Sunday, May 23, 2010

Everything Worth Learning Leaves Bruises

My seven-year-old is determined to do a headstand.
Her tiny body toppled, over and over. Each time I would watch her get up, face fierce with determination, and try again. And I would wince, wishing, for the zillionth time in her so-far life, that I could protect her from failure. From disappointment. And wondering, abstractedly, how bruised and battered her little body felt.
Finally she caught ran to me, buried her face in my lap and crumpled. She listened as I offered up platitudes. How she'll learn if she keeps trying. How everyone else in her class was just like her until they learned. She shook her head. No. Back and forth. No. Then she wiped her tears and I watched her frustration be replaced with composure. And out she went onto the gym floor. To try again.
After an hour, she could do a headstand. Almost. If you allow for bent, crooked legs. Which I do.
She was delighted, the early frustration replaced by a sense of accomplishment. She's no fool, my seven-year-old daughter. She absolutely knows that her headstand was a far cry from perfect. Or even good. But she knows she's moving in the right direction.

Watching her reminded me to be gentle with myself. To remember that the days I just can't seem to get it right are the days when I'm learning the most. And that anything worth learning leaves bruises on your heart. The challenge, of course, is not letting your heart become brittle but absorbing the lesson with the pain. Not easy. But as my seven-year-old is teaching me, nothing worth learning ever is.

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