Life On The Edge

Last winter, in the middle of a break with sanity, I decided that learning how to ice skate at my advanced age would be a good idea.

Then being the type of person who jumps in with both feet, I promptly bought a pair of skates and proceeded to terrify myself by actually getting on the ice.

Now I am in my second winter, starting to harbour some doubts that learning this skill might not be do-able in this lifetime.

Me. Skating. Sort of.

I was out skating today with some ladies from my Seniors’ Club and as I struggled to keep myself vertical, and therefore all bones intact, it occurred to me that skating can be seen as an allegory for life.

For example – as in skating, some days our goal in life is simply to stay upright. Grace and elegance be damned. It’s a major achievement to simply survive with as little damage as possible.

As in skating, sometimes in life we can be cruising along quite comfortably, enjoying the scenery along the way, and then without warning, hit a rough patch.

If we’re lucky, we may simply stumble but manage to regain our balance. However sometimes we fall – and it might not be pretty.

Colonel Samuel Smith skating trail – it was overcast, it was sunny, it was snowing … all in the span of one hour.

A fall can be minor and we are able to brush ourselves off and keep going. If we aren’t so lucky, we might need help to get back on our feet again … with our confidence taking a bruising that could be a long while before it fades.

Sometimes those bruises are literal and the memory doesn’t fade at all.

Life, like skating, often feels like a precarious balancing act on a thin blade. Some people excel at it, able to perfect graceful spins, turns, and leaps into the air.

They make life’s challenges look effortless.

Three amazing seniors making it look easy.

Others seem to never master the art of even a simple glide … just creeping along uncomfortably, terrified that getting hurt is only a breath away.

Thanks to my great friend, Helen, for this perfect gift!

115 comments

  1. What a fabulous analogy Joanne. Bravo to you for taking this learning on. I grew up skating and used to teach skating. Not that you were asking for advice but a lesson might be helpful. Like all sports often just a little tweak of technique makes all the difference.

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    • I had the exact same thought, Sue and it’s not been for lack of trying. I’m finding it nearly impossible to find an adult skating class that isn’t completely booked full … unless I want to drive to the other side of the city every week in rush hour πŸ˜•

      I will keep persevering. Sooner or later I will find something. I wonder if they’ll let me join the 3-year olds? πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Joanne, if life really is like skating, I’m doomed. I would be falling all the time, what with my stupid weak ankles. Keep going, keep trying…at least until I’ll you get your money’s worth out of the skates.

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    • Gilles rolls his eyes at stuff like this. He thinks that unless I’m using something once or twice a week, it’s not worth the purchase. I have a different philosophy. Even if I use them only a couple of times a winter, it’s been worth it. It gives me the option to go.

      Your weak ankles would make good company for my weak wrists. Each time I tumble, I worry about injuring a wrist – or worse, both!

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  3. So very true and so apt an illustration of life’s journey. Loved it! I can’t believe how awesome that skating trail looks. I didn’t know they existed. I’ve heard of rinks and frozen lakes but being able to go for a bit of trip around an ice trail sounds so perfect (I’m currently sitting in the office with the window open and the fan on, it’s so hot here). Loved your post.

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    • These skating trails seem to be a ‘thing’ now … or I’m just more aware of them now that I have skates. I just learned about another trail nearby which opened recently. ‘ll have to check it out soon. These trails aren’t necessarily large – maybe 200 or 300 metres – but still much nicer than a standard rink.
      The one advantage I’ll give rinks though is the relative warmth of the indoors to put your skates on!!

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  4. Applesauce! Joanne, you did make skating a lovely allegory for life. But all things considered, I’m a terrible klutz. I wasn’t even able to learn to roller skate. Put me on ice, and… well just go ahead and call 911 before I even put the skates on. LOL.
    You are a brave woman, and I love your sense of adventure. You are an inspiration. Mega hugs!

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  5. You actually made me laugh out loud, Joanne, keeping vertical and the bones intact. I like your allegory for life. I can relate. I love the photo of the skating trail. Kudos to you for attempting this challenge!

