05 March 2006

A Helping Hand

5 March 2006

I have continued my adventures in ice skating.  Some old skills are coming back to me.  Unfortunately not the one that involves standing back up on the ice after falling down.  Fortunately, the falling down doesn’t hurt as much as I feared. Most of the energy of the fall goes into the skid across the ice and less goes into me– making it much easier to want to get back up and continue skating.  However my muscle memory is for someone much lighter and younger than I am now, making things a bit difficult.

So for the past few sessions I have been making due with sliding across the ice on my knees until I reach the boards where I can pull myself up.  This works fine, but is a little embarrassing and does not allow me to get out of the way very quickly.

At home, I have been trying to figure out the logistics of levering my body up off the ice., but it is difficult to accurately simulate both the stiffness of the skate boots and the slipperiness of an ice rink in my kitchen.

Today I made time for another session on the ice.  As I gained the ice  my feet felt pretty solid under me and  I made it around the rink more times than I expected before the inevitable crash landing.  I was a little way from the wall so I decided to try to get up on my own.  I was not having much success– picture a live fish flopping around on dry land and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what I looked like– and was about to give up when one of the regular skaters came up to me and asked if he could help me up.

I told him thanks but suggested that I might be a bit heavy for him.  He persisted and I accepted his hand.  I did not rise gracefully to my feet– even with his hand to steady me I flailed about and was very surprised when I did not take us both down.  He never once lost his own balance and in a mere moment I was back on my feet.  He advised me to stay close to the wall and skated off.

I skated round to one of the exits and decided to practice getting up and down on my skates, off the ice (and without the aid of a wall to pull up on).  After two or three tries I came up with a technique that I thought would work for me and I set out on the ice to try it out.

I picked a quiet corner and used the wall to get down on my hands and knees.  Having successfully ‘fallen,’ I tried getting up.  Imagine my surprise when it worked!  My technique was not at all graceful but it did the job.

I skated a victory lap.  Then just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, I picked another corner and tried getting up again.  I was in the middle of getting my toes and hands braced when my rescuer from earlier came by to ask if I was okay.  I explained that I was just practising and he skated off and left me to it. 

Later, while I  unlacing my skates, I realized that the help I had been given had been more than just a hand up. I had been given the experience of what it felt like to stand up without the help of the wall.  And from that, I had constructed my own method of rising from a fall– gaining a measure of independence in the process.  For that to happen I had to first accept help when it was offered and then he had to be willing to let me struggle when I declined his help the second time.

What I learned from him will stay with me for a good long time and reminds me to offer those around me a helping hand where my own skills permit and to back off when they want to try on their own.  

I will never know when a moment of my time will grow into a learning experience for someone else, but I will never know if I don’t step back when asked.

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