My first archery lesson didn’t go so well. Between nearly impaling my friend and thwacking my forearm with the bowstring so many times that I sported a softball-sized spectacular bruise for a week, not to mention my “drastic” cross-dominance of left-eyed vision vs my right handedness, I felt decidedly not cut out for archery.

I confess to whining a little bit to my husband about my miserable first attempt.  I wasn’t even particularly excited about returning for my second lesson. I dislike little more than being bad at something.

This time our instructor gave me a leather protector for my entire wrist-to-elbow arm, and said I’d be shooting right-handed this time, but using a sight. What’s more, he raised the stakes and put an actual target on the bales we’re shooting at. A bullseye is worth 10 points, he explained, and each ring further out is worth one point less, out to zero. Now we’re talking. With a sight to help me focus my aim, and the incentive of trying for a score, I hit a bullseye with my second arrow and scored a 24 with three arrows. On the next round I hit three nines for a 27. Now this is more like it!

That was actually the high point, as I struggled with different issues with every round following, but (except for the one shot where I experimented with taking quick aim and immediately shooting and it clipped the edge of the bale) I hit the target every time. Last week I missed it at least half the attempts.

I know I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, but there are already far more nuances than I can remember in taking aim. I must take care to get my elbow up as I pull back on the bow, keep my pinky off the bowstring, wedge my thumb under my jaw, tuck my forefinger into the corner of my mouth, close my left eye, rotate my left arm so I don’t hit it again, and reach out toward the target so my shoulder doesn’t internally rotate. All this, keeping in mind that the longer you hold aim the tireder you get and the more likely you are to botch the shot.

It felt good, though, this beginning of feeling like I might be able to learn this skill. The lesson from powerlifting that will never leave me is that I am so much more capable than I know, and that if I just work and focus, I can do anything I want to do. The painful legacy on the flip side is that thanks to my injury I can’t try nearly all the sports I want to.  So I will just have to work that much harder to excel at the ones I can do. And I think in a couple more lessons, though I’m still no Katniss,  I’ll be ready to show my husband that I’m not whining any more.


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