I am often hesitant to do things that scare me. I am clumsy, accident prone and risk averse. I don't catastrophise but I am aware of my lack of coordination. So when my boy suggested we go ice skating to escape the heat on a 40 degree day over the weekend, I said yes and then I said no. I didn’t want to break my leg before my overseas trip (or anytime, really). I didn’t want my fingers to be sliced off by a wayward skater. I didn’t want to fall and smash my teeth. And so I suggested we go to the movies instead. It'd be the safer option.
“But I was looking forward to skating”, my boy said. And then I started a conversation on Facebook, asking if I should go ice skating or the safer option of a movie. Almost everyone that replied said I should try it. I knew he'd look after me too. And so off we went to Medibank Icehouse (after a visit to Ikea, where we committed to each other with an Allen key. It's been suggested to me that the assembly of flat-pack furniture could be a more practical alternative to Tony Abbot's couples counselling. If we can get through assembling a Brusali, we can get through anything.).
It was 30 degrees cooler inside the icehouse. There were disco lights and a DJ. The skating rink was named after Steven Bradbury, the Australian Winter Olympian who famously won a gold medal after his competitors tumbled behind him. The skating rink was packed. The other rink was the arena for a game of ice hockey.
I had done ice skating as a kid – bundled up in a hot pink parka, fearless and skilled up from nights roller skating around the streets of my small town. But as an adult, my fears were brimming. I didn’t have the confidence to let go of my fears or the railing. I didn’t want to fall. I didn’t want to look silly. We seem to bottle our fears up more as adults, asking what ifs and worrying for the worst. It’s our life experiences of previous hurt that stops us from doing things that scare us.
But as I found out ice skating, the things that scare us are the things that make us happy. Take love – so many of us, including me, are afraid to fall in love in case we (or the other person) gets hurt. Yet taking that risk could make us the happiest we’ve ever been. And facing those fears help us grow and empower us. I guess it's how children mature, by doing things that scare them, and surviving them.
Kids whizzed around the rink, weaving and laughing and spinning. There were only a few adults who showed child-like abandon – twirling and shimmying to the music. Some of the adults were as scared as me. Others were more uncoordinated than I was – faced with the challenge of keeping themselves and their children upright, or slipping and sliding trying to stay poised.
I knew that if I continued to be scared of standing upright on my ice skates, if I held back with my movements, I wouldn’t have fun.
And so I hired a skating frame – like a zimmer frame. It steadied my balance and self-beliefs.
I sped off around the rink, alone and confidently. My boy is a good skater – it surprised me. Though together we are no Torvill and Dean. He did his best to steer me and push me along when I got tired. When I lent my frame to another novice skater, my boy held my hand as we did a lap around the rink. I did fall with the frame, but it wasn’t due to my own clumsiness – another skater knocked me over after he tripped. My knee hit the ice with a thud – it bled and throbbed. When I got back onto the rink after a short rest, I lost a little of my confidence. But I am ok. The worst did not happen. It was so much fun. And a great leg workout too.
Like when I climbed the high-ropes and did the flying fox at camp, and like when I was in the mosh at a Placebo concert, the reality of ice skating was not as bad as what could go wrong in my head. It was one part terrifying and two parts exhilarating. Nothing went wrong. I couldn’t stop smiling. I am so glad I chose to do the activity that scared me. I want to go again.
What have you done that's scared and thrilled you recently?