There is a great number of things I could write of today: my newfangled love of red grapes (that aren’t quite red, but we’ll forgive them for this once), my sheer elation at the prospect of sunroof-open-driving, the ludicrous cost of oil changes (I had this done today; I nearly conveniently failed to mention it was 6 months overdue), BOOKS! (what one quasi-suffocatingly plunges oneself into the instant classes end; perhaps just me?), the satisfying cyclicality of writing lists (self-reflexivity, see what I did there?), the near-constant daily reminders that the Olympics draw quickly closer, etc.
These are all (or at least mostly) great topics that warrant discussion, but they’ll have to be placed in some safe drawer for now, where they can at some future time be found and drawn out for use.
I’d like to speak today of something that has recently come to my attention. No, that’s not quite right. What I mean to say is that I’d like to discuss a “problem” that has lifelong brought me an opportunity for savoury reflection, but that has recently increased in salience. I should briefly add, before I begin, that Carol, upon reading my previous entry, was immediately struck by the similarity of our writing styles (and proceeded to tell me so in a rather pleased tone). It’s not anything I can deny; I guess these are the consequences of sharing your life with a person for so long. I will task to maintain whatever shred of individuality I can cling onto as I venture into the coming subject: as a figure skater, am I primarily an athlete or an artist?
The off-season is a sort of miraculous time that is at once deliciously satisfying and confusing to the spirit. I add this second quality because of the very nature of our training regimen this time of year. On the one hand, there is the monotonous lull of stroking, time spent on unison and knee action and power, the gym, cardio, the somehow comforting presence of pain (the one thing that can be counted on for company all session), the dizziness incurred from laps, the ‘one-two-three-four,’ the training of muscle memory, the progressive, the 378th time you do a progressive that morning, the… The other moiety of your time is spent locked for hours at the computer, earphones in, choosing music, watching videos, attempting lifts, realizing (through sore shoulders and bruised shins) that they are not possible on skates (darned lack of friction!), wondering if the arm would look better bent, wondering if the arm would look better straight, wondering if he should be holding on or if she should have her head down, picturing (a favourite activity of mine), editing, revising, creating, destroying and reforming, blurring lines and crossing others, while the last are made razor sharp…
And so we find ourselves now in May, somehow perched between these two extremes, on one scale acting as the athlete, and the other being representative of the artistic process that exists in our sport. I came to wonder “Why can’t I be equally part of both, evenly balanced between the two scales?” Why can’t I equally enjoy travelling emotional landscapes and the “@#$!#%@ yeah!” burn after a great workout? Need these be mutually exclusive?
I came upon my answer the other while driving (an excellent spot/time for reflection): much like the question arises from the start of the season, an explanation is found at its end. That culminating point, post-worlds, is (hopefully) some wonderful spot between the two fields, athleticism and artistry. As the season begins, we leapfrog from one end to the other. As we trudge on into the summer months, our work consists of taking the two ends of the scale and drawing them closer, intertwining them until finally they are wed. I’d like to stress this point; the goal of the figure skater, at the end of the season, is not to find himself halfway between artistry and athleticism, but rather, to bring these somehow unrelated extremes to a same location, where he can thrive in both. A perfect performance isn’t 50% sport, 50% art, but both exquisite in performance AND technique, that is, 100% of each.
I found something beautiful, I believe, in coming to this conclusion (perhaps along twisted paths, but I arrived) because it gave me a new vantage point to what a truly unique activity it is that I’m pursuing, and a somewhat renewed sense in what I’m striving towards.
I’m an artist. I’m an athlete. What are you?
As the blade turns,