Sunday, January 27, 2008
Hit the Ice
"But I'll teach my eyes to see,
beyond these walls in front of me."
Tara Lipinski has nothing to worry about.
I went ice-skating today for the first time in...oy...35 years and I think it's safe to say that no skating records were broken today.
But then neither was my spine, so I'm happy for that much.
I was in high school the last time I tried this. I went with some friends to a rink in Coney Island, where I move around in cautious little stomps while the rest of world whizzed by.
I was just starting to feel some degree of confidence when a friend of mine skated by, patted me on the back and the two of us nearly went flying on our asses.
I never went again, although each winter I made half-hearted promises to myself that one day I would try again.
Today was that day. This was my first weekend since being laid off and I had all sorts of negative thoughts going: what if I trip and crack my head open?
Shouldn't I be saving money now that I'm out of work instead of wasting it on childish pursuits?
But I was under doctor's orders, as my shrink told me to get out and do things instead of staying home and being miserable.
I have to admit it's been kind of rough the last few days. I have no place to go during the working hours and this house seems emptier and emptier every passing second.
I'm angrier and more impatient than usual. When I went to see my shrink on Thursday, I managed to get furious twice in under five minutes.
First I stopped off at a deli to get a soda and something to nosh on, which turned out to be an abomination erroneously labeled "Delicious Fat Free Pound Cake."
Now if a product calls itself "Delicious" that is a major warning that it will probably taste like building materials...which, in fact, it did. But I was hungry.
I was about to buy this crap when the cashier turns to answer the phone and leaves me facing her fat rear end for what seemed like several hours.
I waited, I fumed, I muttered under my breath. And when she finally turned around to ring me up I was all smiles, of course. This crap had cost me $4.55, a ridiculous waste of money for something I'd be reluctant to feed to a dog.
Then I crossed the street to get some cash from my bank and there's a homeless guy camped out inside the place who is making the most hideous sounds.
I don't if he was coughing or preparing to vomit, just acting crazy, but I pounded the buttons on the ATM keyboard to get my money and get the hell out of there, the whole time doing the Why Me? routine.
Finally, I forced myself to stop and say a prayer for this poor man who was clearly ill, physically, mentally or both. And I thanked God that I still had a roof over my head and didn't have to seek shelter in ATM lobbies.
I don't want to use the loss of my job as an excuse to lose my temper. I promised I would work on my anger for 2008 and that's what I'm going to do.
Losing my job is a challenge, a huge challenge, very early on in the year, but that's what getting control is all about.
It's easy to be mellow when everything is going your way. It takes more guts to keep from lashing out at the world when life keeps chucking those lemons at you.
I half-heartedly tried to go out Friday night. I had planned to go to a monthly dance at the Museum of Natural History, figuring I would go after work.
But as of Wednesday I had no work, so the idea jack-assing to and from Manhattan from my place in Brooklyn on the subway on a cold winter night didn't appeal to me.
The Man Who Wasn't There
Instead I went downtown to the Brooklyn Academy of Music hoping to check out a jazz band. But the place was so crowded I couldn't get past the lobby. Grrrrr....
I ended up having a glass of white wine by myself at a nearby wine bar and calling it a night. I was feeling so down, so insignificant, it was like I was shrinking into the sidewalk.
As I walked to the subway station I was actually surprised that a man coming from the other direction stepped around me--I honestly felt invisible to the rest of the world. This is not a sign of a healthy mind.
I finally decided this morning to go ice-skating. I want to do new things for the new year and I hadn't seen my friends in the Bay Ridge Meet-Up Group in a while.
I kept my mouth shut about the job situation. No sense in bringing everyone else down when we're all out to have fun. We went to the rink in Prospect Park and as I entered the locker room, I noticed a rink attendant with the name tag "M. Fatal."
Fatal? As in a fatal fall to the ice, where I crack my head open and people scream in horror while simultaneously taking pictures of me bleeding to death with their cell phone cameras?
Maybe I'm pronouncing her name wrong, but as omens go, this wasn't a good one.
Still, I got my skates, took my jittery steps toward the rink and stepped onto the ice.
I made an incredible discovery the moment I stepped onto the great frozen circle: ice is very slippery. Amazing, no?
I felt myself going down and I grabbed hold of the fence...and I held on to that damn thing for most of the day. Every time I stood up straight and let go of the fence, I would feel my feet slipping out from underneath me.
The sound system was blaring the most hideous elevator music, like Lionel Ritchie's "Hello." C'mon, guys, it's bad enough I'm risking a fractured skull out here, must my eardrums be assaulted as well?
I guess if you did fall, the awful soundtrack would take your mind off the pain.
Every now and then the music would stop and a voice piped in from a penitentiary sound system read off the list rules and regulations, which went on and on, seemingly forever, like The State of the Union Address.
Don't do this, don't do that...just go around in circles and don't bother anybody. And have a nice day.
People went sailing by effortlessly, while I and a knot of little girls clung to the fence like it was the railing of the Titanic.
"Y'all still here?" one little girl shouted to her terrified friends as she streaked by us. "What's taking you so long?"
"Your friend is a wiseguy," I muttered to my frightened companions.
I made a second loop around the rink and got behind a mother and her little girl.
"Bend your knees, dear," the woman said to her daughter.
I tried taking her advice and it did help to bend my knees. I felt I had better balance. Then the woman pointed to me as an example of what to do. Lady, please, I've got enough problems...
"See this gentleman?" she said. "See what he's doing?"
"Listen to your mother," I said. "Mom knows best."
I took a break and they finally played a song I liked: a cover of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released." It seemed to appropriate considering my current state of mind.
"I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released."
When I got back onto the ice, I found myself behind this very large man and his daughter and I saw his skating ability--or the lack of it--was on a par with mine. So we did the hand-over-hand routine all the way around the rink.
During that last time orbit, I tried letting go of the railing and for a few seconds, I was skating. And there I found the lesson for today.
I had chosen to let go of the support and go out on my own. It was a risk, not much of a one, but a risk nonetheless.
In the case of my job, the fence was pulled away from me and now I'm out of the ice trying to keep from falling on my tuchas.
And even if I do fall, I'll just get back up and keep skating.
"We made it," I said to the father and daughter as we reached the exit.
On the way home, my companions complained about how quickly the weekend had gone by, how Monday was just around the corner. Of course Monday has little meaning when you're out of work, but once again I kept quiet.
This was a good day. I tried something new, spent some time with great people, and chipped away at one of my many fears.
In the great ice rink of life, you can't ask for much more.