Sunday, January 17, 2010


Three of my sons have already exited the ice, but I refuse, stubborn as a child myself. I toss a twenty dollar bill to them and tell them to go get snacks; cheered, they evaporate somewhere into the lobby of the ice rink, headed for nachos and microwaved burgers. I want to tell them about being more positive, about appreciating that their bodies can almost skate, glide across the white coldness, feel the wind. The indoor rink in Webster Groves is crowded; winter break isn’t yet over, and desperate parents bring children here to burn off some energy. The Christmas gifts have lost their allure, and the kids are antagonizing one another for sport. But maybe I’m projecting; maybe it’s just mine getting grouchy. Or maybe it’s just me.

The first half an hour on the ice always hurts. The fronts of my ankles grow sore from trying to balance myself in rented skates, on the choppy ice, in a treacherous crowd. Eventually, I glide easily, and can even spin a bit, turn myself backward, and then turn back forward. I can’t stay at the snail’s pace of the other moms who are chatting about books, housekeepers, New Year’s Eve parties. Secretly, I’m even relieved that my sons have given up; otherwise, I’d still be holding hands with eight-year-old son, helping him skate. I have to move faster, feel the breeze, see movement, enjoy the strength in my legs that can propel me, the firmness of my torso that keeps me balanced, the ease of my arms moving out and around me, because they can. I tell myself to remember this: “because they can.” No one knows how long it’ll last.

I’m naturally lazy, but once the grim task of motivating myself off the couch, dressing, driving to an appointed place, arranging required equipment, and navigating through the crowds is over, and I’m actually participating in a sport, such as skating, I always enjoy myself. Swimming, tap dancing, playing softball, walking, running, bicycling, weight lifting, skating: anything will do. Once I’m past my mental block and finally moving my body, I am at peace, and all the worries and anxieties melt away.

We’ve all pondered the philosophical question: What would you do with your life if you were told you have just one day left? How would you spend it? What if you were told you had a year? What if you have five years? Five years. You’re still relatively young and healthy. You have a career, a family, and some independence. You’re in the prime of life – your best mental and social state, and then it’ll end in five years. So how should you spend it?

I am there, gliding, listening to the sounds of blades scraping on ice.

Sometimes I wonder what kinds of thought patterns other people experience. For example, do other people make the active decision to compartmentalize aspects of their own personalities? Parts of themselves they like but can't manage? So they "put them away" from time to time? We all have a public face and a private face, of course, but it's more than that. I felt the need to put away the soft side of myself and function on the autopilot finesse of the other part of me -- the part that's colder yet efficient.