When was the last time you experienced shame?
I’ve always been good to go with the brain stuff although at school maths was not only not my strong suit but honestly, I think I might have some dysfunctionality with numbers. But, you know, that didn’t bother me so much growing up because I knew I could handle the words. Always the words. In fact, I took pride in my word acumen – essays, comprehension, foreign languages – they held no fear for me.
The Shame of being Useless at Sport As A Child
But when it came to physical exercise, well, that was an entirely different matter.
Athletics – hopeless.
Gym; yuck, the horse and trying to jump over it, rolly pollies, I don’t think so, climbing ropes, really?
Team sports; netball, hockey always absolutely useless – I remember once a games teacher made the mistake of thinking I was competent at netball and chose me for the team. Oh dear, what a disaster I was in that match, she couldn’t look at me after she was so annoyed …. Shameful.
Then that time when I got to secondary school and we had to play hockey – another misguided teacher also thought I was reasonable and chose me for the team – absolutely useless again- shameful.
And that other awful time when it was sports day at my primary school and afterwards my teacher asked in front of the whole class if there was anyone who hadn’t won anything at all. Of course, it was me. Of course, I put my hand up. Of course, she was nice about it and commended me on my honesty. Shameful.
Ice skating – fell down, broke my wrist. Skiing – fell down, broke my foot. Horse riding – fell off, hurt my back. All shameful, shameful, shameful.
The Shame Of Being Useless at Sport As An Adult
This has all continued well in to adulthood. Yoga classes – getting in to a muddle about which leg was meant to be in the air. Shameful. Not really knowing how to breath right. Shameful. Being scared to do headstands or shoulder stands – shameful. Being utterly unable to do squats – shameful.
Avoiding certain self-development programmes because of the physical challenges – shameful. Playing frisbee in the park once with my kids and another family and falling over while running – shameful. Throwing a ball for a friend’s dog and managing to throw it backwards – shameful. Not being able to ride a child’s scooter while all the other mummies whisked off gracefully and I had to push my child’s home – shameful.
So many incidents when I’ve either hurt myself or just failed epically but always making sure I kept smiling so no one knew how utterly humiliated and useless all this failure made me feel.
Still Useless, Still Ashamed Unfortunately.
And then today. I won’t bore you with all the details as to why I found myself for the first time in a Pilates Reformer class. Suffice to say my spinal consultant has warned me quite matter of factly that unless I get to grips with building up my core, I’m in danger at some time in the future of having to have an operation on my back. Bit dramatic I thought. But I’m not taking any chances.
So here I am in an upstairs room in Islington for the beginners class and the prospect is not just doing loads of difficult, unpleasant exercises but also to work this strange looking machine with its pullies and hooks and weights and rings and platform and footplate and all the rest of the words. The instructor is reassuring (rest as much as you like … what, like the whole class?) but I definitely didn’t take in all the names of all the parts in our four second initiation session.
Within moments we are off with a series of instructions that I can’t keep up with, running around that damned machine trying to attach the right thing to the right thing and hanging on for dear life, in one terrible moment almost falling off, barely being able to carry the thing to put on the thing and finding myself lifting weights up and down while my legs have to push at the thing. And everybody of course is doing it beautifully even the ones who said they were beginners too. And the lovely instructor is repeating the instructions just for me – ‘your leg on the thing’, ‘your leg on the thing’, ‘your leg on the thing’ till finally idiot that I am, I realise I’m meant to put my leg on the thing.
At the end of the hour (which seems to last a lifetime, ‘please let it stop’), the instructor who looks a bit shell-shocked to be honest takes me to one side (the shame of it) and suggests we have some individual sessions so I ‘can get to know the machine’. He kindly says with a real look of bafflement in his eyes that I seem to have some problems with ‘co-ordination’ (you think?), and I agree that yes, that has always been my problem, even in my yoga classes and he wanders off perhaps a little bit traumatised.
It Is Quite Funny Though!
As I hobble away, carefully negotiating my way back to the street, a huge bubble starts in my throat and explodes in my chest. I am almost crying with laughter and even in my hysteria, I’m wondering whether if I didn’t laugh, I would cry.
Because you see this is another way to be Out Loud, seeing the tragic as well as the funny all at once. On returning home, I relate all this first to Micky who says they’ve probably never seen a reformer machine used in quite this way and Tabby says she’s never seen me laugh so much – which would be quite sad really if it wasn’t so funny.
As of this precise moment my neck feels a bit funny and my ankle that was broken is hurting but otherwise I feel ok. I have a 1-2-1 session scheduled for Friday morning (that poor, poor man) and in the meantime I have to complete at least five weekly stretch sessions prescribed by my physiotherapist, 1-2 swims per week and one session on either the exercise bike or cross trainer.
Bikes and me don’t really get along (that terrifying occasion when Micky maintained I’d be fine on the road in Italy during rush hour) so it will have to be the cross trainer I suppose. I remember trying one once before in an ill-advised and (I thought), never to be repeated session at my local gym. But hey, if the doc thinks it’s the only way to avoid the knife, then so be it.
I’ll keep you posted and, in the meantime, if you fancy sharing your most shameful moments here, please do go ahead – we could all do with a good laugh or cry or both.