You’re at a business dinner when someone you desperately want to impress arrives late. As you stand and offer your hand, your sleeve catches your wine glass. You watch in horror as it levitates, its contents arcing like a ruby rainbow. You try to halt its trajectory by lunging forward, forgetting you’re still holding your knife in the other hand, which lands point-down in your boss’ crème brulée. You make a grab for it, sending the gravy boat spinning. People leap out of the way while others stare, and there you stand with your new linen suit looking like it was spatter-painted by a two-year-old.
Calamity Jane strikes again
Why is it that some people navigate life with effortless grace while others lurch forward like WWII tanks with square wheels? Sometimes, chronic clumsiness can have medical roots, such as inner ear problems, motor co-ordination issues, and neurological conditions. Other causes to look out for include poor vision, infections, fatigue, stress, drug or alcohol use, even strokes. If your words constantly come out wrong, or if you have that nagging feeling that the way you move is just wonky, get yourself checked out by a doctor. Generally speaking, though, some people are just born graceful... oh, and how we try hard not to hate them. Multiple intelligence theory suggests that we all have as many as nine different ‘intelligences’ or aptitudes. Those with high “kinetic” (meaning movement) intelligence become the athletes and ballerinas of this world. Other people occasionally spill their tea or trip over a tree root, but otherwise manage to navigate the planet unscathed. Then there are those of us who can’t be trusted to walk and chew gum at the same time. If you don’t fancy giving Mr. Bean a run for his money, consider employing some of these strategies to help you put one foot in front of the other without setting off a chain reaction of destruction.
Remember the infamous YouTube video of the woman walking into a fountain while texting? It sounds facetious, but if she’d taken her eyes off the screen she probably would have made it to the other end of the mall high and dry. In a multi-tasking world, it may feel like a waste of precious seconds to do just ONE thing at a time, but it works out better in the long run. Especially if that one thing involves navigating awkward terrain or handling a blade.
Funny how the ‘e-word’, exercise, keeps cropping up everywhere, but physically fit people really do have better co-ordination. Apart from impacting your general health, exercises that promote strength and flexibility, such as yoga, Tai Chi, swimming, dancing, gymnastics and most martial arts, will improve your co-ordination and self-confidence.
We get it: it’s a mad, mad world, and you have a million things to do before bed. Who doesn’t? But skating around like an out-take from a Benny Hill clip isn’t going to help you conquer your to-do list if you spend half that time cleaning up spills and picking up shards of crockery. If you’re carrying a vase to the table, hold it in both hands and walk carefully. If you’re putting something down, make sure it’s level. Don’t run unless you’re being chased, especially not on the stairs. You are not Angelina Jolie’s stunt double.
Make sure your clothes fit
Too long, too short, too loose, too tight...all good ways to impair your movements and get you into a heap of trouble. Check your shoes regularly for signs of wear, on the soles and the buckles. Those of you who still use shoe-laces in the age of velcro should make sure they’re securely tied. Trailing laces only look cute on kindergarteners, and if they trip on them, they have a much shorter distance to fall.
A handful (pardon the pun) of studies suggest that left-handers have a slightly shorter life expectancy than righties. While much of this can be attributed to physical and biochemical differences (such as lowered immunity to certain diseases) some of it is also attributed to a higher rate of serious accidents. Are lefties more clumsy? Not necessarily, but they are bombarded daily by tools and implements designed for a right-handed world: doors, handles, machinery, even table settings. As a result, they handle items more awkwardly, and hurt themselves more often. Bottom line: lefties need to be more careful.
Don’t fool yourself; you’re going to have bad days. But with a little care and attention, you’re going to have more good ones than ever. Practice these rules long enough, and your Calamity Jane moments might well be behind you. Just don’t forget they’re there, and back up and trip over them.