Did you see that woman?
Rolling down your street, full gear on, helmet and everything, Bambi legs, sweating, and possibly looking a little (alright, A LOT) out of place? Wow. What the fuck does she thing she’s doing? Look at her.
That’s right, take a gander. That was me. 6:48 yesterday evening. Technically 6:57, because the first 9 minutes were spent standing casually on my sidewalk, trying to look like I was waiting on someone. In my skate gear. Like you do in the suburbs. That was after 3-5 minutes of sitting on my porch, putting my skates on, only to immediately fall on my ass the minute I tried to stand up. Oh, and the extra 60 seconds it took to roll timidly back in the house to get mouth guard and helmet. Because holy shit, if I was going to fall down IMMEDIATELY, who knows what’s in store, riiiiight? Oh, and the few more minutes I took to roll around in my front room to make sure I was not going to just completely forget what my legs do.
Was I scared? Yup. Terrified. I have not put skates on in over a year. We recently moved to a neighborhood where there is an amazing 9-mile trail, very tame and paved with concrete sidewalks, around a little pond. I had built up “skating the trail” to such monumental heights that I actually began convincing myself that there was no way I could do this. But I badly wanted to do this. None of these thoughts, of course, are rational. I am a decent skater. Not a great roller derby player, because there is a very distinct difference, as many of you reading this can attest. But I more than mastered the art of, you know, circling. I have skated many a trail. Some difficult. Some that other skaters never would even try. So it’s not like it’s a foreign concept.
Bur you retire, you get comfortable in not really knowing pain on a daily basis any longer, and for some of us, those skates aren’t that easy to just don with any kind of confidence any more. Then you start wondering if you ever even had confidence in the first place. And if you did, was it warranted. Go thee forth into this downward spiral of Self-Esteem Rabbit Holes. You get the picture.
This particular rabbit hole left me staring at my skates longingly, but making 1001 excuses as to why I couldn’t put them on. A great deal of the excuses were rooted in the psychological damage I inflicted on myself while playing roller derby. Sometimes the skates were too hard emotionally to even look at, much less wear. But you know what, nothing feels the same way forever. No feeling lasts. Things change. And for me, that has been beautiful. Even if painful. The beauty is in the reality that I get to write this story. No one else does. No one else defines me. No one else gets to tell me I’m ok, or not ok, or not enough, or just right. People can, and do. And yet:
That is my job. My singular job. For whatever time I get on this amazing, fucked-up, ironic and devastatingly gorgeous planet.
And the old moves, the feeling of being a little unsure or awkward but getting better with every step, came back. Did I cross over the Dreaded Wooden Bridge? Not last night. Will I? Maybe. All I know is that with the wind blurring my vision just a little along with weird, hesitantly watery eyes for some unknown reason, I felt like my soul let go. Like it doesn’t matter that people saw me. That you saw me.
What the fuck do I think I’m doing? I don’t have a clue. But right at that moment, in all of the intense vulnerability and joy that bubbled up inside of me, it was the most perfect skate of my life.