Wow. Hmm. Where to start? Some surprises. Turns out being a Bettie Nugget is more challenging than I thought – and probably not how you’re thinking. It was never lost on me that this would be one of the biggest physical endeavors I’ve taken on. That was crystal clear from the start.
I’m hard on myself. Yes. But also agonizingly realistic about my ability. I’ve had a life of being overly humbled by this body. But, and probably because of this, I’ve also had a life of steely determination. Because of my physical challenges, I’ve had to be more unwavering than most people I know in order to accomplish the things I’ve wanted to accomplish.
However, every time I get on the rink, it’s difficult for me to begin skating. Believe it or not, I’ve actually achieved a fair level of balance and strength. But, the adrenaline from the fear of stepping onto the track gets my legs so shaky, it makes skating hard. The fear never leaves between practices, but on the day of training it starts building until my stomach is in knots. What am I afraid of? Pain and falling – even though I’m actually starting to get used to those constant companions. And I have my mantras, my favorite one right now being, “Pain is just fear leaving the body.” So hopefully the adrenaline surges will taper off.
But here’s the best thing about last night. And I guess I’ll be honest, because what’s the point of writing a blog and not being completely transparent. (My other mantra, “I’ve got nothing to hide.”)
At one point last night, after already traversing through a line-up of difficult skill-building activities (up/downs, slalom course runs, skipping on skates), we were supposed to start learning our cross-over technique (otherwise known as a grapevine). This is where you move across the rink by side-stepping, crossing one foot completely over the other. Not only were my legs tired, everything in me said I was going to break my leg if I tried this so I swore some obscenity under my breath. All-the-while most of the other girls pranced across the track. One of my favorite Betties, Kiki La Screw, must have heard me because when I looked up she was in front of me with her hands held out. She looked me straight in the eye, told me I was amazing and doing great.
“Take my hands. Keep your eyes on mine and don’t look at your skates,” she instructed. “I’m here and you can do this.” I took a deep breath and tears started pouring out of my eyes. I was exhausted and moved that she’d even give a shit. Like a mama and her toddler, she walked me across the rink and back, encouraging me the entire time.
That probably makes me sound weak and I’m sure it sounds corny. But, when you’re that tired and someone is kind to you, it can feel profound. About halfway through we were joined by another one of my favorites, Lem E. Atom. Together Kiki and Lem gave me the confidence I needed to get through the rest of the night. I felt like they knew my dark moment would come before I did and they already had a plan in place to catch me when it did.
I guess that’s what good coaching is all about. Being a part of team runs much deeper than one’s individual skill level. I don’t understand this, but I keep crying today. And I’m left with a deep sense of gratitude.