If we were having coffee I’d say that the cliché ‘sometimes the only way out is through’ is probably more of a truism than I would have liked to admit. I would also ask you why you’re drinking a hot beverage when it finally feels like summer has arrived…
The only way out of a Chinese finger trap is to stop struggling and go deeper into the puzzle.
That was what I was told recently as a way to help me form an internal reminder to push past irrational fears: the kind that are created from the building blocks of pain avoidance. This is fairly easy to understand on an intellectual level, but putting it into practice and testing the theory is a whole other challenge. So, I decided to challenge myself.
You may have noticed from my other posts that I do enjoy a bit of roller skating. But, since having to take a massive step back from roller derby last year, I’ve been spending most of my time skating alone. That’s fine in some respects – I get to spend time running the drills I need to do – but bad in others; I don’t strap a watch over my wrist guards, so I often overestimate how my time I actually spend being active, plus it can become another form of social isolation.
I had known for quite some time that I needed to return to some kind of structured wheelie activity (the looseness of the structure was unimportant – it just needed to have measurable benchmarks) and a weekly group skate in a local park would have been the most logical option. So why was I so hesitant? Fear.
Fear is a most peculiar emotion for those of us who don’t live in war zones. It exists to keep us from wandering blindly into the jaws of death, but it, unfortunately, behaves in pretty much the same way when the biggest threat might be some kind of potential embarrassment. It can only react to the things that our memories have deemed dangerous. My fear of being in the ‘out-group’ was clearly greater than my fear of breaking an ankle while skating alone. Why this is I’ve yet to discover, but I was determined to change that attitude: starting on the hottest weekend of the year so far.
I must make clear that this social skating group is aimed at beginners – no sprinting, no downhill slalom, no obstacles (apart from other park users): the worst I was facing was the dreaded bruised ego. Even as I approached the (very obvious) group I considered the option of not stopping: my skates were in my backpack – there was no conspicuous evidence that they were the people I was aiming for. But the entire purpose of getting up early on a Saturday morning was to challenge myself; so I approached the group feeling an uneasy combination of nervousness and timidity.
Within a couple minutes, it became evident that my ‘out-group’ fears were completely unfounded – the friendliness of the other skaters was almost overwhelming. And, even though it took a little while for all the adrenaline my body had conjured to dissipate, leaving me feeling a little unsteady at the start of the roll, muscle memory soon kicked in, restoring my comfort levels. The pace was easy, the stopping distances were long and the conversations were enjoyable. It was the most fun I’d had with a bunch of strangers in ages.
As I sat outside the cafe afterwards, chatting to a few of the other skaters, a line from the Star Trek The Next Generation episode ‘All Good Things’ popped into my head: “I should have done this a long time ago.”