So for the first time in my life on Friday I went curling. In Atlanta. This is something of a miracle, and I only found out about it from friends on twitter. In 2002 during the Winter Olympics, I got hooked on Curling. It was the only thing on late at night, and I was often up rather late as I was still a student at Georgia Tech. And it just fascinated me. And this past Winter Olympics I got hooked once again. I’ve never been ice skating for fear of breaking too many bones, but I did used to go to minor league hockey games growing up in my small town in south Georgia. That’s about the closest I had ever come to being on the ice. Until now. Because I have now curled.
And I learned just a couple of lessons or so while at it.
The first – falling well.
Every time I let go of the curling stone and attempted to send its way down to the other side of the ice, I fell. No epic falls from standing straight up – it always happened when I was pretty close to the ice. And I fell every single time. Granted, I am sore and my right knee has the biggest bruise on it today, but nothing catastrophic. Indeed, one of the teachers at this intro to curling event yelled from across the ice that I was falling well – unlikely to do any serious damage, ever. And by the end I was falling even better and even better had worked out a pretty efficient way for pulling myself up back on the ice (using a curling stone and the hand bracer thingie.)
There’s an art to falling well. And we really all do fall on occasion, some more often than others. Sometimes it’s a planned fall (most of mine were) and sometimes it’s completely random (as with my friend Meredith who for no apparent reason near the end took a tumble.) But there’s a way to fall to minimize any injuries, any fallout, from your fall. There’s no instructional manual for falling well – you just have to fall and do your best. But when you are lying down on the ice, hoping in vain your curling stone will make it down to the house, wondering how you’ll get back up again on that slippery surface, there’s just a moment of pride when you know that you’ve fallen well.
The second lesson -They might not tell you ahead of time you need kneepads, but you will.
So I fell approximately 20 times last night, landing pretty much on the exact same spot on my knee or just below my knee each time. It’s pretty wickedly bruised today, and I can’t stop laughing at it every time I see it (or feel it throb.) There’s no deeper damage, it’s all just on the surface and all just a simple bruise. But next time I’m going to wear a kneepad until I get the hang of it.
It’s rare that growing up you get a warning about how tough life can be and how often you’ll fall along the way. No one tells you how you’ll need a kneepad to soften the blow when you fall. But everyone needs that kneepad – what form will that kneepad take? Faith? Church? Book club with friends? Family? Pets? We all have our kneepads that help soften the blow when we fall – and it’s past time for me to sit down and think about what my kneepads are, and to remember to wear them next time I know I’m on my way down.
The third lesson – Once you accept you’ll fall, you can get a lot more done and do it well.
I eventually gave up trying to stay upright when pushing off from the blocks and trying to release the stone. The first portion of the evening I was hyper aware and doing my best not to fall. As a result, I usually ended up falling quickly and never really getting the stone to get far at all. But somewhere around the middle of the evening, I stopped bothering trying to stay upright. I knew I would fall, so I turned to focusing on putting enough force into that stone to make it down the ice, grace and pride be damned. And after I made that switch, I was able to get the stone down the ice. And then I was able to aim somewhat ok. And then I was able to actually score a point just as we had to pack up. And after I had accepted I would fall, I was able to prepare on how to get back up again on my own, and by the end, was falling and standing up in quick time.
Isn’t that so true in life – if you think you have to do everything perfectly, eventually you’ll fall and fall hard. And the stone just won’t make it down the ice. But if you know you’ll fall, if you know inevitably you’ll fall and crash down awkwardly into the ice, you can actually get stuff done while falling and even after you’ve fallen. You’ve mentally prepped yourself for the fall, and as a result, once your butt is on the ice you know what to do and how to get back up.
The fourth lesson – if the stone is going too fast, you don’t need to worry about sweeping.
Ok, my least favorite part of curling was the sweeping in advance of a moving stone to try and help it go faster / go straighter. I just couldn’t keep up with the stone, due to the whole trying-not-to-fall-while-running-on-ice issue. Our teacher, possibly noting my lack of athleticism, told us that if we couldn’t keep up with the stone, not to try. It wasn’t worth getting injured for.
I typically kept up with the stone half way and then just let it go on without me. Sometimes there was another sweeper there to help make up the slack. But it’s ok that I had to let the stone go and not try to keep up with it. Sometimes you just aren’t meant to keep up with the sliding stone – you just have to see what happens. It’s ok to let go of that control and leave it up to something else.
And the last lesson – You never know when your dream might come true. If I had a bucket list, curling would have been on it. I’ve been fascinated with it for a decade. And I finally had the chance to do it. And it was all because I happened to catch a tweet at the right time. You never know when your dream might come true, but you should always have an eye out just in case it might pass you by.
And one final bonus lesson – curling is a hell of a lot tougher than it looks. I’m sore in really random places from that stone and pushing off, and my knee looks hysterical. And I can’t recall ever being happier with such a bruise in my life. I know I’ll be back.