Forget Fear

Yesterday I was invited to go ice skating. I jumped at the chance; the chance to spend time with my friend, to get out of the house, to meet new people and to do something new.

It dawned on me later that day that this was definitely going to be something new. The last time I was on ice skates, I was 5 years old. It didn’t turn out well. I was on my butt more then my feet, even though I had one of those bars you could hold onto and push across the ice. My parents had signed me up for ice skating lessons and all the kids had these bars. I can’t speak for the others, but I remember hanging on for dear life while the instructors tempted us to move forward with cookies. That was their teaching method; cookies. While I am quite the cookie monster, it might have been helpful if they showed us how to move our feet and stop, among other things. No, instead they stuck us out on the middle of the ice with a bar for balance (a lot of good that did) and expected us to be able to skate toward the cookie. Sorry, but learning something new isn’t magic. It takes hard work and practice. I don’t remember the day perfectly, but I do remember leaving the ice crying and never putting on a pair of skates again…until last night.

I’m sitting on a bench outside the rink, putting on my rented skates, when I realized I don’t know how to lace skates. I refused to ask how to lace a pair of ice skates and decide I could figure it out, which I did (that was the easy part). My friend stood up and asked if I was ready to go.

“You know I’m going to fall down as soon as I stand up?” I said.

He kind of laughed. (If I didn’t know this guy since high school, I may have thought he was laughing at me instead of at what I said.).

I stood up and gained my balance before walking to the rink with no problems. It felt a little strange, walking on nothing but a single blade, but I think this, like lacing them, was also the easy part.

When I stepped onto the ice, I was holding onto the side. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to move because I was afraid of falling. And yes, I know the possible irony of the situation. I agreed to go ice skating when I was afraid of falling, when I hadn’t been on a pair of skates since I was a kid. I told my friend this and he asked why I wanted to come. Why did I want to come? Well, for all the reasons I already listed. Plus, if you don’t try new things you just end up sitting around doing nothing. What kind of life is that? Not a life I want.

So that’s how I ended up standing on the ice with zero skating ability and an unwillingness to let go of the side.

As for falling, it wasn’t so much that I was afraid of falling in itself, but falling on my face. I’ve had too many close calls with my face. In the past, my falls have had me leading with my face, which is something you never want to do, if you can help it.

I didn’t want to hang onto the side forever, so I forgot about falling (possibly on my face) and let go. My friend was nice enough to offer me his hand (which I held onto almost all night) and helped me around the ice. He even started teaching me how to skate (no balance bar or cookies included…although I could have went for the cookies). He’s a good teacher too, but it only took two minutes for me to end up on my butt. I was sprawled out on the ice laughing. When I stood back up it only took another two seconds before, somehow, I was losing control, spinning in the opposite direction and careening into my friend.

Laughing. Lots of laughing.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, well, you have to be able to laugh at yourself.

I certainly was laughing at myself last night.

Once I was pointed in the right direction, and holding onto my friend, we were off. Rather, he was off. I looked like Bambi learning how to walk.

Slowly, I learned, although, the second time I fell I was standing still. It was as if someone came and knocked my feet out from under me. I’m not really sure what happened, but I laughed about it. I mean, have you ever tried standing up on ice when you’re already off balance? It’s not easy. And laughing makes it a lot harder.

My final fall was pretty graceful. I’m not sure what happened there either. I just know one minute I was on my feet and the next I was on my butt, the cold ice seeping through my jeans.

Laughing. Always laughing.

My friend even left me for awhile to do some laps on his own, which was fine because I didn’t want to hold him back. He looked like a pro the way he was zipping around the ice, at least compared to me. Apparently he wanted to give me time to “take the training wheels off” and “spread my wings.”

That’s just it though, isn’t it? Eventually we have to spread our wings and see how far we can go on our own. Sure we might fall flat on our butt or back or hip or some other part of our body, but it’s all part of the learning process. When you fall, you have to get up again. You can’t be afraid to do or try things because then you just end up sitting around. What kind of life is that? No life I want.

Everything that’s new is scary at first, but if it’s something you want to do, then, you should try it.

Half the things that I’ve done in my life would never have happened if I stayed afraid of doing them. When I worked for newspapers, every day was an adventure. I rarely knew what I was doing or where I would be going on any given day. I never expected to climb into the cockpit of a WWII plane or hop on the back of a motorcycle with a complete stranger as part of the Honor Flight escort. Outside of work, I never expected to walk down the back ally behind the venue at 16 to meet my favorite band, to run my college newspaper, to ask some of the questions I’ve asked to get to where I want to be (the worse thing a person can say is “no”), to enter my stories in contests and send them to literary magazines (my rejection pile is growing, but one day my acceptance pile will begin to grow too), to do all the things that I’ve done.

I never expected to be the writer or photographer I am today.

I never expected to be the person I am today.

Experiences shape us.

Experiences are called living.

It’s alright to be afraid, but we shouldn’t let fear rule over us. These become obstacles and the things we must over come.

I believe there are no boundaries in life, only the ones we make for ourselves.

So, yes, I went ice skating. I had no clue what I was doing. I may have held onto my friend the for the majority of the time and possibly crushed a few bones in his fingers, but I learned to skate (sort of). And yes, I did fall (and yes I ended up with a bruise the size and color of a plum), but at least I can say I tried something new. At least I can say I lived. And most importantly I can say I had fun and would do it again in a heartbeat.

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