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January 2010
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Roller Skates and Falling Down

My knee hurts today and it makes me glad. I scraped and bruised it while attempting a one footed turn on roller skates. The injury doesn’t prevent me from accomplishing anything I want to get done, which is good. Instead feel the twinges and think “Oh yeah, I got to do a fun thing yesterday.”

I didn’t expect the roller skate outing to be as much fun as it was. I was one of three adult women shepherding a dozen girls ages 8-11. I expected to be bored while watching the girls skate. But then we walked in and the rink was almost empty. And the music was playing. And sitting still seemed like a silly choice. So I ponied up my dollar and put on a pair of skates. Then I rolled.

I had a roller skating party for my fourteenth birthday. My three friends and I huddled and giggled while examining the teenage boys who were also present. We even spoke to the boys once or twice. I remember rolling on the skates, feeling beautiful in my new peach colored sweater. I skated carefully, so as not to fall down in front of those boys or my friends. I gave one of the boys my phone number when he asked for it. He never called.

More than 20 years later I rolled skates on concrete again. I didn’t have pretty new clothes or anyone to impress. Other than being available to pick up a fallen girl, I had no obligations. So I rolled. And when the music was good I danced a little while rolling. And I attempted tricks I would not have dared do at fourteen. I am far more confident in myself and my body than I was then. I have figured out that half of looking good is not being afraid to look silly. So I did some tricks. And I fell down and scraped my knee.

That moment, the falling moment, was a bit of a reality check. I over balanced. I could not catch myself and I saw the concrete coming. Uprighting myself, and examining my knee to assess the seriousness of the damage, I realized that there are other differences between fourteen and thirty-six. Children and teens are far less likely to be seriously injured after a fall. Their bodies have elasticity and resilience which fades with the years.

I’ve been skating several times in between my fourteenth birthday and yesterday. I’ve been skating several times in the past couple of years. Our elementary school has monthly skate nights and the kids frequently beg me into going. So I went. And I wore skates. And I skated carefully, slowly building confidence. And I was pleased with myself for not falling down at all.

I stood up in the rink and flexed my injured knee. I could tell it was not broken. I knew it would be colorfully bruised. Only later did I discover that it was scraped under the pants. I had been given a reality check, and I had a choice. I could skate to the side. I could stop attempting tricks. Or I could accept the fact that falling down is part of learning. My body is no expert on skates. I have not had much practice perfecting basic skate moves. If I want to get that practice, I have to be willing to fall. Then I have to be willing to get up and try again. So I did.

I fell once more before the evening was over. I spared my knee by bruising a hand. I did not seek to fall down, but I did not let fear of falling prevent me from trying new things. I did better with each thing I attempted. When the time came to leave I was tired, but triumphant. So each time my knee twinges today, it reminds me that I got up and went on. It reminds me of the graceful flying moments which were all about the wind and the wheels and the music. The true measure of triumph is not in avoiding the fall, but in getting up to try again after it.

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