In my first post-hiatus post, I wrote a bit about returning to ice skating. I didn’t say all that much about skating or what it really means to me because…well, I suppose because I felt a little shy about it all. Confused. Excited and afraid of looking foolish. Protective. Not really sure of what it means or what it will be. Not unlike the way you can feel at the beginning of a romance.
I mean…c’mon. I am 57 years old. When I was skating–really skating–the Cold War was still in full swing. Jimmy Carter was president. I’m too old to be the parent of many of today’s competitive skaters.
But you know those stories about high school sweethearts who break up and live separate lives for decades and then meet at a reunion and fall in love all over again? I’ve never done that, but I imagine it to feel much as I am feeling about rekindling my relationship with skates and ice and other skaters. I imagine it feels wondrous and improbable and–more than anything else–delightful.
Y’all: I am freakin’ full of delight. On a daily basis.
I know you might not know that from reading my posts, and I’m probably never going to not feel all kinds of angst about the world’s slow burn (both literal and metaphorical) on so many fronts, but I am also, simultaneously, full of delight. Because, what are the chances? Who would ever expect, after 45 years, to fall in love again with the one who got away? Who would’ve thought that existential dread and pure, hope-filled joy can exist in the same being at the same time?
I’m here to tell you: It can. Life is weird. Heartbreaking and wonderful and funny and surprising.
Sometimes, I tell myself that everything that went wrong in mine can be traced back to the time I quit skating, even though I know that’s a little ridiculous. I was 12, and life pretty much turns to shit for everyone when they hit 7th grade, but I hit 7th grade right after I lost a thing that made me feel strong and beautiful and whole. (I think 7th grade–and all the years beyond it–could be a whole different experience for everyone involved if we could all have a thing that makes us feel strong and beautiful and whole.)
It’s all so mysterious. Why would moving and jumping and spinning over ice be a thing that makes a person whole? I don’t know. But skating–even in the wobbly, starting-all-over-again-as-an-almost-beginner way I’m doing it–still gives me moments of feeling strong and beautiful and whole, and I’ve lived long enough to know that’s no small or unimportant thing.
To be clear: Like any love–perhaps, especially, a late-in-life one–it’s not all rainbows and confetti. Every person who’s lived a good chunk of time carries baggage, and unpacking mine has meant coming to new terms with aging and mortality and the passing of time and dreams.
In the past two months, I’ve become grounded in the reality that my body has changed and is changing. That I am going to get old and die. For real. Not in some abstract, “some day” sort of way, but in a concrete, wow-I-can’t-do-things-I-could-do-just-a-few-years-ago sort of way. In my head, I’ve still been mostly the same physical being I was in my mid-30s or so. Sure, I’d gained a few pounds, but I could still do all the same things, right? Ummm, not exactly. Now, in both my head and body, I know I’m not the same physical being I thought I was. (If you want to know how old your body really is, take up a sport you haven’t played since you were a tween. You’ll know, too.)
I know this might sound kind of grim–and I’ve had my moments of feeling fairly terrible about it all–but it’s really not. It’s becoming the foundation for a kind of gratitude I’ve never felt before. Yes, I’m going to die, but I’m not dead yet. A thing I thought was lost to me has come back. (What else might this be true for?) My body has deteriorated, but not so much that I can’t embrace this opportunity. The ladies I skate with tell me I’ve come back just in time; I’m still young enough to regain many of the skills I once had, but if I’d waited even a few more years that might not be the case. For the first time since–well, since about the time I quit skating, really–I’m feeling more gratitude than resentment toward my body.
Speaking of the ladies I skate with, I have discovered that there is a whole world of adult skaters. This did not exist when I left skating in the late ’70s, but now the US Figure Skating Association has a program for you if “you are an adult who became a skater or a skater who became an adult.” I’ve had a hard time knowing which kind of adult skater I am. A woman I take lessons with is 73 years old, and she didn’t start skating until she was 55! She can skate circles around me in our dance class, but there are things I can do that she can’t because of the skating I did when I was young. Still, I don’t really feel like a skater who became an adult, either. I’ve joined two Facebook groups for adult skaters, and I see post after post from people wondering if they can come back after 20 or 25 years away. These are people who skated and competed for years as children and teens, and they are in their 30s and 40s now.
I skated for only 18 months (albeit fairly intense ones), and I did it 45 years ago.
How is that possible? How is that a real thing? How have that many years of my life passed? How is it that my body has retained enough muscle memory from so long ago that I have moments when I can do things without knowing how, exactly, I’m doing them? But why are there other, far simpler things that I can’t do? How can I be thinking of skating–really skating–after more than 4 decades away from it? What does “really skating” mean, anyway, now? What can it mean? How can a thing I did for such a short time feel and be so important? Both back then and now? How can age be something that is both so concrete and so amorphous, with time simultaneously expanding and collapsing every time I step on the ice?
At times, this has all felt like mind-fuckery of grand proportions–but in a good way? Or at least, an amazing, interesting, isn’t-life-weird way. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, and for once in my long history of questioning almost everything, I am not impatient to find them. I am figuring out this romance as I go, and I know that–this time–I get to form answers that will work better for me. This time, there is no such thing as “too old” and no reason to do any of it other than love. What a freaking amazing gift! To get to rewrite a painful story and give it a whole new ending. To heal my relationship with my body. To get to skate just for the love of it, and to have found it again while I still can. I haven’t yet come across anyone with a backstory quite like mine, which has me feeling that my relationship with skating is a bit of a unicorn. A beautiful, rare, magical thing.
I think I might start farting glitter any day now.
(That is, of course, not me in this video! I couldn’t do half those moves, even without a unicorn costume on.)
I would love to hear about anyone having an experience of returning to a lost love. Or about a lost love you’d like to get back to. Hoping mine can help you believe that it’s not impossible.