There's a saying I like: a helicopter is just 10,000 parts flying in loose formation.
That's how I feel when I skate ski.
Thane and I went skiing on the trail behind our house. The trail had been groomed a day or so previously, but a couple of snowmobiles had been on it in the meantime, and it had rained hard and refrozen. Short sections of smoothness were interrupted by shallow ruts and balls of ice. Not ideal skiing conditions, but we could let the dog run with us and no one would complain.
Watching me, you'd never know that I've been skating off and on for 30 years. The fact that it's been more off than on is clear. My brain knows what my body's supposed to be doing, but my neurons don't seem to accurately carry the message. I'll be gliding along, one leg after another kicking appropriately, shoulders burning from the unaccustomed movement, when all of a sudden I'll feel like those 10,000 parts are about to going flying off the trail. I stop, collect them all together before I fall (hopefully), and start over again. No harm done, but honestly, I can walk faster than I can ski sometimes.
I started a pottery class yesterday. I quickly remembered why I'd loved it when I took classes way back in 1998, but as I sat at the wheel trying to center a lump of clay, shoving it off the bat time and again and again before I finally got it, I whined, "I don't remember it being this hard before." Of course, I was remembering what it was like after 12 weeks of 3-hour classes when the muscle memory was fresh. Once again, my brain knew what to do, but those darn neurons were being recalcitrant. I eventually formed a halfway decent pot (not the tumbler I was trying to make, but oh, well), and so didn't feel like a total failure, but it was humbling to have to start all over again, to try to bring those 10,000 parts back into alignment.
I suspect I am not alone in this feeling. I think most of us get frustrated with feeling like we're going to fly apart as we try to learn a new skill. We know we're supposed to be hovering effortlessly, but instead we're falling one minute and soaring out of control the next. Scarily, I'll bet new helicopter pilots do the same their first time aloft.
What to do, what to do? I guess we just hang onto those few moments when we're in the flow, when we're sailing smoothly, and trust that if we keep trying those moments will get longer and more frequent. Our muscles will learn to keep all 10,ooo parts in formation eventually.
But...if we ever reach the point when it's all smooth sailing, something else is wrong. We'll know we've stopped pushing our limits, and that means we're probably not learning anything new. We need to keep ourselves right on the edge of flying apart if we want to keep growing as humans.
Perhaps it would help if we promise to help each other gather the parts together again, if need be?