The author blog of C. J. Ivory

Tinkerer with words. Dresser-Upper. Adorer of Steampunk and VictoriaNoir fiction. Occasional Lawgineer.

January 31, 2011

Life Lessons from Ice Skating

Gentle Reader, 

One of my New Years resolutions was to start "doing more things”. I know – specific, right? What that meant was that 2011 should be the year when, instead of spending money on things, we’d start spending our money on experiences

So far we’ve been on a twilight cruise on the harbour (drinking wine and gawping at a cruise ship leaving port); tackling several long walks around our gorgeous area; and, on Saturday, we went skating at the local ice rink.

This, Gentle Reader, was a bolder step than it may appear. I’d not been on the ice for nigh on twenty years. Ah, you say, but it all comes back to you once you’re on the ice – it’s like riding a bicycle. 

Hah! This may be true for people who’d ever been good at ice-skating in the first place. I was never one of those children who whizzed around the ice with the self-assurance of those blessed with a low centre of gravity and a belief in their own immortality. I was the shy, insecure kind, who was likely to over-think the whole thing and end up like an upended turtle in the middle of the rink. My ice “skating” consisted more of “arm flailing, teetering and slamming into the wall in an attempt to stop myself”. Usually I’d put in about ten minutes before I tired of the whole thing and went to get a hot chocolate.

A bolder step than it may appear...
So I was, as you can imagine, fairly uncertain about the whole thing. But darn it, we had a coupon. In these recessionary times, throwing it away would be a sin.

So we presented ourselves at the ice rink, appropriately garbed in eight layers of clothes, gloves and scarves. There was a brief moment of anxiety when we entered the rink: the whole place had dimmed lights and some sort of coloured disco light effect. Decidedly teen-oriented music was blaring from the speaker system. Skaters half our age were zipping about the rink like pros. A group of tween-age girls were congregated in the middle of the vast expanse of ice, showing each other their moves (one was doing that twirly move that looks like it might be good for removing baked-on food from skillets).

Never mind: we steeled ourselves to the task. 

The next wobble came when we redeemed our chit for hire skates. The hire skates are strange beasts – they look like they’ve been carved out of plastic, and have all the style of wearing two blue buckets on ones feet. But beggars can’t be choosers. “Size mphmph please,” I told the lady, in a confident voice.

“Size what?”

“Ahem. Forty,” I whispered.

She looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Show me one of your shoes.”

Meekly, I kicked of and handed her one of my sneakers, which she took in with a practised eye. “Size forty-two,” she announced grimly.

I nearly choked.

The worst part was, she was right – when I tried on the size forty-twos, they were snug. I attempted to block out the fact that she’d gone to the men’s rack to retrieve them.

Once we’d both put on our boots (and undone the knots the last users had – for some reason – left in the laces), we clomped about cheerfully for a bit, laughing merrily at the odd gait the boots forced us into. Then we visited the bathroom, seeing as the cold air in the rink was doing strange things to our bladders.

And finally, there was nothing else we could do. We had to go on the ice.

We squared our shoulders. We looked at one another. 

And we stepped onto the ice.

Oh, the hilarity. Oh, the windmilling of arms! Oh, the annoyed looks from more experienced skaters as they swerved neatly around us!

To be fair, Handsome Hubby was a lot better at it than me. He’s generally better at most things. (It’s one of the reasons I think he’ll have to wait longer to get into Heaven. No one likes a show-off.) 

We’d just managed an undignified robotic shuffle, when one of the staff zipped over to us, all shiny and irritatingly upright. “Can I help you at all?” he asked, all polite. “Do you need some tips?” I suppose they hire these people to make you feel that even differently-abled skaters are welcome at their establishment – although more likely he’s trying to avoid the rink’s insurance premiums going through the roof. 

It was at that point that I lost my balance and did that delightfully-elegant swoopy thing you do, in order to avoid landing on your butt on the ice. It involves over compensating the other way, and ending in a near-miss faceplant. “Fine,” I muttered, gazing up at him from knee-level. “How about some tips.”

So he did. And I’m sure they were good tips. Something about keeping your knees bent. Something else about walking like Charlie Chaplin.

But if he’d known me at all, he would have said this: Forget your dignity; you left that at the ticket office. Just go for it. Stop worrying about falling over – everyone falls over. Do whatever you can to make yourself go “wheeee!” 

But he didn’t. I had to discover that for myself. It took about ten minutes of windmill flailing and slamming into the wall. And suddenly I thought, well, this is dumb. I’m supposed to be having fun. And all I’m doing is worrying about not looking stupid, like some hipster teen. Why don’t I just try having fun?

And that was it: my epiphany. Why not just let myself go – and if that meant falling, so what? Falling didn’t equal failinggetting off the ice meant failing. 

Ironically, giving myself permission to fall suddenly seemed to give myself permission to succeed. I started doing it! I was gliding! I was easing around the corner! Heck, I was even manoeuvring around the guy who just upended in front of me!

Granted, I couldn’t do the spiral move or that crossover feet thing, but I was gliding about holding the hand of my Handsome Hubby! And sure, I was probably drifting along at the break-neck speed of 5km an hour, but heck, I was faster than the guy who fell over! Wheeeeee......

And because I can’t ever concentrate on the task at hand, I started musing about how ice skating is sort of a metaphor for life (bear with me here). Here’s what I came up with:

Life Lessons from Ice Skating

1. Stop worrying about looking silly. It’s holding you back.
2. Look after your knees, they’re pivotal (bom-tish). Or, as they guy from the 1990’s Sunscreen song points out “You’ll miss them when they’re gone.”
3. The faster you go, the bigger the spill. But who cares? You went faster!
4. Appropriate clothing is key. (I’ll admit some Life Lessons are more pragmatic than others)
5. It’s all a lot easier if you’re holding someone else’s hand.
6. If there’s no idiot grin plastered on your face, you’re not doing it right.

Go forth and ice skate, Gentle Reader – or whatever else it takes to freak you out! I myself have only two wishes: 1) that every weekend can be so epiphany-filled, and 2) that no one ever gives us a voucher for sky diving.

Channelling her inner Snow Queen,


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