels, and a long litany of responsibilities to everyone in our lives. We’ve been "counted on," "counted out," and "counted down." When a crisis looms, how often have we leapt to the rescue in one swift, fluid motion? Webster’s dictionary defines cartwheel as moving like a turning wheel. We have certainly "spun our wheels" more times than most of us want to remember.
has a friend who some years ago was ecstatic when a corporation, where salaries were higher than at any other company in the community, finally hired her. Shortly after her arrival, "Martha" called EVE and said, "Would you believe the new vice president asked me to be his administrative assistant just because I found him a paper clip when no one else was paying any attention to him?" "Well, you are certainly capable of handling anything that job might require," EVE responded. "Are you kidding," laughed Martha. "For that kind of money, I’ll do cartwheels—with or without underpants." EVE was aghast because she had never heard this woman utter even the slightest off color remark.
Then they both
giggled because who is going to ask a 40 something woman to demonstrate her acrobatic skills? Martha got the job and six months later whispered to EVE, "I can’t believe it, I’m smarter than this man!" EVE’s reply to that was, "Oh, I thought you already knew that you or I could run this operation better than any of those guys in the executive suites!" But, that’s a whole other conversation.
Cartwheels are indeed
a perfect metaphor for the way we’ve already spent a great deal of our time. How do we manage to let other people’s expectations and demands dictate so much of our time and energy? Not only do we fail to list our own needs on any list of priorities we might prepare, but also we actually do "cartwheels" figuratively, to be responsive and helpful to others. When EVE was in high school she wrote the following poem for English class (she had a specific friend in mind when she composed this):
Poor Sick Sal
Once there was a girl named Sal,
Who had a bad disease.
No matter whom she saw or met,
She always tried to please.
No matter where our Sal did go,
No matter whom she met,
She had a friendly word for all,
On this you can surely bet.
For every Tom and Dick and Harry,
She forced a great big smile,
Although in a dreary mood,
And unhappy all the while.
The plot of our little story
Is very plain to see.
Although she always seems happy,
Sal’s miserable as can be.
The moral is so obvious,
That you can tell with ease,
‘Tis better to be oneself,
Than to have the "Please Disease."
How’s this for a punch line. What career path did the young woman described here choose? She became a psychiatrist. Honest!
There is a theory, possibly perpetuated by "belles," that Southern women go to even greater lengths, to "manage" everything. Their "flare" for achieving perfection for everyone around them, can require "jumping through hoops" even more daunting than cartwheels. Things are changing there, however, as Maryln Schwartz reports in her book, New Times in the Old South or why Scarlett’s in Therapy and Tara’s Going Condo. Here’s an excerpt, "But in my group," explained Anne, "we all have husbands who like blonde hair. We talk about whether we should or should not color.
Then we give out the names of the best hairdressers." "Don’t Southern men in the South have gray hair?" asked Brenda. "Yes, but their mothers are blonde." Here’s one man who is an exception to that rule: "My mother is seventy-eight and has finally stopped dyeing her hair. I asked her why she did this at this stage of the game. She says it’s because her granddaughter is thirty-four and she’s got gray hair. Mother doesn’t fully approve of the young women letting their looks go like that. But she thinks it’s unseemly to be blonder than your granddaughter." Is anyone else wondering why this person confronted his mother with that question in the first place?
EVE considers it her birthright to speak out about belles because she’s a "recovering" one herself
So if we can all agree that "doing cartwheels" is symbolic of how hard we work at trying to carry out all our responsibilities to the people around us and how strenuously we strive to perform every task folks ask of us—can we then accept the notion that maybe we have reached a point in our lives when we really Do Not Need Cartwheels any longer—unless they are purely for our own fun and satisfaction?
Recommended reading: I Don’t Have to Make Everything Better: Six Practical Principles to Empower Others to Solve Their Own Problems While Enriching Your Relationships by Joy Saunders Lundberg and Gary B. Lundberg. Not yet available in paperback, can be purchased at www.amazon.com for $15.37 or check your local library.