Saturday, 31 July 2010

I did a forward roll to prove I could do one. And I did!

Yesterday I did a forward roll (somersault) on the floor at work in front of my colleagues.

It was to prove that I could do one. Because my Mum was once a gymnast and now a coach. And somehow it should be in my genes to do gymnastics too. (Note - a forward roll is the only gymnastic move I can do.)

I had a rather tight pencil skirt on, so the challenge was to do it gracefully. No, the challenge was to do it at all.

I got down on the floor, took a deep breath, put my head on the floor and then felt a bit nauseous. I wondered whether it was a good idea. I had not done a forward roll for about 15 years. Maybe more. I used to do them all the time when I was a kid.

The forward roll was successful. It was graceful but not without pain. My neck and shoulders hurt. I am not as agile as I was aged 13. I wondered if in the warmer weather, when I resume body balance, it will be easier to do a forward roll?

I was so pleased I could do a forward roll - and so were my colleagues - they clapped and cheered me on.

Even this morning, my upper body is still sore from this one forward roll. Maybe it's the countless frangelicos and moscatos and champagnes and red wines of last night, though? Nah. Probably not.

The forward roll got me thinking - I often do things to prove my worth to the world. Not things I don't want to do, but things that I am good at, to prove that I am good at them. And a lot of the time I'm constantly proving I'm more than a red face. Because there have been people I've met who just can't get past that issue.

I currently have about six projects on the go. Full time work, freelance writing, TV, volunteer work at ChIPS, my masters thesis and belly dancing. Somewhere in there is socialising, shopping and seeing bands, maintaining this blog, and the everyday stuff like cooking (love it) and cleaning (hate it). Plus keeping my health (pretty good most of the time).

I take on a lot. And I think it's to prove myself. That I can do these things. That I am good at them. That I am successful and articulate and committed. I need to clarify though, I do enjoy these things I do, and wouldn't take them on if I didn't enjoy them. Doing them gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment too.

For me, a distinction at university is never good enough. I've written about this before. Even though I say I aim to achieve 70%, and I work full time and do so many other things, as above, I know I want more. And when I got 78% last semester, it wasn't good enough for me. I wanted more. And then wondered whether if I achieved 88%, would that be good enough?

I wonder whether if I didn't have a chronic illness if I'd be as eager to prove myself. Probably not. I'm sure I'd be a high achiever, but I think I'd feel a sense of permission to be lazier.

There have been many times where people I have met have expected less of me because of my illness.

I have been spoken to loudly and slowly: 'So... What... Do... You... Do...?' As though because I am red I can't understand them, or hear them.

I have been underestimated by strangers: 'It's so good someone like you is working and not locked away somewhere.' Because they may have put me in the same category as the disabled people who were institutionalised. Or they didn't expect me to have the capability to work in a department store, or anywhere else. Or they didn't expect me to be able to brave the public. Or all three.

I have been underestimated by people I went to school with: 'So you're doing your Masters? Wow. I only thought you were at TAFE.' Not that there's anything wrong with TAFE - I have considered doing some short courses, but yes, I have the ability, perseverance and the intelligence to study at a post graduate level.

And sometimes, they've asked others to speak on my behalf: 'What's wrong with her face?' Because maybe they thought even though I was just talking to my friend/parent a second ago, my illness means I don't have the ability to speak to the public.

I guess these assumptions made about me have ensured I strive higher than even anyone I know expects me to. To prove to the people I don't know that I am not just a red face.

It's strange because even though I am always being myself, and I know those I work with and am friends with and who love me know my worth.

But the sense of self success and the need to prove myself to others is always so prevalent.

Maybe I'm doing a metaphorical forward roll every day. To prove that I can do. To prove that I'm more than how I look. And to break down the assumptions people make about me and others with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

I think I need to ease off on the actual forward rolls though!

(Originally posted at Tune into Radio Carly)


  1. I can not do a forward roll, and jusdging by the inevitable pain, I don't think I want to.

    I have a disability, that is not always clearly obvious when people look at me, but it affects my ability to function, and it certainly impacts how people perceive me and relate to me.

    I would be one of the people who reacts to you in the way that upsets you so much. So if we ever do encounter each other. I apologise in advance. As a culture, as a person, I just do not know the right way to approach you, and how not to offend you, and the effort to not offend you, would inevitably cause offense.

    I have a stunningly beautiful friend who I shall refer to as Bella. She has a sever cleft palate and her face is more of a Picaso than a DaVinci, and because I didn't know how to approach her, because many people with a "percieved disability" also have a preconcieved notion about how people will treat them and don't give you much of a chance. As fate would have it, I did get to have a lengthy conversation with her one night, and we are both the richer for it, and our continued friendship.

    Without causing offence, I honestly, would like to know... HOW would I approach you? Unfortunatly, physical appearance is the first thing you notice about someone, and something you can't help but notice, I guess that's why the cosmetic and fashion industries are such multimillion dollar industries. However, I would not like to think that your offence at my initial reaction to your appearance and my reaction itself would mean that I would not encounter you beyond our initial reactions... I don't know that I have expressed myself clearly, but I hope you can understand my question...

  2. Hi Ellen
    I think you could start by saying hello, being friendly and treating me in a way you would treat any other person you would encounter. Not patronising. Not in a judgmental way. And without fear.
    Of course physical appearance is the first thing we notice. But it is the inside person that counts.

  3. PS - Ellen, I encourage you to have a read of my blog - if you haven't already. You will see stories of the ignorance and rudeness of the way people have reacted to my appearance, and hopefully come to understand why I wrote this particular blog entry.

    In my opinion, it would be appropriate to question how you may approach someone who's going through troubled times - like worrying about what to say to someone whose relative died, for example. But I don't think there should ever be a question about the way you should treat someone because of their appearance. Just treat everyone how you'd want to be treated, and hopefully that is nicely, respectfully and on an equal plane.

  4. I really liked this post. I think I should do some metaphorical forward rolls. You've inspired me!

  5. LOL, I couldn't do those rolls in the 3rd grade! More of a pizza roller here. I often think about going back to get credentials...not sure what holds me back. It has never been that important to me, until I say something and am held as worthless without that degree. Roll On!

  6. Believe it or not, sometimes being black in America means that you're always struggling to prove yourself in the eyes of others as well. I've been asked similar questions about my education level, my love of books and even my adoration of classical music. I know it's different, but I thought I'd share.

    By the way, I did a somersault in the pool the other day, something I use to do all the time . . . and it hurt! I got water deep in my ears and straight up my nose. I was struggling to breathe and I felt quite dizzy and nauseous. Ahhh aging's grand, isn't it?