Confession: I hadn’t put on skates between the ages of 10 and 18, until last year- and now I can’t go a few days without lacing them up and hitting the ice. As in, I stepped on the ice for a skills session last year and didn’t let go of the wall until halfway through the two hour session.
This summer in treatment, I was on exercise restriction (read: exercise BAN) for FOUR MONTHS. It was for the best, but also excruciating. I wasn’t going to be able to skate the season with my favorites (HEY UMD synchro!!!) but by a stroke of luck (and a therapist who used to skate and understood my love for it) (and a lot of compliance and working really hard), I was allowed to two days before the start of the season.
There’s a million and six reasons I love the ice (+ synchronized skating) but it boils down to a few things:
- I am by no means a great skater. I’ve improved a ton since I started a little over a year ago, but I’m not the best. I’ve been a perfectionist by birth, and it was so hard to wrap my head around not being great at the sport (I know, it made 0 sense to want to be the best at something I hadn’t done since i was NINE). Learning to acknowledge that I can be in the middle of learning and trying and improving and not being the best is a reflection of treatment and life and recovery. Life is by no means clean and it doesn’t fit into neat little boxes and that is okay. It’s okay to not have the GPA you imagined or to fight with a friend or to not follow your meal plan for a day- life is messy. It just is.
- I fall a lot. Like a lot a lot. Like so hard that my coaches have stopped the music mid-run through to make sure I’m okay. Like covered in bruises with some part of my body sore from the week’s practices falls. And every time I fall, I get back up (literally). It would be so easy to just walk off the ice, or tell my coaches I didn’t want to compete because after a fall, my brain is a swirl of “you’ll fall again”/”you can’t skate”/”why do you even try?”, but instead, I get back up and practice that sequence/transition/element again. And by getting back up and facing that fear of falling (or tripping myself if I’m being honest), I prove over and over that I can do hard things– even if it’s just a crossover-chasse.
- The blade of a skate is pretty flat, but if you skate on the flat part, you can’t get much speed or balance or do anything fun. You have to lean onto the edges of the blade instead. When I was (re)learning to skate, I was TERRIFIED of this. My coaches always remind us that it’s crucial to lean in to the edge, so that you’re skating on more of an angle on your side toward the ice. With your entire body. To someone who can’t even walk in a straight line without getting off balance, this basically felt like an invitation to fall. But soon enough, I learned how to skate more on my edges and less flat, and my skating got better. In treatment this summer, the treatment model talked about leaning into our emotions- like truly, deeply feeling things- good or bad- even if they’re really uncomfortable. Instead of running from the pain and fear and anger. When I graduated treatment, my therapist reminded me that literally everywhere in life, I have to lean in. To the ice, to the suffering and simultaneous triumph in life, to everything.
So here’s a little (big) thank you to the sport that keeps me sane and makes me feel more free than I ever have. To the sport that keeps me motivated to follow my meal plan even when it feels more appealing to roll off a cliff. To the feeling of fresh ice and newly-sharpened blades and the wind against my cheeks and a good skate and nailing a new skill and getting to do it with my best friends. To my team + my coaches- for letting me fall, for laughing with me when I trip myself, and for being that escape that everyone deserves. And to Wells- your ice is really bumpy and the rink is way too cold, but I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my Friday Happy Hours and 20 degree morning practices.
Skating, thanks for teaching me a whole lot more than just how to dance on the ice. Thank you for teaching me how to lean in to life.