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    • I’m always thrilled when I can make someone laugh πŸ™‚

      I’ve heard that learning a new skill, especially a physical one like dancing, is very good for the brain as we age. I’m hoping that learning how to skate falls into that category!! …. although perhaps dancing would be less dangerous 😏

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My friend, who is 95, took up aerobics 4 years ago. She has been on this wonderful path, and we’re all enjoying it with her.

    I have never been on a skate, but with the amount of clumsy I am on my own two feet, it will take me a while to get myself on wheels. Kudos to you for starting a new journey!

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  7. Listen, you can do it! Just keep on it. At my age (which shall not be revealed), I’ve decided to learn to play the piano (my New Year’s resolution). I’ll never play like Keith Jarrett, Oscar Peterson, Eliane Elias, or Elton John (some of my piano idols), but, heck, I can already play Happy Birthday to You, When the Saints Go Marching In, and the riff to John Lennon’s Imagine! ;D

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  8. That truly is a ‘perfect’ gift. πŸ™‚ I skated all through grade and high school and loved it. So, a couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to skate one more time. Oh my gosh, I had no balance and was petrified I’d fall and find myself in rehab. I applaud your efforts, love your words, and envy your wonderful group of friends. You go girl!

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  9. We might just have to dust off and sharpen our skates and get out there this winter too. It’s so much fun and I never regret it…it’s just that coming up with the initial oomph to get out there and get going…excuses not to are so much easier!
    Thanks for providing a little more motivation πŸ™‚

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  10. Your metaphor is simply marvelous. Me? Skating is not my forte – does that make me a non-glider in life? I’ll change the metaphor for me to yoga. Sometimes I’m off balance, sometimes I can stand on one foot for minutes at a time. Sometimes my Warrior pose is glorious, sometimes it looks like a beached whale. But at least I continue to stretch, to find a limit I’ll never reach (hopefully), to breath in all of life’s possibilities.

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  11. Hi Joanne,
    Not sure how you escaped those cold winters without learning to skate as a girl…I thought it was like a national requirement! lol
    Growing up in New England we skated…there was a pond across the street from our house and, after my dad had deemed it safe enough, we skated every day possible after school and all day on the weekends. I figureskated and also played hockey to keep up with all the boys in my neighborhood.
    Not to scare you, but it was also how I broke my arm (figureskating) and my nose (hockey stick).
    I love the analogy to life. The saying that you are “skating through” something really means that it is easy. But that is not always the case, is it?
    Really enjoyed the post…but glad I am in warm and sunny FL.

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    • My membership into the ‘Canada Club’ is always under review because I don’t like hockey either πŸ˜‰ I blame it on a mutant gene.
      I suspect broken bones are a right of passage for figure skaters. I’m just as glad I didn’t learn how – I would have been the most awkward thing out on the ice … just a smaller version of me now πŸ˜†

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  12. A skating trail!? I didn’t know there was such a thing (I live in the southern US) What fun!! Here, we have a rink that is only open mid November to mid January. I’ve never made it there. Good for you getting out there and giving it a go!

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    • I didn’t know about skating trails either until last winter. They seem to be a thing now. The ones I’ve seen are in the shape of a figure 8 and about 200 to 300 metres long (650 -980 ft). It just makes for a more interesting skating experience than going around a rink.

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  13. I learned to skate when I was 8 and it is like cycling you don’t forget it though I didn’t skate for almost 30 years. Last year, we decided to get back to it and bought a pair of skates. The first few tries were very shaky but we got the hang of it soon enough. Unfortunately, because it was either way to cold to skate or the ice had melted, we only skated 7 times last year. This year, we have yet to take the skate out because the rink we go to hasn’t been in good condition. Hopefully, we will go soon and we also hope to take in the Rideau Canal next week. Good for you, to learn later in life… keep going. (Suzanne)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m starting to regret my attitude from my youth of trying to ignore winter. I missed out on a lot of stuff like skating and skiing. You can’t always make up for it later in life. Skating is HARD!

