When we were kids, there were two pieces of advice that my dad would impart with enough frequency to illicit eye-rolling and groans: “mind over matter” and “bend your knees.”
When he was teaching us to ice skate: “bend your knees!”
When he was showing us how to play tennis: “bend your knees!”
When we were negotiating how to balance on a moving sailboat as it cut through the water: “bend your knees!”
I was totally unappreciative of the wisdom of his advice at the time. He understood the physics of how our bodies work and realized that lowering your center of gravity in almost any situation gives you more control.
As I was navigating up an icy sidewalk in high-heeled boots the other day, I wondered how I was going to stay upright, when I remembered his advice. “Bend your knees,” I said to myself, and it worked. I glided along that sidewalk like I was back on the ice rink in New Hampshire.
As I’ve been riding the train throughout the NYC over the past week, muttering “bend your knees” to myself has kept me from doing a nose dive into my neighbors as the train jerked around the track.
But I’ve come to believe that “bend your knees” means something more than that. When you’re bending your knees, you’re not only lowering your center of gravity, but you’re also setting yourself up to be able to be agile. When the train moves suddenly, you can adjust yourself quickly and avoid completely falling over.
If you’re too stiff, too uptight, too afraid, you’re more likely to get knocked down and the fall will be harder and hurt even more.
When you’re scared and facing a lot of unknowns, inside of stealing yourself against what’s to come, bend your knees.