“Character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.” – Cavett Robert
Sometimes when you’re on a long drive across a boring part of the country, (I’m looking at YOU, St. Louis to Kansas City), you start getting lazy. The scenery never changes. You know you’re making progress, but it just seems like it’s never going to end and you stop caring. We mitigate this by rolling down the windows, cranking up the music and singing at the top of our lungs, or by bringing friends along for the road trip, or maybe just being earnestly anxious and excited about what is at the end of the trip; but these are all countermeasures against the dreadful monotony of the journey.
A couple of interesting things happened to me last week. I had my first day of practice with the Gatekeepers. It wasn’t exactly as productive as I had imagined, but I was still jazzed for the experience. It really served more as the proverbial first step than anything else. I was glued to the wall and left to my own devices with little more advice than “Keep your knees bent. Also, you should bend your knees. Try to straighten your back and not lean forward. It’s a pretty good idea to keep your knees bent. There’s a new dance craze sweeping the nation and it’s called “The Bent Knees.”
Knees. Bent. On it.
Like I said, not overly productive, but I knew it was going to be slow-going. And somehow I managed to not fall on that first practice, so there’s that.
A few nights later, my friend invited me to hit up an open skate with her. I sucked, but there’s only one way that’s ever going to change. I get to the rink, and the place is just crawling with tweens. Most of them were just hanging out, almost none of them were actually skating. It was pretty obvious that the rink doubled as a babysitting service. Ugh. I started feeling a bit of self-consciousness welling up about my utter lack of skill, coupled with the notion that I was an ogre amidst a collective of halflings (or hobbits, if you prefer), before I rationalized that no kids skating meant no kids being creamed by a train with no brakes. This worked for me.
My friend shows up and gets geared up. We go out onto the rink where I start to move with the sort of grace normally reserved for newborn horses. On ice. Where oil has been spilled. She tells me to bend my knees and keep my back straight. Right. At this point, the path forks from my practice earlier in the week. She starts telling me what I need to try to do with my feet. I managed to get a pretty quick grasp on the move to get you moving, but the way to stop was completely beyond me. Again, glad the kids were more interested in making out in dark corners than skating.
When it became obvious that basic starting and stopping (or at least the latter part) wasn’t taking, she switched gears and gave me some pointers on a few basic strides I could work on, then told me to go ahead and practice, she was going to leave me be for a bit because she wanted to try out some new wheels she just got.
She was pretty excitable about this, I nodded in agreement, but she knew I had exactly no idea why.
She explained that different wheels have different textures/grip that is measured with a numeric value system. The lower the number, the more “sticky” the wheel. She explained that previously she was using some number, and that she was now using a lower number. I tried to mirror her enthusiasm, but I’m guessing that the boundless void in my eyes clued her in to my lack of understanding the significance of this.
“I know this doesn’t mean anything to you right now,” she said.
“But sooner or later it will,” I replied. Surely I’d learn some things as we went along.
She then explained to me that she needed more grippy wheels because she was not applying the same gravitational pressure that she used to. It clicked that what was being communicated was that she had lost weight and her wheel needs changed. She definitely had something to be excited about, and that’s when it hit me.
I’ve been exercising regularly. I watch what I eat. I’ve been looking for ways to be even more active. Weight loss at this point would be a natural result of what I’m doing. But somewhere along the line, I lost the love for it, the excitement. Somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, I knew I’d eventually get to my destination, but until that point, it was endless grain fields punctuated with an occasional barn. My own journey faded into the background and lost its color. Seeing her excitement about this stoked the dying embers of a fire that used to burn so bright with me. In a wonderful moment of witnessing that kind of triumph I used to have, my enthusiasm was reborn.
With a little help from Queen and David Bowie, Outkast and a touch of Bon Jovi, I got out there, excited as hell to be doing what I’m doing for every possible aspect of it. Two hours later, I’m actually skating. Not with any great deal of proficiency mind you, and my ability to turn was suspect at best, but I was only touching wall at the start and end of my runs, and building solid momentum everywhere in between. Even the guy running the rink (and a few of the tweens) came out to compliment me on the dramatic difference between when I’d arrived and when I finished.
I was beyond pumped. I changed out of my gear and fought to keep my combined mood and endorphin glow from searing the retinas of everything in a 2 mile blast. I drove home, windows down, dancing in my seat, screaming along with every song. My mind was building skating playlists (because music is inexplicably something that makes you skate better), I got home and started looking at Captain Hammer shirts, gloves and other accessories. I looked at roller coasters and looked at my calendar trying to figure out all the different places where I could shoehorn in extra movement.
The next day I felt soreness in muscles I’d never felt soreness in before. It’s a good hurt. It’s the ache of realization. The glorious pain of triumph. God, how I missed it.
To all of you walking this path, one like it, or really any path, it’s so crucial to love what you’re doing. That will drive better efforts and better results than any other method. I’ve been focused so long on reaction (hey look, I didn’t destroy this chair; hey look, I didn’t jam up a slide, etc.) that I stopped looking at the exciting and proactive things. The fun things. The rewards that are actual rewards and not just circumstances of my efforts. I have them firmly in my sights now and am rocketing toward them with renewed vigor. This time I’m okay with not knowing how to stop.