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  14. I envy your courage. I would need a walker to help with my balance. Even as a teen, I was never good at ice skating. I could roller skate just fine but there was something about that skinny blade on slippery ice in freezing cold weather that didn’t work for me!

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    • I can’t say I’ve ever skated on a pond but I would imagine the ice would be very rough.
      The nice thing is that these trails have well-kept groomed ice. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to try rough, uneven ice.

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  15. Oh! I love this allegory Joanne! I still haven’t attmepted ice skating. There are some places available now. My middle son did it while he was away on winter break and said that he was actually good at it. I used to rollerblade many years ago in Florida so I think I might be able to stabilize the skate, but that blade looks so thin…and doesn’t roll! That skating trail looks amazing. I haven’t seen anything like that before.

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    • The women I was skating with had been rollerskating a few days earlier. According to them, the skating action kind of transfers … except for the brake πŸ™‚
      There is just something about all that very slippery ice though ..

      Liked by 1 person

  16. The skating trail looks much nicer than just going round and round in a rink. I have never tried ice skating, but loved roller skating as a kid. I’m not a fan of cold places so I have never been attracted to winter sports. Plus there wasn’t a lot of opportunity where I grew up. Now I’d be too afraid of breaking my ankle or wrist by falling over, I hate the fact that icy pavements make me feel so vulnerable and I am sure that by tensing up it makes a fall so much worse. And that started when I was in my forties!!

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  17. Like Anabel, i’m glad I’m better at life than skating. My one and only time on the ice I fell badly on my bum. I was young and felt bullet-proof; turns out I wasn’t. I’m still seeing a chiropractor every few weeks all these years later.

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  18. Did I ever tell you I’m not athletic? Really. NOT Athletic. I run like a girl. I hate to run. It hurts to run. I bat in baseball, I can hit the ball, but I can’t catch the ball. I close my eyes when it’s coming my way, and I have no idea how to catch the ball in the web of the mitt, or slide. Slide! OMG! That just looks like it hurts, and the dirt you get on your outfit! How many times and what chemicals is needed to get the dirt out! No, Just NO! Not for me. I did it for my children. Yes, but not for me. I’m not a strong swimmer, I can’t swim well. I never got the presidential award for running the mile cause I walked it. I like tetherball and hiking. Cept those aren’t sports in school. Sigh.

    Ice Skating. The first time I ever Ice Skated was on a frozen pond in Utah the Christmas my parents separated.
    TMI? I stayed on the edge of the pond close to shore cause I did not trust my friends when they said it was frozen solid in the middle. They didn’t fall in and for that, I’m am forever thankful, but I’m so happy I stayed near the edge! Thank God I stayed in my comfort zone! Cause they weren’t right about skiing. I skiied right off a cliff and landed in the snow up to my neck and was dug out by ski patrol who did nothing but tell me how bloody lucky I was to be alive after that fall. I knew it! I walked down the rest the mountain beside the ski patrol and gave my day pass to someone in line on the way to the lodge after being rescued. I drank hot cocoa and read fashion magazines for the rest of the day. I haven’t skiied since. I was 10 years old when that happened.

    After that, I ice skated but I always stayed near the edge. When Baby Girl was 4 we put her in Ice Skating. To get her used to doing something sporty in winter before Spring softball season started.
    One morning after her lessons I planned to skate with her to pass the time. He-man was in Singapore on business so, we had loads of free time, and the extra time on the ice would only help her I thought.

    I was skating and having lots of fun then I thought I’d get fancy and add a backward run in my program. While in that backward run I hit a chink in the ice and down I went and I as fell I reached out with my hands to brace the fall. Yep, I shattered my right wrist. Right wrist! I’m right-handed and drove a 5-speed manual transmission automobile at the time.
    It was awful! Peggy Flemming was there that morning doing her keep fit and in shape routine, and she was so lovely coming to see that I was going to be alright and offer me condolences, and He-Man was in bloody Singapore and I had a 4-year-old, and 12 year old at home and drove 5 speed manual transmission car!
    And, despite my telling the doctors I was allergic to morphine and Vicodin they gave me Vicodin!
    After that bloody Doctor reset my wrist I would have eaten my own my right arm to stop the pain so I took the Vicodin. I’ve never forgiven that Doctor. It hurt so bad to reset my wrist. I would rather give birth than reset a bone! No shit. I would!

