Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Falling from Leaps of Faith

I've lived my life by a simple motto: "Try everything once. If you enjoy it, don't stop." This adage served me well when I wrote my first story; not so much the night I tried my first rum and Coke.

My adventurous spirit took me to many highs and lows in my life. Yet none were as demeaning, demoralizing or dangerous as my athletic pursuits.

I attempted a wide range of physical activities throughout my youth. The most benign, like my second-grade ballet class, only resulted in public humiliation. The worst, such as horseback riding, ended with a trampled ribcage.

Some people are born athletes. Others can't manage the mere ability to clap in sync with the cheerleaders at a football game. I would be the latter.

Still, I continued to run (only figuratively--man did I suck at track) through the gamut of athletic endeavors. Once I realized I failed at every traditional activity, I attempted to diversify.

When snow skiing became the hot new trend in high school, I joined the ski team. My first trip ended, surprisingly, with both my body and my pride intact. So I signed on for a second trip, just confident enough to venture beyond the tow ropes and bunny hills to the chairlifts and "intermediate" hills.

My eyes traced the height of the hill, with some trepidation, as the chairlift approached. But as I ascended several feet upward, I quickly learned that my fear of losing control on the hill and crashing into a tree was fully unwarranted.

Because I fell off the chairlift.

(Note: I wrote this post last night, before I read today about a chairlift accident in Maine. Unlike that catastrophe, my fall cannot be blamed on any mechanical failure.)

The lift was stopped for several minutes while the ski patrol tended to me. And while the entire crowd watched.

Fortunately, nothing was broken. Nothing except my spirit. I spent the rest of the day in the lodge, sneaking contraband beverages.

My skiing career ending prematurely, I traded in the snowy hills of Michigan for the green hills of southern Ohio. I tagged along with a youth group to Hocking Hills State Park, where we planned to repel down a cliff. The good news was that we were already on top of the mountain--no chairlifts could turn traitor on me.

With my first leap off the cliff, I took my usual leap of faith, too. With each step down the rope, my feet landed safely against the mountain. My heart soared. Repelling down mountains--who could have guessed this might be my athletic calling?!?

And then, halfway through my descent, I happened to look down. The harness was caught in my shirt. Every step I took yanked my shirt higher. It was already hiked well above my belly button. I struggled to pull my top out of the harness, to no avail. My choices were either to slip out of the harness and fall to my death, or keep descending and provide the crowd below with a full view of my lace-trimmed bra. Wait. Was I wearing a bra?

Eventually, the crowd got its peep show, I plopped safely onto the ground, and I gave up that repelling shit for good.

I should have, right then, forsaken every physical endeavor forever. But through my typical marred judgment, I continued to seek my athletic fortune. Not one ended well. The workplace softball league in 1982 resulted in a line drive to my face, and the rollerblading incident of 1999 ended with a CT scan in the ER. (Some people still maintain the hospital missed my residual brain damage.)

So now, I will finally proclaim: I am done with them all. Through with dancing, horseback riding, skiing, repelling, softball, rollerblading and with any activities that even peripherally involve animals, mountains, balls, or anything clamped onto my feet. For my New Year's resolution, I vow to never again attempt such trickery.

I shall live the rest of my life purely as a sports spectator, even if I do clap to the beat of a different drummer.

The sad reality is, the Olympics wouldn't award me even a cheap plastic medal. And Bristol Palin dances far better than I could ever hope to.

Talk about the agony of defeat.


  1. I agree, an athlete you are not, but your thinking is magical and your fingers are nimble. Continue to stay off those scary forces of nature and continue writing what comes naturally!

  2. Anon: Thanks for the kind words. Unfortunately, it appears I now have carpal tunnel syndrome.

  3. I would avoid comedy, if I were you... you could pull an ab, laughing.

  4. This is hilarious ... I'm cringing and laughing at the same time. The repelling strip-tease? Say it ain't so!

    I was shooting a family session a few months ago, and a gust of wind caught my shirt (sort of a peasant blouse) and whipped it all the way up to my armpits. Women's clothing should come with a warning.

  5. Bluz: Seriously, I have to give up comedy too? What's left?

    Glasseye: Women's entire lives should come with a warning.

  6. Very funny! And I agree about women's entire lives should come with a warning -it's just one mess after another.

  7. Downith: You are so right... and speaking of messes, can I get a full refund on today?