My family and I went roller skating last weekend. I hadn’t used real roller skates since middle school. So after more than fifteen years of standing on my feet, the wheels beneath me shuddered. And then they flew.
As I rolled around the rink, oh soooo wobbly at first (or, well, the entire two hours) by the end I was able to take a hearty look around me at the crowd and muster an exhilarated sigh. I’ve missed skating. Skating is not entirely cardiovascular, as my iWatch didn’t notice I’d spent two hours wheeling around a flat floor and instead noted eight whole minutes of activity. Womp womp. But skating is a task of wonder and thrill. It made me pause and observe, and note just how much life is like a skating rink.
Skating is a challenging activity.
Balance. Wobbling. Fear. Chaos! Total fun. Cramping shins. Let’s accent that last one. Within five minutes on the floor I had to take a break because my shins burned like a thousand fires of Armageddon. And I do sprints regularly! All around me on that floor, kids, teens, and adults alike ate dirt, toppling and tumbling to the ground.
My daughter is learning to skate and she’s frustrated. It’s a mix of balance, freedom, carefreeness, and knowing how to hold your center in just the right way. And then swinging those arms crazy as the balance shifts around the corner. Ah!
There’s no one single “this is how you skate” tutorial. Skating feels different for everyone. Some people catch on quick, some need this magical contraption the rink owners rent out, of something like a walker on wheels, to give the littles something to hold while rolling. To skate is to know the feel of your foot along the sole of the shoe; to skate is to fly free and yet hold just so. Each skater will learn in a different manner, in a different timing, in a different location, after a different amount of falling.
Get back up. Find your poise. Compose your grace.
People fall down.
Simply observing when I had to sit and rest, and even amid the crowd on the floor, there was one constant in the rink: People fell down. There was never a single person not on the ground. At any given time, more than one person lay sprawled on the wax. Skating is a game of falling down. And learning how to navigate around those who do.
Several times, children sprinted before me, wrapped around the pillars, and splattered along the floor. I had to navigate the open waters, like a minnow in a shark pool. The fallers couldn’t always help it. They are learning. They are discovering. They are stumbling over things on the floor.
The falling is embarrassing. The falling hurts. The falling causes a domino effect.
Their actions affect everyone around them. The skater who wishes to remain vertical must look ahead, look around, and be prepared to stumble. When another skater falls down, everyone has two options: either help the other one up or skate around them. It’s easy to be angered by the faller downer. It’s easy to gripe and cast angry glances, but often these lead to the falling down of one’s own self.
Instead of wasting time and energy being frustrated at those who fall, know they are part of the game. Know that the person stumbling is dealing with the floor. The floor isn’t so friendly. But you can be. So since you’re still on your feet, be kind and move along your merry way.
You have to observe the big picture.
The more people fill the floor, the harder it is to navigate the perils of the rink. Little kids bob around, wobbling, tossing their fists every which way, while teens dart and dash and topple like marbles on a slip-n-slide. You have to keep your eyes up, watch for the open path, and navigate even those last-minute adaptations and pivots to the plan. Be ready for change. Because you’re rounding the corner, friend, so expect someone to shoot in front of you.
The more I kept my vision above the horizon, beyond my own feet, the more I could easily maneuver the scene. Getting caught up in wheels and feet and legs is easy. Seeing that it’s only four other bodies in a large room puts it in perspective. There’s more to the story than the skates in your way.
People sit on the sidelines.
You either skate or you sit on the sidelines. You can laugh all you want at the people skating -- their balance, their wobbling, their stumbling, their sporadic waving of the arms -- but at least they’re on the floor. At least they are attempting to do the Y-M-C-A while rolling around the rink. Who cares if they look like a monkey on a frozen pond? Applaud the skaters, cheer them on, for they’re operating vividly and fully engaged. What’s life on the sidelines but a hard bench and a noisy crowd? The floor is much more open and inviting, my friends.
Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
I noticed as the time wore on that the floor grew emptier. Exhaustion, sweat, sore muscles, and celebrating birthdays drew out the engaged from the spent. It’s crucial to know when you’ve met your limits. It's also crucial to enjoy cake. But also, know that limits are invisible. And cake makes you tired. If you want to skate, then skate on my friend. The best ending to a day in the rink is time on the rink. Shake until the last song. Don’t snicker at the weary, don’t slight the onlooker, but roll on, roll on. Dance with the music and slide along the floor. Time and again I had to remind my daughter -- just have fun with it. The more fun you have, the better you do. And that’s life, friends. It’s all just skating anyway. Might as well spend the time rolling. Don’t be hatin’, just keep skatin’.
To my friend who is struggling with the slick floor, skate on. To my wobbly wheeler, steady. I won’t hold your hand because we’ll both fall down, but I’m here in the rink with you. Getting on the floor is the hard part, but stopping is even harder. It’s more fun on the floor. Come on in. I hear it’s almost time for limbo.
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