    So, I was so, so sick after the Vicodin. I couldn’t hold anything down, and I was hallucinating and hurt all over. Thankfully a dear friend came over to help me and kids until my Mother could come over. I haven’t been on ice skates since. I don’t think I’ll ever ice skate again, to be honest. Why don’t Doctors believe you when you tell them you are allergic or can’t tolerate a drug? Morphine and Opiates are not for me! They just make me sicker than I started out being. Not a miracle drug for me, unfortunately, cause I know they’re pretty great for people they work for.

    I’ll snowshoe, and I’m going to take Cross Country skiing lessons this winter, but no ice skates for me.
    I was in a FULL ARM CAST for 9 bloody weeks due to that wrist break! I couldn’t drive for 10 weeks!
    I had to write checks with my left hand and I was limited to the amount I could write! Not to mention not being able to shower, dress myself, or the myriad of things that were impacted by that break. It was awful. My right wrist and arm have never fully recovered.
    I won’t ice skate again.

    I’ll happily live vicariously on the edge watching you on the ice. Want to hike, or bike? I’m there with you, but not ice skating.

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    • omg – there is so much in here!
      I have fallen through ice on a lake. I don’t recommend it and I’m lucky to be alive today.
      I’ve never been on downhill skis but I have been in snow up to my neck. I am grateful I had friends with me who dug me out. Not one of my smarter moments.
      … but the story of the broken wrist!! omg – anything that could go wrong did! My wrists are my big worry when I’m skating. hmmm – maybe I should get wrist guards.

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  19. Eeee, this is a great allegory! Happy life on the edge! And I must say that you have very fancy skating tracks. In Slovenia all I’ve ever seen were round skating rings and wild frozen lakes that always look iffy to me. In Italy I have not seen ice at all much anywhere. (And yet, believe it or not, amore used to ice skate almost professionally. I’d never guess, a man from Rome!)

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  20. Allegory or not, keep those skin and bones intact. The second year with a long winter, there will plenty of ice practice. At least you can it, I DID IT. That is standing on those thin blades. How about using those walkers for a balancing act. πŸ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Yay! I have never been good at it, but I like it. The Mister’s decent at ice skating. Our kids have never been, because we lived in the south so long, they didn’t see ice unless it was in a drink. Here, the rink is kinda far, but we just talked about going, so maybe we will.
    I’d LOVE to skate outside, but I can’t even imagine how far the nearest venue is.
    I am a roller skating demon though. I mean roller disco and errrrything!

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  22. Wow…awesome allegory! I love skating though I think I’ve got a lot of Bambi in me. Never been graceful at it but I did manage to learn to do turns and skate backwards….in sloooow moshun.

    Your skating trails are so cool…I’d love to try one out. Wheeee! On second thought, I feel much more secure with a rail close by.

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  23. Nicely done, Joanne. I might agree more if I had managed to learn how to skate. I tried several times, I can get going for a bit, but I’m not looking forward to trying again at this age. You’re my hero!

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  24. I used to be a very good skater when I was younger but skated very little in my adult years. I went out a few years ago, still feel a little bit like Bambi but hoping to persevere as I really do enjoy it when I go!

    Good for you for giving it s go Joanne! Keep at it, your balance can only get better!

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    • I think it’s like anything else – the more you do it, the easier it starts to get.
      There is an arena nearby that has free morning skating for Seniors 4 days a week. I’ve been a few times but it would be better if I could make it a regular habit. I can tell the people who go used to be good skaters. They have a confidence on the ice that is unmistakable.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. You are mighty impressive! Skating is not an easy thing to take up with all that balancing on a thin blade and then to make matters even more complicated you turn it into a metaphor. I don’t believe I can skate and think at the same time. All my effort goes into staying upright and maintaining just the right speed – not too fast, not too slow. Keep doing it Joanne and soon you’ll be able to skate the whole Rideau Canal!

