The F word

Behind you! Behind you!

When were you last truly afraid? Not just worried or disturbed or concerned. I’m talking about Fear. Genuine, immediate fear.
I looked up the definition in dictionary.com, just so you can say the next sentence in one of those raspy movie trailer voices if you feel so inclined:
Do you know the true meaning of fear?
I can tell you. It’s: “A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc, whether the threat is real or imagined.”
Or, to put it another way, Intermediate Hockey Classes. Along with smatterings of life.
Welcome to my world right now.
I’d always heard that fear was something that kicked in as you aged and, sadly, I’m finding it to be true. As a kid, like most kids, fear was a minor and occasional factor in my adventures – and kind of a thrill if it did turn up. Why else do people go to scary movies, right?
As a teen, I fell off a big cliff because I was climbing it for fun, without any safety gear. A rock broke off in my hand and I bounced hard. Nasty. In my 20s, I surfed Winki Pop, the even more challenging surf break next to Bells Beach, at six-to-eight foot on a Boogie Board; mountainous waves so powerful that one sucked my board from under me as I punched through the lip and snapped my leg rope like it was made of cotton. I had to swim back to shore through the impact zone, getting smashed on the rocks before I made it to safety. I still have scars.
In terms of work, relationships, what was possible in the world, there was little to no fear. Covering police rounds, I would be at murder scenes pre-dawn, chatting with cops about the absolute worst in human behaviour. It was interesting, not frightening; even the Hoddle Street Massacre and the Russell Street bombing didn’t invoke much personal fear that I remember.
But now I’m older and I seem to carry fear in a more central part of my core, and it shits me. It has played havoc with more than one relationship and has definitely made me take short footsteps, to use an AFL expression, where I could have been bold. No more or less than anybody else, I should add. But it’s a prick.
Last week, on Wednesday night, with Lliam and Army coaching, and then on Saturday, with Michael and Shona in the blue instructor fleecies, I began Intermediate Hockey. And the step up from Intro was truly daunting. Army started things off by looking at our group and saying: “OK, looks like everybody is second time around, so we’ll really push things, and get you guys up a few levels in this term.”
My face must have been a picture at that point. There’s no Governors reprieve on the ice: “Um, Army … You might not have noticed but I’m just up from intro …” Skates on, bitches. Seconds later, we were attempting outside edge crossovers, and very tight turns, around and stepping over our sticks, lain on the ice. On Saturday, Michael started things with transitions (front foot to back foot), pivots and backward crossovers as the first drill. I was in a bad place in my head before I skated onto the ice and this didn’t help. It was the first time in 21 weeks of lessons that I considered just skating the fuck off the ice and going home.
But I stuck it out and had a crack and landed hard (bad shoulder hurt but held, Michael was kind as he skated past my body). My stick handling was actually not too bad so at least, wobbly skating aside, I showed some hockey skill, especially as I was partnered with Army for some of it.
I guess the upside is I didn’t quit and thanks to this blog, I can go back and read how equally out of my depth I was at the start of Intro and have faith that somehow I will one day be capable of what is being asked. I suspect I have to resign myself to being the unskilled dunce at the back of the class, fumbling and falling, for this Intermediate term as I grind away at my skills. Does it help that there is some hero in a black skivvy – “The Ninja”, as Hotcakes Gillespie, the celebrated northern skater, sneered – who doesn’t even bother to wear protective armour because he’s so supremely confident in his skills, leading off every drill with an NHL display of skating and looking impatient as the mortals then try to keep up? No, it doesn’t. I was seriously tempted to knock him on his arse just to say, “Shit, sorry. If only you were wearing hockey armour like everybody else that wouldn’t have hurt.” I have no idea why this guy is even in Intermediate class.
I had a general skate on Monday, to work in a more peaceful surrounding on pivots and hockey stops, which I still can’t nail. A skater (“My name is NiSyong … just think of Nice Young Man”) gave me some great tips on starter backward crossover technique and Will was helpful with pivots and backward skating. The work continues. My shoulder holds. The fear lurks, that I will be badly hurt or just simply not good enough. I ignore it. I skate. I try to improve. What else are you going to do? Quit? Fuck that.

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