Roller Skating on a Balance Beam

The following is a post I wrote upon getting out of the Day Treatment Program.

Unlike gymnastic friends as well as my roller derby friends, I hadn’t learned that balance is the key to staying on one’s feet. I have been Roller Skating on a Balance Beam.

It goes for life. It goes for friends. It goes for work.

Skating on that balance beam, I knew I would eventually fall off. I kept on doing it because, well, somehow I was doing it. I was going back and forth because that was what was expected of me.

So who had the expectations? It turns out to be a very lonely club. I skated because I thought I had to. I stayed on the beam because falling was not a choice.

A little more than two weeks ago, I decided to finally give myself the permission to fall, and what do you know. It didn’t hurt.

It hurt when I jerked my knee to keep on the beam or when I fell flat on my back on that four inch wide shaky foundation for my being. When I face planted, there was immense pain. When both feet went off, I crotched myself to an excruciating result.

I just never fell off.

When I finally fell, I discovered people were not there waiting to catch me. People were ready to push me off for my own good… (I am looking at you, Trish). Crowds of friends had been screaming JUMP! But I was going to get that 10.0 or a qualifying score no matter the personal cost.

Since a coach got tired of yelling at me to say my deductions had left me at a score lower than 0.0… Since my derby friends just quit telling me to call off the jam… Since improv directors had decided to go to the local bar after I wouldn’t hear them call scene… Since my ears were closed, all the noise in the world couldn’t convince me, I stayed up there, damn it.

When looked around, no one was left in the stands… no one was at the announce table… no teammates were present… no one was there… not even the facilities people. The lights were turned off and I was still there, on the beam, with my roller skates on.

The temptation was to skate as fast as I could from one end to the other, but when my foot slipped on my way there, I saw that I was still on, but not wanting the pressure.

So I called out for help. There was one person in the gym… sitting in the upper corner. She yelled down…”ready yet?”

Difference was… I said yes, but instead of falling off, or jumping off blindly… I climbed down.

“Give me your skates.” said one voice. “Leave the arena,” said another. “Gymnastics and Roller Derby don’t mix… at least not yet. No one is ready for it, not even you.”

As my feet hit the soft padding, I collapsed into a ball of tears and relief. I was finally listening to the voice in the corner saying… just trust yourself and take care of yourself.

And the coaches, after saying I was going to disappoint the team, had to deal with the fact that one of their players was not going to play for a short time.

And off I went… in my socks… grounded for the first time in years… and I met new teammates who were all stuck on an apparatus of one type or the other.

Some were afraid to vault after crashing violently before. Others could not step onto the floor, afraid of what others would think of them. Then, there were the people who were holding on to the bar until their fingers bled, but finally let go and ended up needing treatment.

I looked around at this new team, and the coaching staff with a much different approach and thought, “why did I not just climb down before? Why did I think I had to fall? Why did I think I had to stay up?”

All the time I was on the beam, all I could think is that people should be looking up to me, when in fact, I was looking behind me – in front of me and paying no attention to where I was.

I thought the judges were against me, when in fact, they didn’t care.

I learned that if I wanted people to be my teammates, I needed to ask them to be, I needed to want them to be, I needed to believe they would be. I just needed to be.

I learned that the things I never tried because they were too easy brought me the most joy.

I learned that the ones who frustrated me the most, were the ones that taught me the most.

And most of all, I learned that all my experience and all my dreams cannot add to what is there right now.

So right now, I am either engaged in something that needs my attention, or I want to share something with you or hear your good news at the right time It can’t happen at the same time without me cheating. Cheating myself.

So I am now walking back into the gym, and there it is with its beautiful colors. And there is the beam again. Next to the beam is a ladder and a spring board. To the left of that is a crank that can pull the beam down to just above floor level. The skates that were my vehicle are locked in a clear box, and next to them is a container of chalk.

I am barefooted. I am prepared to balance. Only this time, I have chosen that the beam be lower not because I want to achieve any less, but to have the tools to achieve more… safely.

And when I need to step off, when the time is right to step off, when I just want to step off… it’s not a huge step. It’s one I can take anytime.

Hello again. It’s nice to meet you.

I finally love you again.

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