Connoisseurs of my Facebook status updates cannot have failed to notice that in September last year I took up ice skating, although they may be a tad more mystified as to my motives–I have struggled to identify those myself, which is one reason for this blog entry.

The truth is that if I were, as I was in the beginning, merely taking a half hour weekly class, combined with a half hour’s practice time, I could pass this off as a laudable effort not to stagnate in my forties, but instead to challenge myself and learn a new skill. However, if I add in the other half hour class I take as a pair with my new ice dance partner Jim, and then confess that I visit the ice on two additional occasions to make a total of five and a half hours ice time a week, you might look at me as though I were teetering on the edge of insanity. What about the poems going unwritten, the editorial decisions unmade, the websites un-updated, the children (gasp!) uncared for?

Of course I am still trying to do all those things TOO, along with at least two step classes and one chisel class per week. (I HAVE given up Boxing…) And things do get done…eventually.

But why? Who cares that I can now skate competently forward and backward, with crossovers in both directions; that I can do three turns on three of the four forward edges and a passable waltz jump; that Jim and I can Dutch Waltz and Rhythm & Blues?

Here’s the thing: it makes me happy, in a way that Poetry–sometimes quite spectacularly–fails to do. Don’t get me wrong, here–I still feel that exultation of spirit WHILE I am writing a new poem, and that visceral satisfaction when it is finished. And of course an acceptance sends me into a delirium of delight.

But skating, skating doesn’t just make me happy when I’m doing it, or when someone comes up to me and tells me how amazed they are at my progress. Skating improves the quality of my life.

How? Well, firstly my stress levels are lower–I can’t believe how calmly I negotiated the Holidays despite the major hurdle of a visit to England. I guess this is positive endorphins from exercise or something? Secondly I’m sleeping better–yes, this is because I am physically exhausted, especially on Mondays and Wednesdays (Step Class, 1 1/2 hours skating, 1 or 2 dog walks)–but having been a poor sleeper for some 2 decades now, this is a precious gift indeed. Finally, I’ve only gone and lost about five bloody pounds!

Not that I was exactly overweight, you understand, but there’s always been this nagging voice in my head that says something like “You’d look better if you lost a little weight; you’re getting older–no point in being fat with it.” However, I’ve been wary of dieting ever since a bout of bulimia in my early twenties. Plus any diet I tried to follow would almost certainly need me to give up wine, which is kind of a non-starter as ideas go. So here I am, about four months into a non-diet/ new exercise regime, and I’ve lost over a pound a month! I’m fitting into clothes I haven’t worn for a while, and feeling good about how I look in a bikini!

And when was the last time Poetry helped with any of that?

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