Walking and Agility

Monday’s child is fair of face / Tuesday’s child is full of grace…

As a child born on Tuesday, I kept hoping someday I would be graceful. By the time I learned that the rhyme referred to spiritual grace, I had pretty much accepted that physical grace was going to be an unattainable goal. In junior high, my P.E. teachers rather cruelly told me they’d voted me the Second Most Uncoordinated Girl in School (the Most Uncoordinated actually had a physical disability). My clumsiness was probably due at least in part to nearsightedness. Having grown up in an era before contact lenses, I’ve worn glasses since third grade, and, between lack of peripheral vision and worry about breaking glass lenses, my childhood was spent avoiding sports as much as possible. Allergies and asthma, which developed in my teen years, didn’t help at all. I took tennis for three quarters in college and never did get to the point where I could return the ball, though I frequently got completely out of breath running after it.

Now, even after more than twenty years in a ballet class, I am not and never will be graceful. But I used at least to be able to walk without falling down or running into things. Alas! encroaching age has affected not only strength and flexibility but also balance, and now I seem to lurch from point A to point B, almost guaranteed to trip over anything in my path. There are many more hazards in my cluttered house, though, than on the streets and sidewalks where I take my daily constitutional, so it’s pretty safe. Walking neither requires nor particularly develops physical agility, but I would like to think it might promote mental agility, providing time for me to mull things over.

“Agile” is quite the buzzword these days. A Google search for “agile technology” takes 0.22 seconds to find about 297,000 results. There are companies named “Agile Technologies,” “Agile Technology Solutions,” and even “Agilent Technologies,” where “Agilent” presumably is meant to imply agility. The ability to turn on a dime is vital in today’s rapidly changing economy.

But flexibility, or spontaneity, is valuable in many aspects of life. Life frequently doesn’t go as planned, and the ability to alter course and keep pressing toward the goal, or to change the goal as required, is certainly a valuable one. The first is something that GPS systems evidently do well: take a wrong turn and the GPS plots a new course and, in a calm voice, instructs you on how to correct your error. (If the GPS were as human as it sounds, there are some direction-challenged or impetuous drivers who would undoubtedly try its patience!)

I thought about this a lot yesterday. It was a ballet day, so I wasn’t walking. As usual, I was running late for class, with barely enough time to dress and run out the door, when I got a call from a client. What he needed was unreasonable (not his fault—unreasonable demands were being made on him by his client) and was going to throw a monkey wrench into my plan for the day. So I headed off to class already irritable, reminded of the poster at the top of the stairs in the studio: “I might as well exercise—I’m in a bad mood anyway.”

As I approached the studio door, however, one of the other students came out, reporting that class had been canceled (for reasons that are still unknown). Well, great! I had made an appointment for 10:30, intending to go straight from the studio to my late father’s house, where I was to meet some men who would collect a sofa we were donating. Now I had over an hour before that appointment.

This actually worked out pretty well. I was able to shower and dress and get some other work done, and then my husband and I went by the house at 10:30 on our way to other places in the same general direction, thus combining trips and saving gasoline. But I couldn’t get over the feeling that my day had been knocked into a cocked hat. It didn’t help that this was the third straight day on which such events had occurred, and I was getting pretty grumpy about it. Times of constant interruption and distraction such as I’ve had this past week are what my father used to describe as feeling “nibbled to death by ducks.”

Although my physical flexibility lessens constantly, I’d like to see an increase in mental flexibility and spontaneity. I’d like to be better able to roll with the punches. I’d like to be more open to new ideas and techniques. I’d like to learn new technologies and not so bitterly lament the passing of familiar ones (Word 2003’s toolbars!). I think I am improving somewhat in spontaneity, at least: I’m much more likely now to be willing to go somewhere on the spur of the moment. In fact, I almost prefer it, since having more lead time just causes me to overplan and fret. Don’t expect me ever to welcome a surprise party (Please! Let me be sure my hair looks nice!), but even though my initial reaction to any proposal is usually negative, if you just wait a while and ask again, I’ll usually come around. After telling you all the reasons why what you ask is impractical or even impossible or too much trouble, I’ll just do it—and then brag about how easy it was!

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