Tag Archives: figure skating

You can’t always be what you want–but that’s okay

To paraphrase a Stones’ favorite, you can’t always be what you want.  I’m sorry but the imagesidea that one can be anything one wants if one just tries hard enough is just no true or realistic.  Perhaps we need to rethink this.

I love figure skating.  I watched the nationals all last weekend.  One of the skaters said, “Everyone should figure skate,” and that reminded me why I don’t.  Why, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never, ever be a figure skaters.

imagesA friend and I took lessons when we were young, back when Kansas City still had an ice rink.  My friend did very well, being promoted week after week to higher level classes, learning to twirl and do elementary jumps.  Meanwhile, I didn’t.  I continued to slog around the ice and I couldn’t figure out why I was stuck in the beginners class.  I followed directions.  I did everything the instructor said.  I worked hard in the hope of being able to fly over the ice in a graceful position but never looked like the picture on the left.

Many years later, I discovered my problem, why I was doomed to remain forever in the beginners class:  I have terrible joints.  My ankles were so weak I couldn’t straighten them.  They bent inward which made me more of an on-your-ankles skater instead than a figure skater.  Actually, I skated both on my ankles and on the edges of the blades, lumbering along, trying so hard to do better and never succeeding.  No, never.

And this is why I know that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater. Not even with the best coach in the world, I won’t.

There are people who tell children, “You can be whatever you want to be if you try hard enough.”  Well, no, they can’t and it’s mean to tell anyone such a completely ridiculous and untrue statement.  No mater how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater unless the federation puts in a new category to fit my style of skating.  And I’ll never represent my country in any sport in an international athletic  competition.  Those of you who know me recognize the truth in those words.

Some other realities: 1) No matter how hard she tried, a woman hasn’t been able to imagesbecome president. Shirley Chisholm can attest to that.

2) Until 2008, no matter how hard a black man tried, he couldn’t be elected president either.

3)  No matter how hard I try, I will never be abble to tell the difference between the word “shutter” and “shudder” without checking the dictionary.  Nor can I tell the difference b and a  d  when I’m spelling even though all my teachers told me if I tried hard, I could do that.  I am dyslexic.  Some things are mentally impossible for me.

My point is that people do not succeed in every effort and need to know that’s not the endimagesof the world. Kids, especially, need to understand this.  I awakened to this new truth many years ago after reading a magazine article.  The thesis of the article was that a spider could not make a lemon meringue pie no matter how hard that spider tried.

I am not espousing the opposite point of view that no matter how much you try, you’re going to fail. That’s really depressing.

Could we come to a middle point?  Perhaps “If you want something, work hard because you’re not going to get it if you don’t try but you many not succeed and that’s okay.”  Long and unwieldy, I know.  Maybe you could help me phrase this in a jazzier, more interesting way.

imagesAnd maybe we can stop filling children’s heads with the thought a thin boy’s going to be a heavy-weight boxer if he tries hard enough or a girl will play center for the Louisville Cardinal’s men’s basketball team.  There are other goals, good goals.  Any thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear them.

Why No One Will Ever Confuse Me with Gracie Gold

ice skatesWhen I was six years old, my best friend Linda and I enrolled in figuring skating lessons.  We arrived at the rink for our first lesson, pulled on our new skates, tied the laces, and hit the ice.   We went every Saturday morning for months and about every two weeks, Linda was promoted to higher class and I never left the beginners.  I’d tried so hard.  I followed instructions, I practiced, I pushed myself but never, never moved up to the next level.  I had no idea why not, not until years later when my mother said she always felt terrible for me as I trudged around the ice–but not only on the sharp blades but also on my ankles.  I had–and still have–very weak ankles that couldn’t support me on ice skates.  I skated on two blades and the outsides of my skates.    No way I was going to go up a class when I was “ankling” as much as I was “skating.”

I wish someone had explained it to me.   I wish someone had told me the keep clam and tell the truthtruth.  I wish the instructor had said, ‘Monica Jane, this is probably not the sport for you.”  Or that four-year-old who was quickly moved from beginners had said to me, “Why do you skate funny?”  Or my mother had suggested I not return and given the reason.  I imagine no one wanted to hurt my feelings, but, really, never improving didn’t hurt?

