The young gymnast with perfect poise, seemed to move effortlessly as she manoeuvred on the four inch balance beam. Her name was Nadia Comaneci and she was only thirteen years old, the same age as I was.
I sat with other members of my grade eight gymnastics club, mesmerized by her. That night she received a perfect ten on the beam, an unheard of feat; but it was only the beginning. Nadia Comaneci was about to explode onto the athletic world stage. At fourteen, she would go on to compete in Montreal's 1976 Olympics, receiving seven perfect scores and earning five medals, including three gold. The rest is history.
Back in my own school gymnasium, I'd try to be like Nadia Comaneci and perform the perfect cartwheel on a practice ‘beam’ which in reality was a low bench and a fair bit wider. But even then it wasn’t easy and I'd fall off more often than not. Over and over I'd practice it, but I never seemed to get it quite perfect and was definitely not ready to graduate to the actual beam. I felt defeated and clumsy.
My bigger failure however, was in failing to see the vigorous training that had been required in order for her to attain those few perfect moments; the many falls she had to have taken, the daunting sacrifices, the expert coaching. All I saw was the perfection.
I no longer attempt cartwheels, let alone on a bench, but life has often become a balancing act in other ways; balancing schedules, family life, personal time and my own pursuits of writing. And believe me when I say that balance in life has never been my strong suit. But since those days in the gym, I have come to accept that I will never attain perfection, on or off the balance beam. Sometimes the grace is more evident in the falling.
The same night that I was privileged to watch Nadia Comaneci, there were other competitors who performed well, stellar even; but perhaps they wobbled, or worse yet, fell. They weren't perfect. But they were able to get back up and compete as if it had never happened, a feat of another kind.
I just need to have enough grace, to get up and try again and to let others do the same.
*Originally published under the column entitled A Slice of Life by Gloria Guest in the Moose Jaw Express (2011)