Saturday, May 15, 2010

Candice: What I Have in Common With the 6 Year Old in the Helmet

I'll give you three guesses as to why I feel like me and a 6 year old boy could swap some stories on the ice. No, it's not our mutual love of Chef Boyardee or our shared fascination with dinosaurs.
No, we both fell flat on our asses today and got up laughing. The only difference is he was falling like 1 foot down onto the ice because he was approximately 3 feet tall. I was falling roughly a million feet because I'm actually taller than the entire world. (I have photographic proof, in fact. See below: )

That's me, busy being taller than a refrigerator in my skates. So when the little boy falls down, he giggles and gets up and rockets off for more mayhem. When I fall down, I laugh because it's funny, then get up gingerly and try to pretend my ass isn't shouting "What the fuck?" at me.

Anyway. Before today, I've only fallen once on the ice during several weeks of skating. It was something of a matter of pride, but at the same time, I knew it wasn't a streak that could last. Everybody falls. Olympic skaters, child prodigies, hell, one time I saw a figure skating coach full on eat it. I was trying to make peace with the concept that I'm not going to learn to jump without falling. Still, I was sort of hoping to do that on my own time.

But the universe decided to help me out a bit by abusing my body before I ever even got on the ice. Yesterday I got in a car accident and so maybe I wasn't exactly bringing my A-game to the lesson today. That's right, for those of you who doubted my commitment to sparkle motion, I'll repeat that. I got in a car accident yesterday and still went to skating class.

The car accident was mild, and involved only me and my complete negligence for vehicle maintenance. It was raining yesterday and my tires slipped a little while I left a parking lot, but did I think, "Hey now, Candice. Be careful on sharp turns. Your tires seem to be having an issue" to myself? No, I did not think that, I thought, "Dude, is there anything OTHER than Lady Gaga on the radio?" And as my reward, I skidded across a wet patch of road on the access road of a major highway and hit the median.

Embarrassed, I tried to reverse and drive away only to discover that I had actually REALLY broke it. I broke my car. I couldn't even open the passenger side door. The axle was bent, the tire was popped. I'd officially screwed up big. I spent the next hour sitting in my car in the rain, calling people on the phone, while people drove past me, and a sweet co-worker of mine and a cop waited for the tow truck. It was my first real accident, the first time ever that I'd rendered a car un-driveable.

Did I cry? No. Not even when I realized that the insurance my mother pays for me is liability only. Meaning that it is all on me to get this car fixed. Meaning that a planned trip to Montreal is off. Meaning that "No thank you," is going to have to start coming out of my mouth more and more. As in:

"More wine, madame?"
"No. Thank you."

"Would you like to try this on, miss?"
"No. But thank you."

"Would you like to super size this for .75 cents today?"
"Let me check. ::opens wallet:: No, thank you."

Did I cry? No. Did I want to. Yes. Luckily, my family has passed down a long and storied tradition of coping with life's little curve balls: drinking. Wine was poured for me by 6:30pm, and remained steadily available until midnight. I tried to stretch out the tension and soreness in my back and neck, but even laying down I knew there was no real way to fight it.

But skating class was pre-paid, non-refundable, and cannot be rescheduled. I got up this morning, put on my leg warmers, and went to class. My back was stiff, and I had to take two Aleve before even walking out the door, but I went. I think I fell within the first five minutes of class, first executing that classic sort of Scooby-Doo-running-in-place move before ending up ass first on the ice. Undeterred I brushed off the ice, and set about trying to master swizzles, backwards swizzles, half swizzles, one footed glides (...sort of) slalom, backward slalom (...not really). Crossovers were discussed but by no means attempted. And then, magic words came from our instructors lips: "Let's do a spin."

I am mesmerized by spins. I'll soon be writing up my experience seeing Stars on Ice where I will explain why some traditional, well-beloved figure skating moves leave me snoring with boredom, but good lord, do I love spins. The only cruel thing was the instructor had us try it at the very end of class with barely a minute to really attempt it.

So what did I do? Did I say, "Well Candice, you've done enough. You were in an accident yesterday, and there'll always be more ice time later." No. I immediately paid the fee for to keep skating so I could practice my very first spin. I got up to two full rotations (listen, you gotta learn to walk before you can blur) and bam, down a go a second time, smack dab on the same ass cheek as before. No matter, though! No mind! I was attempting spins. I was spinning! I was getting a step closer to actual figure skating. This was big. This was fun.

Still, I thought, let's take a break, eh? Let's practice some simple skating and try not fall again. We're skating, we're skating, we're inexplicably digging a toe pick into the ice and executing the patented slapstick comedy belly flop and slide forward with arms out and legs splayed. Your dignity, Candice, it's flying out the door!

Kate got me back up, we laughed to show it was all good. I brushed the ice off for a third time, and spent a minute or two doing some simple skating to show the 10-year-olds and bored, teenage ice referees that I was fully capable of walking it off like a champ. I don't think I fooled anyone, least of all myself. By that point, my knees were developing bruises and my shoulders started to refuse to unclench.

