Monday, March 26, 2012

On meeting yourself where you are

In the fall of 2010, my school had an ice-skating event.

I'm from Southern California. In other words, I don't ice skate. I've been skating maybe half a dozen times in my life, unlike these Pennsylvania natives who have skated on actual frozen lakes.

Skaters, Central Park, N.Y, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views

My student, Justin, zipped back and forth, cutting across the ice, unafraid of the vast open center of the rink. My coworkers skated around, talking, turning, stopping with ease. I like to try things, I thought. And work is paying for it. I'll get a pair of skates. I'm sure I can do this.

Justin, a hockey player, laughed at me as I nervously gripped the edge and inched my way around the rink. Another teacher, Brandon - who is not a small man - was new at skating too. He valiantly attempted to skate - with the aid of a walker-type contraption, the likes of which I'd never seen. Of course it was sized for children, so he was bent over it uncomfortably. He was a sight! But he trudged on, uncaring how he looked and enjoying himself immensely.

On my fourth tortured creep around the rink, as I ventured away from the wall a little more, I fell and twisted my ankle. When I finally conceded to go to a doctor, I learned it was a sprain.

I don't yet know how to ice skate. I know that now. It's not that it's wrong to poke at your limits - in fact, it's the only way we ever learn anything new. But by accepting our limitations, and accepting the help that is available to us, we stay safe from injury. We may be too proud to use a wall to steady our balance in Vrkasana (Tree Pose), or insist that our hands can reach the floor without a block in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). We don't admit that we need to look up that word we don't know, or insist that we can carry all the bags to the front door in one trip. We fail to accept the help that is available out of pride, or the fear of seeming weak.

But the figure of Brandon scooting around behind that undersized "ice skating training aid" reminds me that there is strength in seeing the help that is available and in not being afraid to use it. To say "this is where I am today, and I'm okay with that."

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