By Kate Gace Walton
I cannot do a cartwheel, not because I’m injured or unwell; I just can’t seem to pull it off.
A couple weekends ago, I tried to imagine that my life depended on it (“Area Woman Forced to Do Cartwheels at Gunpoint”) and still: no go.
I get my hands down, but when I try to swing my legs up and over, they’re like cement. It looks more like a weird pushup than a cartwheel.
Not only am I unable to do a cartwheel now, at age 45; I’ve never been able to do one. Not as a child. Not as a teenager. Not as a younger adult. For the most part, this has not been a problem. My cartwheeling friends have always seemed sanguine enough about letting me hang with them. Cartwheeling prowess never cropped up on college applications, on dates, or in job interviews. And the powers-that-be in my current life—my employers, the IRS, the DMV, election officials, class moms, etc.—seem wholly unconcerned with acrobatics of any kind. So yes, it’s safe to say that one can remain right side up and get by just fine.
And yet even in this world where there are millions of more pressing concerns, it’s hard to let it go.
For one thing, turning a cartwheel just looks so fun. On a summer evening, with a carpet of green grass beneath you, what could feel more free, more joyous?
And then there’s that nagging concern: if you’re otherwise able-bodied, what does not being able to do a cartwheel say about you? That you’re uptight? Anxious? Fearful? And that these psychological hang ups will forever limit you, keeping you not only from a host of simple joys but perhaps also from one or two substantive accomplishments that might otherwise be within your reach? Is that what it means???
When you go down that path, suddenly not being able to do a cartwheel seems like an issue. At the very least, you want an expert—perhaps a physicist!—to tell you that it’s not mental. Maybe short-torsoed giants like myself (I’m 5’11”) have a center of gravity that makes cartwheels literally impossible. That would be sad but not as sad.
And if it is a mental limitation, maybe a different sort of expert—Tony Robbins?—could help me to engineer a psychological breakthrough. Ideally, without hot coals/third-degree burns.
This quest—to do a cartwheel, or to walk away with a definitive understanding of why I can’t—that’s The Cartwheel Project. Over the course of the project, we’ll be releasing a series of videos documenting my efforts. Many of these videos are likely to be unflattering. This is not the fault of the producer, Visual Story Productions, which is helmed by my kind husband, Chris Walton; it’s just what happens when you take an honest look at a genuine weakness. And as they say: no pain, no gain.
You? Can you do a cartwheel? If you’re willing to spend a minute on a short survey, please let us know.
Also, is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but can’t? If so, have you written it off entirely, or is there a chance there’s still time? Please send me your stories. As I spend the summer trying to turn my first cartwheel, it would be good to know what feats—large or small—the rest of you are tackling. I can be reached via email, Facebook, and Twitter.