Learning to Fly

An object in motion stays in motion.This is my plan for getting older, I don't wanna stop, I don't wanna slow down, so I decided to pick things up a bit.

My youngest daughter started doing roller derby a few months ago. Man, did it look like fun. But learning (or re-learning) to skate as a newly 39 year old was intimidating. I put it on the back burner until the adult derby team announced they would be having a free, 6 week, learn to skate class, free rental equipment included. I mean, how can you not? The first session was last week, I hadn't been on skates for...oh....23 or so years, and I was pretty pumped up/scared. I figured it would go one of two ways, either I'd remember what skating felt like and have enough limited success to want to go back (oh, kind of like when I play golf!). Or I'd end up breaking a hip. Yes, I know I am not 60, but let's face it, if you break a bone when you are 8, you get a cast and heal fairly quickly. When you break a bone at 39, you get surgery and screws in your bones. The recovery is longer and scarier and I am trying to move more, not less!

Anyway, that first lesson, I arrived, introduced myself to the other awesome gals that were there trying new things, and sat a moment to give my nerves time to chill. We all had a good nervous laugh about not being 18 and having extra padding if we fell. Then came the moment of truth. I started to put the gear on, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, helmet, mouth guard. I was fine, this was cool, I was like hell yeah, I look badass, or at least less mom-ish. I was feeling GOOD.

Then we put on the skates. I'm sitting on the floor, skates all laced up, and thinking what in the hell have I done? I will not be able to stand up, this will not go well, I am going to end up in a split or something terrible and will make a fool out of myself. I will hurt and cry. In my mind, I can't do this, but I'm gonna, repeated on a loop. So I followed the instructions and got up. And instantly shrank into a low squat, I do not want to fall backwards with my head over 6' off the ground! I was so scared to put down my toe stop and push off. Shaking, sweating fear. The kind of fear that someone as old as me knows is a warning to stop now. But I ignored it and pushed off. I rolled about 3 feet and slowly lowered myself to my knees. We were working on learning how to fall forward and get back up. And so it went for the first 45 minutes or so, skate a few feet, drop to your knees, get back up. Lunges and squats on skates. Oy. Then we worked on a stop called a T-stop. You put all your weight on one leg and let your other skate stop you, your feet making a sort of, kind of t-shape. It takes some inner thigh strength. You know that machine at the gym that is kind of like a porn star workout, the one that you spread your legs on, yeah, those muscles....you get the same workout doing t-stops on skates and you don't even have to deal with skeevy guys glancing in the mirror every time you push your legs apart! So we did that and continued practicing falling and getting up for the next 45 minutes, then a few minutes of stretching and we were done. I pulled off the sweaty gear, looked around me at all the gorgeous smiles, and knew exactly what they were feeling. This sense of doing something new, something scary, something physical, it just felt great. Like the first time I ran a 5k  but a million times better. My gums had the impressions from my mouth guard for hours after, I sucked that thing to my teeth so hard, it is how I focused...note to self...get a smaller mouth guard! But I went home that night and felt happy and tired and ready to order gear.

Last night was the second night. I got that same fluttery feeling of fear deep in my belly when I put on the skates, but along with it was a sense of excitement and eagerness to get going. Getting up was easier this time. We skated a lot last night, a lot lot. Not just back and forth in a line, but around the track. My shin splints were killing me, my quads were screaming as we dipped down into squats over and over again so we could learn to skate "derby low". My heart jack-hammered in my chest a few times when I felt my upper body wanting to fall backwards as I stood up just a little too tall and pictured myself smacking my tailbone on that unforgiving floor. I had to take a knee a few times and give my lower back reprieve from the work that I was asking it to do. I was pulling in my stomach muscles to protect my back, as I often do in yoga, but I just couldn't keep them engaged for 2 hours! I know the endurance will come and I am impatient as all hell and I just want to skate with the grown-ups, but I have to remind myself that it will take time. Again, as I finished, I looked around me and saw the faces that mirrored mine, sweaty, tired, happy, accomplished. We all worked hard, we all overcame fears, we all overcame insecurities about our abilities and strength, we pushed past what we thought was the end of our endurance. It was one of those sisterhood moments, where the responsibilities of being moms and wives and employees were gone and what was left was the essence of who we were, who we still are, those wild women, young and free. The joy that we so often leave behind in our youth surfaced, however briefly, and we were all hooked.

Tomorrow night is another session and I am looking forward to the burning pain in my shins, the deep ache in my lower back, and the giddy, "wheeee, oh god what am I doing" feeling in my belly when I realize I am skating just a little too fast for comfort. I'll grind my teeth  and suck on that mouth guard hard enough to imprint the design on my gums when it gets hard and remind myself that my mind will quit before my body will and that no one quits with 90 seconds and to celebrate the movement, all mantras that my favorite friends have blessed me with. And when I am finished, out of breath, sweat running down my face and stinging my eyes, I will sit on the floor, swig my water, and laugh with the other women that are there with me, all of us soaring on the wings of adrenaline and accomplishment, we will laugh, and we will look forward to doing it all again.


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