Every morning at 9:55a.m you can find me out on the dock, skis under my arms, loading the boat for the morning ski club runs. My goal, as the summer is nearing its end, is simply to get miles under my skis. Ideally, I would give my muscles a break every other day. But fall is approaching, and I have no time for that. Each wave I glide over builds my confidence, and makes me giggle. Each wave that submarines me, pouring, what seems like, gallons of water into my ear drums and lungs, teaches me something new about falling and getting back up. When I drift off to sleep, I learn the most — then, my ears keep me keenly aware of the falls I made that morning, as I struggle to keep the water from the day’s runs from clogging my ears. In my sleep, I ride the waves again, reminding myself of the rules: back straight, knees bent, lean back… sometimes, a full body twitch jolts me awake, as muscles I have rarely used before adjust to my rigorous training schedule of “no days off.” I love the exhilaration of skiing, of building skills on a craft that once terrified me so much, and more importantly, doing something totally for me.
On Friday, I fell, and my right ski was far off on the other side of the lake. So, rather than sending the boat off for my ski, I said, “Let’s just try one deep water, and then I’m done.” (Deep water meaning, getting up on one ski, rather than two and dropping one.) This takes tremendous strength and skill. Simply “trying” would teach me something, even if I didn’t make it up. Yet, to my utter amazement, when the boat pulled, I stood right up. There were cheers over the water again. No longer did we need to haul around that extra ski, and I accomplished more than I dreamed in just a few short weeks.
After deep water starts on Friday, Saturday and one Sunday morning, I was assured that the technique was well under my belt. Yet on my second run on Sunday, I could not make it up. There were four, maybe five attempts, and nothing. I took the defeat as simple bumps in the water, even that I could feel victory literally pulled out of my hands each time the boat took off, and I stayed down in the water.
Later Sunday afternoon, I waited for the water to clear, so that my husband could take me out again. After 8 tries, and no success, my body said, I had to give up. I fought back tiny tears of discouragement. I discovered new muscles – flexor carpi radialis. Those are the muscles in your forearm that radiate from your fingers when you grip something — like a rope handle — for dear life. The pain prevented me from curving my fingers around the throttle on the boat when it was my turn to drive. The ache lingers, preventing me from holding a pen properly, days later, when I fill out schools forms.
My spirit was sunk to the bottom of the lake.
On Monday, I loaded my extra ski into the boat, and thankfully, my ski trainers didn’t utter a word about that odd ski showing up again. When it was my turn, I said, “Let me do three deep water tries, and then throw me the ski.” The familiar maxims were shouted, and I tried to comprehend their meaning as if I were hearing them for the first time: Knees to chest, arms straight, pull like you’re playing tug-of-war with the boat. Yet, I couldn’t get it together. My body acted as if it had never skied a day before in its life. My flexor carpi radialis just wanted me to stop the madness. Three tries later, they ended up throwing me the ski. We just needed to get the job done, at that point. Kindly, the driver said, “You need to feel what it’s like to be back on top of the water again.” Easily, I stood right back up, and dropped that extra ski as quickly as I could. He was right: standing up on the water melted away my frustration…. at least I was up again.
My summer ski days are extremely limited now. My muscles are screaming for a break, and a break is what I’ll give them as I head back home to handle the necessities of first day of school paperwork. Yes, it would be nice to dock the boat for the winter while knowing I still have it… but for now, I’m having a dry spell in the deep water.