Turn and face the strange

So help me Cthulhu, skating really HAS turned me into a morning person.

I would still happily swap internal organs for after-work freestyle availability because my brain staunchly refuses to switch on before noon, but my introversion is becoming increasingly smitten with moving through the world when most of the world is still waking up. The times I skip skating (… or, uh, don’t check the rink's calendar and am greeted by a hockey-tournament-packed parking lot at 7 a.m., only to head back home like nothing ever happened…) and start my day after the sun is already streaming through every window always feel wrong now: I never thought that going about my morning routine before dawn even starts whispering of the day’s potential would become my normal.

And here I am, routinely feeling my way through a 5:30-darkened bedroom like it’s second nature, showering in the dark because it’s still a novel reminder that I get to watch the sunrise splash all kinds of colors across the retreating night sky, and grateful to be hitting the road well before the sun finds that place on its arc where it shines directly into my eyes as aggressively as it can for a seemingly impossible stretch of time. And I kiiiiind of love it. What am I even now?

Maybe it’s finally having the right motivation. Maybe I’ve bludgeoned away at my nightowl tendencies long enough to have finally, forcibly adopted a new habit. Maybe I’m just changing. Whatever the case, it is so weird to actually be that person who’s out and up and grinding away at a goal at a time that I used to scoff at for being cruelly and unusually early (naturally waking up at 5:30 is another new development that I just don’t know how to reconcile with my preference for otherwise self-destructive habits).

I guess I shouldn’t be TOO surprised that finding a place for myself in the day’s sleepier hours quickly felt like the most natural fit in the world, as I do relish the opportunity to discover how to get a little more quiet time outside my home. There's something almost surreal about being out in public with a significantly reduced public, and the same part of me that loves irregular schedules and new views of tired realities loves being among society when just a fraction of people are there, too (or maybe that's the part of me that's incurably awkward and is most comfortable with a diminished crowd to share my space with). And, as much as I love later nights, they lack the clarity and space of a day spread out before me that I've come to appreciate.

Besides, skating’s already made me less averse to winter, and winter is absolutely the worst season of all. I don’t know if it’s desensitized me to the cold (which, I mean, is dubious considering that my husband and I are perpetually locked in battle over the thermostat and I’m STILL warding off frostbite in 70-degree rooms), if letting the skater aesthetic bleed over to the rest of my life has made me a better student in the art of effective layering, if these mild winters are the calm before the we-can-swim-any-day-in-November climate-change chaos, if throwing myself at an active hobby counteracts SAD better than I want to admit, if falling in love with a winter sport has made me rail a little less vehemently against the greyest, deadest season, if I’m just in some state of personal flux that skating just happens to overlap with or WHAT, but this sport is absolutely working in tandem with something else to usher in personal changes that I thought would never come to what I assumed were indeliable tenets of my personality and personal preferences.

I usually start counting down to spring on the first day of fall. Maybe that was an ultimately more harmful endeavor than I thought, much like how intense clock-watching warps and slows down time in maddeningly torturous ways. Forgetting about the passage of time seems so much more harmonious with simply living, even if finding little oases of happiness along the way means always having some blessedly short countdown to keep an eye on—maybe there’s something to be said for filling the long-term with life so the short-term anticipation doesn’t drag so much? Either way, spring is less than a month away and I cannot believe how quickly this winter flew by. And, no matter how it happened, even if it's just by virtue of distraction, skating has made my most hated season infinitely more bearable than I EVER remember it being.

Outdoor rinks are closing up shop for the season (I actually made it to Bryant Park this year, thanks to tagging along with the friend who got me back into skating when she went to upgrade her skates and then take them for their debut spin on one mightily iconic surface) and in the blink of an eye I’ll be driving across state lines to get my weekend skate on when summer hours get downright hostile to adult skaters. It’s so weird to mildly resent spring and summer for what they do to my practice time—but they also bring public skate sessions that aren’t tiny mobs AND June means Lake Placid.

And, with any luck, June also means FINALLY taking the Bronze MITF test I wanted to take in the fall but my lousy mohawks had other plans (seriously, how are there six more of these that are HARDER than the absolute, mortifying hell of LFI ones?). I don’t want to go back to Lake Placid at the same level I was last year. Nobody will give a flying fig (or even know) but me, but I really want tangible proof of the progress I’ve made since then. I was too forgiving with myself the first time I planned for this test, and now it’s months later and literally, literally the only thing holding me back is mohawks. My LFI is trash because I never isolate it from the rest of the five-step mohawk to focus on strengthening it, and the mohawk I’m supposed to do between forward and backward power stroking scares the absolute piss out of me (never mind that a RFI mohawk is fine in literally any other circumstance).

I think I’m at the point, like with loop jumps and now flips, that I’ve turned a decidedly challenging-but-not-that-complicated element into an impregnable skill by letting the fear take the wheel. There is no reason I should be this stalled out on things I’ve been “working on” for easily a year. The spins that used to torment me are getting better and better every time, but that’s because I work like hell at them (okay, maybe not backspins, but even those are showing a glimmer of hope during the five minutes I dedicate to them, like, once a week). I’m actually loving sit spins, even if mine’s more of a crouch right now and, like with scratch spins, I am having a beast of a time planting my free leg in front of me. It’s so weird how there are certain things I totally suck at but love practicing and other things I just suck at and would never touch again if I had the choice. Is that a conversation I should have with my coaches or with my therapist?

But I’m learning how to be less hard on myself and focus on the progress I do make, as well as holding myself accountable for those things where I’m not seeing a lot of improvement because I freaking hate them. I started looking ahead at the Silver MITF test—which I assume I’ll be taking sometime during the next winter Olympics—and realized that I’ve gotten away with not knowing backward threes for about as long as I can. I started working on those with my primary coach about two weeks ago, and… it’s definitely slow-going but I’m forcing myself to spend even a few minutes working on them with every freestyle session. Same with twizzles, which are one of those things I’ve always wanted to do and am fiiiiinally in a place where I can start working on them: I WILL have recognizable twizzles by the end of the year, and my coach promises me that they’ll be beneficial in chipping away at back threes (I’m getting closer to my RBO threes every time I try them, so I think she’s onto something).  

Tomorrow, unfortunately, will be the last time I get to skate for a while, because life loves messing with those times when I am all super motivated and positive and determined to get in as much freestyle time as I can. I’ve been rocking a nasty ganglion cyst for about a month, and I’m finally getting that unwelcome passenger removed tomorrow—which means minor surgery, some stitches, and a doctor-ordered kibosh on skating for a few days. But he didn’t say no hopping on the spinner in a painkiller fog or practicing mohawks in slippery socks on a hardwood floor, so. Let’s put those post-surgery days off to good use, eh?

This Is Just to Say: A Postscript 
(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

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Forgive it
they were delicious
so sweet
and so kind


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