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I’m a clumsy sort.

So was my dad. He even had a T-shirt, a yellow one with a mock Superman logo on it, that said “Super Klutz”.

I can explain why.

First, let me say this – in the last three years, I’ve been soaking up as much of life as I possibly can traveling, touring, performing, writing, exploring, experiencing, loving every moment. This might sound like bragging, but it really isn’t. I’m just finally living a dream that I had held onto for so long and I am so excited about it all! It’s hard to believe now that there was ever a time in my life when I not only wasn’t living the way I really wanted to, but that I thought that this kind of life would never be possible for me.

I have so much to be thankful for.

Live and learn.

But… I’ve also been doing something lately that I never have done much in my life – exercising.

Here’s the backstory:

Right up through the third grade I only had to walk right next door to go to school, so there was no need to take my bicycle. We lived on a dangerous blind curve on a fairly busy road, so my mom very rarely let me ride my bike too far from the confines of the yard or, over the summer and on weekends, the school playground. Then, starting in the fourth grade, I took the bus to the next town over to go to school until the year I graduated. Still no need for the bike.   (I do remember taking one really bad fall and scraping my knee all to hell and thinking, “Okay, that’s enough for me!” and didn’t really ride my bike much anymore.)

Even though we had two incredible maple trees in the front yard, I rarely climbed them, partly because my mother worried so much, and partly because I worried I would fall and break an arm or a wrist – how then would I be able to do my favorite thing in the world, which was playing the piano?

In high school, I tried out for the basketball team, and not because I liked basketball, but because my friend really wanted to try out and didn’t want to go alone. Of course, after tryouts, we didn’t find either of our names on the list on the bulletin board outside the gym. I certainly didn’t expect to see mine.

I was always dead last in gym class in everything – running the mile, completing any kind of regimen. I never even once attempted climbing the big rope. (Again, my hands!)

And because of the fact that I couldn’t ever run, kick or catch worth a damn, I was always picked last for playground games.  In hacky sack, I was only there to provide symmetry in the circle, I suppose. On the very rare occasion someone kicked it to me, it would always just land on the ground in front of me after any valiant attempt I made to participate. There would usually be a groan of frustration from the others, and I would just feel so embarrassed!

I spent a lot of time on the swings as a kid.  I was too shy and clumsy for much else at recess.

So, while my few friends from school were all busy playing sports and being cool, I was wrapped up in other things – playing and listening to music, reading books and writing in my diary. That was my whole world.

The only exercise I ever saw my parents getting regularly was walking the dogs. We’d go to the beach occasionally in the summer, but my mom preferred lounging in the sun to joining me and dad in the lake (I’m actually an OK swimmer and I love the water).  In the winter, we would sometimes go skating at the public rink on Sunday afternoons, but my dad and I were terrible on skates. I would always beg not to go, but my mother’s heart was always set on it. (Falling on the ice really sucks!)  I did build my fair share of snow forts and go sledding sometimes in “the Bowl” as a kid, back in the days of my ancient history when I actually enjoyed winter. I’ve only been on skis once (hated it) and have never snowboarded.

In short, I just never developed any decent gross motor skills.  Hence my perpetual clumsiness.

Fast forward to when life became good again in 2010. One of the things I’d wanted most to do was to begin the exploration of the White Mountains that I’d fantasized about during those years I lived in Fryeburg.

It’s funny – I’ve been very conscious of my diet for many years (no meat, no dairy, no preservatives, no food colorings and dyes, no corn syrup, no caffeine, no alcohol) but until fairly recently, didn’t really think about exercise.

Why the interest now?

I watched both of my parents die. Young. Smokers and drinkers, poor eaters for the most part. One of cancer at age 51, the other of a heart attack at age 68. So many other people in my family, on both sides, have gone similarly.

Now I finally get it.

Now I understand that diet is only half of the battle.

Now I’m making up for lost time.

It’s so different from playing music. Music isn’t athletic – although I’ve certainly known and heard lots of musicians who approach it that way. No – music isn’t purely physical. Sure, it involves those smaller muscles in my hands and arms, but for me what it’s really about is soul, spirit, art, expression, community, love. It comes from the heart. Or at least the good stuff does.

My new physically active self is enjoying a different sense of accomplishment. Adding on miles or minutes or repetitions to whatever I’m working on is something I never imagined I’d be doing or even writing about doing. And yet here I am, trying hard now to take care of the only body I’m ever going to have.

Shawn is so patient. He’s such a good hiking, kayaking and bicycling buddy. He grew up tromping around in the woods, played many years of hockey, has taught snowboarding, and excels at all things athletic and gross motor. (Well, with the exception of baseball, he says.) I say he is patient because whenever we go hiking or running or bicycling together, he’s always having to slow his pace for my sake. But he never complains. He always just smiles and tells me I’m doing great. (And he’s never short of breath, either! How does he do it?!)

Sure, I’ll probably never run a marathon or hike the Appalachian Trail or swim the English Channel. I have no desire to compete – only to feel better and healthier. I’m not as strong as I could be – maybe I won’t ever be. But every day, slowly but surely, my strength, my stamina and my balance are all improving.

And you know what? It feels awesome!