This ice rink where I've been taking lessons for the past few months has become my newest classroom for the "Advanced Life Degree" I'm pursuing.
Part of the curriculum covers Facing Fears and Being Gentle with Oneself. If you read 300 Rejections with any regularity, you'll know that these items are frequently repeated on the syllabus. This degree I'm getting is heavy in the "the lessons will be presented repeatedly until it seems you've finally gotten it." It could take a semester or in the case of fear and gentleness decades.
I've started doing harder stuff on the ice and in these hard moments, I am reintroduced to my constant companion, Fear. The past few classes I could tell that my fears of falling and not doing the techniques correctly were getting in the way of enjoying the class. Tonight's lesson presented itself when I fell on the ice. I prided myself on the fact that I hadn't fallen in previous classes. I wore it like a gold medal around my neck.
I'm not going to say I made myself fall because I didn't. It wasn't a dramatic fall either. In fact, my teacher skated up to me and said, "That was a very graceful fall. I just heard a little thud." I don't know exactly what caused me to fall technique-wise, but I can say that even as I was going down, I heard myself say, "This needed to happen." I fell without hitting my head and landed on my back. I laid still for a second to access if I'd hurt anything and then regroup before standing up. I brushed off the ice from my leggings and smiled at my teacher.
"Well, that's over." I went back to skating.
It's the same lesson I learned on the stand-up paddle board yoga class a few summers back. The first class I took I prided myself on staying on the board and dry the entire class. The next class I realized that falling in the water was not a form of failure, and when I allowed myself to slip into the water it was powerful moment of surrender and letting go of unimportant expectations to which I hold myself.
See, I create arbitrary rules for myself like, You'll be more successful at skating if you don't fall down. Says who? Who the hell cares if I fall? (I might have cared more had I hurt myself, but thankfully I did not hurt one bit.)
I skated better after the fall. The undo, unnecessary, and unrealistic expectation that I didn't fall became pressure that kept me from enjoying the lessons. With a fall under my belt, I was free to move with more ease. Falling on the ice was no longer something to avoid or a fear of something unknown.
By the end of class, I was doing back crossovers quite well--a skill that has taken me weeks to get the hang of. In some cases, I'm a slow learner. It is taking repeated lessons to teach me that it's isn't a big deal to fall--or fail--it's just important that I keep getting back on my feet.
It is no coincidence that it was at the end of THIS class--the one where the fall occurred, where I finally relaxed and enjoyed myself--that my teacher said, "You're a skater. You are getting the hang of it!"