All things are cyclical

With Lake Placid coming on fast (EIGHT! FREAKING! DAYS!) and the total tease of signing up for my Bronze MITF test only to have it cancelled literally the next day, I’ve been feeling so up and down and lukewarm about my skating—not the sport itself, just my perpetually underwhelming proficiency in it. I've been back at skating for almost two and a half years, and I love and am dedicated to this sport in ways my younger self never was, so it kills me to admit that, even though I'm skating better in my mid-30s than I ever did with a younger, more agile body, I’m still just not that great of a skater.

In my bitchier days, I shamelessly, openly scorned mediocre writers for adding nothing to the craft but who were clearly so delusional to think that their sloppy jumble of clichés held together by more clichés had any merit or deserved to see the light of day. I can't erase my lesser moments or wantonly judgmental ways of the past, but I can appreciate how utterly non-productive it is to play self-proclaimed gatekeeper when nothing should be off-limits to those brave souls who put themselves out there in the name of developing a skill. Never mind that passion can’t be learned, and it’s often that organic drive that fuels one’s tireless pursuit of eventual mastery.

And I think knowing how misguidedly protective at best and aggressively elitist at worst people can be about the pursuits they love and talents they’ve painstakingly nurtured is the burden of knowledge that keeps interfering with my love of this sport, as well as my perception of my progress. But, just as progress in this sport can give just as readily as it takes, I think one’s love of it is just as unpredictably cyclical and prone to plateaus.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by skating sisters who are well ahead of me and chock-full of incredible advice and encouragement. Knowing that so many of us have valiantly struggled against the same moves, spins, tests, and jumps is a comfort, but I’m afraid it’s also become a crutch. “This is so hard!” should be a rallying cry instead of an excuse, and I’m so disappointed in myself for not rising to the challenge better. Improvement does not come from being dangerously forgiving of your own timidness.

But I’m mostly annoyed that my knee-jerk instincts to be too hard on myself aren’t seeing the whole picture.

I don’t do much off-ice training beyond hopping on my spinner a handful of times a week, or practicing jumps on my lawn while my dog-child thoroughly investigates the perimeter of his property for the twelfth time that day. My hips are stubbornly, mockingly closed, which is still making me want to absolutely die on the five-step mohawks that will seemingly eternally taunt me. I still have days when my skating alarm goes off and I roll back over for another two hours of delicious, restorative sleep. And, like so many of the literary heroes who inspired my own humble writing career, I know a thing or two about being a functional alcoholic. So, I mean, really: Who cares if my axel is still a far-off dream and the jumps that I do have are still on their ways to becoming less halves and more singles—it’s pretty damn impressive that I’ve gotten this far with so little regard for what I’m doing to my body and neglecting the kind of training that breeds better skaters.

I am tired of feeling like such a mediocre skater, though. I’m tired of being too self-conscious to pull the trigger on competitions. I’m tired of progressing at the speed of evolution because, regardless of how many pep-talks I give myself, I’m still ruled by fear on the ice. I have found such a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and community in skating that I owe this sport more. It’s done so much for me that I want to prove that I’m good enough, lesser demons be damned.

My husband listens to a lot of podcasts, and he recently had one on in the background where the I Ching (an ancient Chinese divination manual) was mentioned quite a bit. I had scored a free copy of it back in the days of Goodreads’ book swap program, and then promptly got distracted by something shiny (I’m not much for spiritual intervention but, hey, I’m open to giving any roadmap to the future a try at this point). I had been so tepid about skating at that point that I figured why not give it a go and asked if there was any point to staying the skating course. And… like how so many of my friends give tarot readings a try not so much out of any sort of belief but because those readings tend to help them make connections that would otherwise elude them, I was just gobsmacked at how eerily spot-on my results were and how sage the advice actually was. It led by telling me to let my enthusiasm be tempered by patience, which promptly gave me goosebumps for essentially reframing the advice both my coaches give me. It went on to say so much of what I already know but don’t always internalize, and was one of the most comforting affirmations that I’ve taken a chance on.

It’s so hard to be objective about progress in skating, especially since none of us ever seem to be happy with where we are and are constantly pushing the goalposts farther and farther away. And it’s so easy to get sucked into the ish of a lackluster practice or a lousy lesson instead of realizing that the things you struggled against a year ago are coming so much more naturally now, and have been for a while.

Because sometimes you have a day when the breakthrough you’ve been clawing your way to finally comes. For me, that moment was during this morning’s lesson, when one simple suggestion from my coach was all it took to finally eke out a few solid revolutions from my long-suffering back spin. And sometimes, that one moment of success effortlessly eclipses all the other disappointing static of the day and proves that hard work always pays off—and can be that spark you need to rediscover a passion that just needed a little bit of a jump start.

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