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    • Speed? Who said anything about speed? That just sounds like a risky proposition to me πŸ˜‰

      The Rideau Canal is on my wish list. I hope to one day skate the canal. That just sounds like the coolest thing to do (no pun intended πŸ˜‰)

      I agree about skating and thinking at the same time. Usually my only thoughts vary between “don’t fall” and “why did I think this was a good idea?”.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Bravo! I used to ice skate and skate on blades as well, but I don’t think I have to courage to get back up there. These days my challenges are in the digital world. πŸ™‚

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      • -cough- Not sure I want to ride a bike either! No, seriously. At almost 66, I’ve started to realise that I’m not invincible. Or, to be more honest, I’ve realised I’m scared of breaking something. I have enormous admiration for you and your group of friends for getting out there!

        Liked by 1 person

  27. And like life, sometimes it’s nice to hold someone’s hand.
    What a fabulous metaphor for life, Joanne. Great post and poetically written. And a “skating trai?” I’d learn to skate just to glide along that (or shuffle and crawl as the case may be.) Happy skating. πŸ™‚

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    • Shuffling! Yes! That’s exactly my skating style πŸ˜†

      The trails are so much more interesting than just going around and around and around a skating rink. There is also the added challenge that they aren’t flat. It took me a while to realize that one way was slightly uphill and the other was downhill πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  28. How amazing to have a skating trail!! I skated all the time as a child as a pond across the street turned to ice in the winter and we would go and skate. Night skating was my favorite. The last time I got on skates was in my early 40’s,in a rink- but then saw a woman being taken off the ice with a broken ankle, and I decided to give up the skating. Hope your skating continues to be fun and you stay vertical!

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    • Gah! I hadn’t thought in terms of breaking an ankle. I was more concerned about my head and my wrists.

      Now that I’m older, I regret a lot of things I didn’t do when I was younger. If only I had learned some basic skills as a child.

      I watch some of the older women skating and it’s obvious they learned when young. They have a confidence and grace on the ice I can only dream about.

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      • It’s funny how natural some things because we learned them young. Though attempting to bicycle ride I found to be extremely uncomfortable for me. I loved the freedom of riding as a kid and teen, but as an adult felt nervous about it. The skating came back naturally at the time, it’s like swimming or reading music. You just get into the rhythm of it once again

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  29. I give you lots of credit Joanne, I would never try ice skating (because of my love of food an my portly body (another word for muscular physique LOL)) I would be afraid to break through the ice 🀣🀣 I have never seen a skating track like that S curve image of an ice covered road, how cool.

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    • hahaha! Trust me, I don’t look like your elegant little skater either. I’m more sumo-class πŸ˜‰
      Thankfully there is no ice to break through. This trail is built on concrete πŸ™‚

      I had never heard of skating trails until last winter when I bought a pair of skates. I always associated skating with indoor rinks.

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    • Oh yes, I’m willing to try a lot of things at least once πŸ™‚
      … I’m not sure about the pillow though. So far I’m more inclined to fall forward rather than backward … which actually is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m paranoid about cracking my head on the ice. What you can’t see is that I have head protection under my hat.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is a pretty trail and I like the fact that it’s not crowded during the week. Perfect for people like me who are nervous with fast skaters zooming around.

      You might just need to visit the rink by yourself. Who knows? You might make some new friends πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Hi, Joanne – This post is an awesome reminder to me that even though I believe I have read something carefully, perhaps I did not. I just went back and reread your comment on my last post. I had originally understood it to mean that you really do not skate. I am inspired that you have decided to give skating a try and are persevering.
    BTW – I believe that Winnipeg’s 6km skate trail would be no problem for you at all. And…there are hot drinks at the end!

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