Do you have something you wish some had told you about?  Please share.  It makes me feel so much better.

Rudy Galindo, for example

Last week, I asked the question, “How is writing a novel like figure skating?”   In that blog, I stated there was one more similarity—and difference—to come.  For those of you who’ve been anxiously and breathlessly awaiting that, here it is!

Anyone remember Rudy Galindo?   In 1996, he seemed to leap from nowhere in an astounding singles figure skating  performance at the US Championships in San Jose.  I watched the program on television and could feel the energy of the performance and the energy from the crowd.  We were all enthralled at the beauty and perfection and energy of that performance.   And we all thought, “Where did this guy come from?”

There are writers like that.  Suddenly, with a first book, they become best sellers, shooting onto best seller lists while readers wait for the next book.   I know writers like that and I hate  envy admire them greatly, but most of us don’t appear like that.

My second point is this:   Rudy Galindo wasn’t suddenly hatched.  He didn’t show up at the competition and launch himself into spins and twirls.   He’d been working at this for a long time.  He was pairs partner with Kristi Yamaguchi until she decided to concentrate on her career in singles.   They’d won the US championship in 1989 and 1990.   He dropped out for a while but decided to return.  After a year of hard work, he burst–again–to the top of the figure skating world.

Even writers who appear suddenly have worked on their craft.  Jane Austen wrote her first books for the enjoyment of her family.   I have a friend who had the first book she wrote published and twenty more since.  She also has a PhD in creative writing.  Others have been journalists or have a number of completed and unfinished manuscripts under the bed that will never be published or took creative writing classes and submitted and entered contests and worked with critique partners.   Oh, I’m sure there must be someone who just wrote a great book with no background but, like figure skaters, most writers have spent years practising their leaps and foot work and tracing words onto paper until it finally comes out right.

How is writing a novel like figure skating?

Today I’m beginning a new once-in-a-while blog topic which will begin with “How is writing a novel different from . . . . . .whatever. . . .?   My last two series–Craft Tuesday and Twenty-five (more or less) Things I’ve Learned which have recently fallen by the wayside but may yet appear when I think of something to say.

But today, I’m going to concentrate on one oft asked question:   how IS writing a novel like figure skating?  

I love nearly all sports and watch figure skating competitions, the real ones, not the ones made so the professionals can earn extra money.  I’ve noticed several similarities as well as differences.   The one that got my attention came while I watch this years US championships.   When one skater fell, I realized that  when a figure skaters falls, everyone sees it and gasps.   But the great part about writing is that when we make mistakes, we are in isolation.  We can fix the error.  When we err, Dick Button doesn’t  say, “Oh, dear.  That’s a costly mistake.”  When a skater substitutes a single Salchow for  the planned triple, the error is bemoaned by judges and commentators in front of the entire world.   However, if I switch point of view in the middle of a paragraph, I  can edit and no one know with the exception of my editor or critique group who are usually really nice and don’t take off points.–or low–score.  People don’t leap to their feet and applaud or throw teddy bears to me.

No, while I sit at the computer, I don’t know if what I write works.  Is this funny? I ask myself.  It was when I wrote it–I’d thought.  But after reading it four or five times, it no longer is.    I’d really like a score and a few teddy bears before I go on

Second,  both may follow esoteric designs.  I remember back when the short and long programs were preceded by a competition during which the skater had to trace a number of figures on the ice.  they were then graded and ranked by how closely they followed the figures.   They looked like this.

In writing, we also may have charts in which experts tell us how to construct a novel.   Compare the charts on the left and right and you’ll understand that.  In writing, they are often confusing and no two are alike.   And, in my opinion, if we follow what someone tells us to do, probably we aren’t writing the best novel we can.  In writing, those charts are suggestions.  In figure skating, they must be exactly followed.   Same and different.

NEXT:  on Friday I’ll add one more way in which writing and figure skaiting are alike, featuring my favorite skater Rude Galindo.