Getting lunch helped. Taking a nap helped. Writing this blog about failing, spectacularly, to drive or skate or make it through a simple weekend without acquiring a few dings, but pushing on through helped. And by help, I mean it helped me to not care about the bruises or the ache. I need absolutely no help at all in wanting to keep at this. In fact, I ended up at the ice rink the very next day, practicing my one little spin, my stops, and my slaloms. And wouldn't you know, I didn't fall once?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Background: Kate

In August of 2008, I packed as much of my stuff as I could into two suitcases and moved my entire life to Japan. I'd been feeling restless after graduating from university and figured that going out to teach in a foreign country and see the world was the way to scratch the itch. At first, I thought it was hands down the worst decision I had ever made in my life, but as I began to make friends and travel and become a better teacher, I slowly fell in love with my life there. The first year was rocky, but the second year got off to a great start - I was doing well at work, I was finally recovered from a broken foot, and I went on a couple of fun trips including a trip to the mountains to go paragliding. My best friend/former roommate/current blog partner Candice came over to see me for my birthday. I was thinking about other places I could travel to, maybe spend a year in South Korea teaching or go to Australia for a working holiday.

On the second day of Candice's visit, I got a call from my dad. My mother had died quite unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Of course, everything came to a screeching halt. We somehow stumbled through the rest of the week, then flew to the US. I decided pretty much immediately that I was going to move home. I returned to Japan two weeks after my mother's funeral and told my boss that I would be leaving the company right before Christmas. I spent the next two months in a fog, waiting until I could be with my family again.

When I came home, I was still pretty shell-shocked. I went to parties where I'd sneak off to cry. I wasn't drinking too much, but it was hard not to try and find some way to drown how sad I was. I live with my father and brother in the house I grew up in. The loss of my mother is tangible here. Her things are still in the closet, her pictures are everywhere. She died here. It was really hard to deal with how suddenly my life had changed - I felt like I didn't belong here anymore, even though Austin is my hometown. For a while, the grief was even worse because I really had to face it. I started trying to move forward step by step though. I spent a few weeks lying around doing nothing, took a trip to Portland and Seattle to see friends, and ended up getting a job as a nanny through a friend of a friend. I joined a gym, my friends invited me out and didn't mind that sometimes I cried in public. I started attending grief counseling.

Then, one night, I went ice skating with some friends. Now, my brother played hockey for ten years, so I grew up around ice rinks. I took lessons as a kid. I've always loved figure skating, but for some reason kept it a secret. Then, when idly talking with Candice, I discovered that Chaparral holds basic skating classes for adults. We signed up, started going skating regularly, and discovered how awesome it is. I love skating - when I get going really fast and just let myself glide with my arms out, it's like flying. So yeah. One year, one Olympic level element. We're gonna do it.

The Background: Candice

One morning I woke up, opened the fridge and found nothing but half a can of diced tomatoes and some pickles. I was not surprised. I am a single, 26 year old woman living alone in apartment with 2 cats. I had also recently gone on a binge of going out; the past five days I had gone out with friends and bad dates all while working forty hours, exercising, and struggling with an exhuasting cough caused by surprise seasonal allergies. And all while simultaneously not going to the grocery store, not doing the dishes, and refusing to acknowledging that I would eventually find myself facing a Saturday morning alone in a messy apartment with nothing for breakfast.

I dealt with this situation quite practically: I finally went to the grocery store and bought the next week's worth of food. Mostly whole foods, mostly healthy, mostly things I will have to cook myself. And yet while there I bought myself a can of Spaghetti-Os. Shortly before 11am, I sat down with a steaming bowl of carbs and fatty protein. Some people feel guilty about cracking open a can of beer before noon. I feel guilty about refusing to brunch on the fresh fruits and vegetables I bought in a vain attempt to feel like an adult so that I can indulge the same crappy food I ate at 8 years old. The facade of responsibility is undone during a two-minute microwaving of Franco-American bachelorette chow.

Welcome to the life on the twenty-something. Life is a mix of everything you expected, work, happy hours, feeling responsible every time you pay your bills on time, buying elegant and expensive shoes and eating tuna salad on Saltines while standing over the sink in your pajama pants. For every time I feel as though I could be in a TV commercial (happy, successful yuppie girl meets her happy, successful yuppie friends for yoga while talking about their favorite brand of yogurt!) I end up remind myself that, like a commercial, I can only maintain the veneer of perfection for a brief period of time.

In fact, my embracing of the three y's (yuppie-dom, yoga, and yogurt) is itself something of a veneer. I was an unhealthy, unflexible, lower-middle class teenager. Now I set goals for myself (learn more about wine, stay within a calorie count, run a 5k in 35 min.). I no longer have a daily Cheez-it quotient or buy clothes from Wal-Mart, but does that change who I am inside? Am I some sort of classist version of an the term oreo? Yuppie on the outside, white trash on the inside? How thick does the yuppie layer have to be before no one even notices the fact that some members of my family live in tailer parks?

I set my life goals for the day: vacuum, respond to emails, and ice skating. Yes, you read that right. Ice skating. In my entire life I have skated only twice before. Once in Girl Scouts (hated it) and two years ago I went with my best friend and roommate (and now co-blogger) Kate. During the next hour and a half I fell only once (on freshly Zamboni-ed ice) and had a pretty good time. Kate and I were living in San Antonio at the time, suffering through the post-college, post-the dashing of youthful dreams about an easy transition to a fun, successful adulthood. I thought to myself at the time "I should DO this" but of course I didn't. I had important moping to do.

Now because of the recent Winter Olympics and figure skater Johnny Weir's glorious, self-constructed media-blitz I am reminded again of the fun I had back when the only fun I had usually involved drinking and bitterly complaining. Kate and I often get notions (oh do we ever) and we had decided the day before that there was no better way to spend our Saturday night than re-connecting with that old joy. We invited our various hip friends along via Facebook, picked out self-important outfits, and generally thought to ourselves, "Oh this'll be hilarious."

Later that night we approached the ice with hearts filled with irony-ladened amusement. Little did we know where it would end up.