Let the sunshine in

The warm months are my home. Flip-flop weather is my time to thrive. My daily commute is vastly improved when I can haul ass down the highway with the volume up and windows down. But most of all, it means that the heavy clouds of my seasonal depression finally abate… and give way to the regular ol’ garden-variety blaaaaahs.

To be fair, skating has kept the worst of my SAD and general malaise at bay, and for that I am thankful beyond words. Even in my most frustrated, most hopeless moments on the ice, I have a goal to fight for and progress I want to make. Feeling numb because you’ve just spent two hours skating around a frozen surface in a chilly rink is decidedly preferable to feeling numb because your brain is a wicked, chemically confused thing, and having goals gives tomorrow a built-in purpose worth sticking around for. If I must be my own worst enemy, I’ll at least use that impulse to undermine my attempts to undermine my own success.

But that doesn’t make being beset on all sides by conversations about mental illness, suicide, a real-life dystopian society, and societal ills of all kinds when I’m already a quivering meatbag of pre-existing emotional extremes any easier. A happier outlook and quieter mind are gratefully received with the warmer days and longer light, but it also means that things are more likely to hurt my less-guarded heart. Like the discussions and well-intentioned but misguided advice that pours in in the wake of celebrity suicides. (I actually got so worked up about this that I shat out a long-winded FB post that turned into a semi-revised Letter to the Editor to the last newspaper I worked for.)

One of the things I love best about skating is that, ever since I first gave the ice a second chance, it has been a haven where all the lousy thoughts I carry from work, life, and adulting’s generally evil necessities get left behind with that first satisfied glide. That’s when I get to stop being all the things I hate, and it is absolutely cathartic. I am not an overworked, underappreciated magazine editor. I am not a self-loathing writer. I am not unwilling eye candy for some lecherous bore. I am not an easy target, a boundary-less people-pleaser, or an avoidant introvert. Sure, being an adult skater comes with its own multitude of intimidations and opportunities for self-sabotage (see: like, every post preceding this one), but I feel like that’s more the consequences of being an impatient, hyper-aware perfectionist and less the existential suffering of a human bean with faulty wiring. I invited the agony of skating into my life because its infinite rewards are more than worth the anguish; I did not, however, ask to be a basket case who freaks out when she has too many well-meaning text messages to return.

Saying that skating has saved my life might be overstating things a bit, but it sure has improved the quality of it by leaps and bounds. There were a few winters before I came back to skating where the walls were closing in by January and I was legitimately concerned about being left alone with myself by February. Chilling air has always been a klaxon heralding a steep drop in my mood; now, it means the benefit of more ice time that comes with everyone suddenly remembering that winter sports are a thing. If my brain can’t make all the feel-good chemicals itself, the physical rush of skating and the emotional rush of doing something I love because I can are mighty fine substitutes.

I am testing ISI Bronze soon, and I can’t wait. My coach and I choreographed a Pre-Bronze FS program last weekend, and that is a test I am determined to take by the end of the summer. I want to give 2019 sectionals a go, and I love that I still really, actively want that experience. My Bronze MITF test is feeling more and more doable every time I run through it, and it’s giving me a chance to fine-tune foundational elements I should have perfected eons ago (but better late than never, right?). And, most importantly, Lake Placid is a smidge more than a week away, and the first day’s schedule alone made me all arm-flaily because it is jam-packed with nothing but things I want badly to do better.

I am happy with where I am skating-wise right now, and just being able to say that and mean it is an improvement. My loops are still awkward hops (that look excellent when I do them on my living room floor), I had three days of dead-leg from overdoing lunge drills this past weekend, and both my sit spins and my backspins are still barely works in progress (let's not even talk about the tragedy of my camel spins), but it will all come with time. My Wednesday coach chided me a little last week for constantly being in a rush, and I keep forgetting that this, too, is a journey and that the journey, more so than the destination itself, is teeming with its own rewards so why not leisurely relish everything as it happens? Like, my scratch spin still needs some help, but I am letting myself simply enjoy the fact that my only spin is one I am having so much fun practicing now—and that I even HAVE a spin to speak of, given how notoriously this one tortured me for so long (twice!). I know I have so much more to learn and so much more progress to make, but I’ve also made peace with that. I’m in no rush because the rush of doing something I love (and getting a little better at it every time) is enough to make the future’s potential something to look forward to.

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