FEAR. That is what I feel every time I ride that first chair lift of a ski trip.
I only learned to ski in my forties so never possessed that fearless, “throw yourself down the hill” childlike freestyle. Skiing was outside my comfort zone and it did not come naturally due my total lack of any inherited athletic ability (or so I tell myself).
There is a saying, “find one thing that scares you everyday and do it” and that for me sums up my skiing.
Pushing through my fear I learned to ski. It allowed me to experience some incredible parts of the world I would have otherwise missed. All the while creating and redefining my own personal bests. I felt highs that can only come from overcoming fear and emerging out the other side victorious. But fear is multi-purposed. Push through OR beware? As I get older those lines are getting blurred, not nearly as obvious as they used to be. Fear is there to stop you from doing stupid dumbass shit, right?
So How Do You Know What Fear Is Trying To Tell You?
This recent ski vacation I started to lose clarity between which type of fear was I feeling? Was it taunting me to get out there and achieve OR was it trying to keep me safe and alive?
In August 2016 I had an accident where I fractured my pelvis in three places and had to learn to walk again…see my 24 Hours at Burning Man post. That accident led to a diagnoses of early osteoporosis. Wait what??? I am way too young for that. That is something an old person has like a elderly grandmother or the hunched over little old lady pulling her stroller bag after feeding the pigeons in the park. I am still young ….and spectacular!!!!!
I tell you this for a reason, I was faced with a life moment that ski trip. One that you may experience yourself as you enter the early afternoon of your life story.
My First (and) Last Run
It was a perfect ski day. Well groomed slopes, clear sunny skies and the temperature hovering around freezing. As I often do, I had an instructor with me that first day… mostly so I wasn’t humiliating myself in front of my real skier friends while trying to find my ski legs again.
There I was, cautiously propelling myself down the slope with all my internal voices loud, instructive and encouraging and then …it happened…I caught an edge and I fell. As I lay on the snow I could feel that internal burn on my ribs. The pain I have only felt once before on the hard ground of the Nevada desert. At first I thought, OK…this is good…my first fall out of the way, I am fine. I have survived. But as I got up it hurt to breath, move, and especially cry.
My Bones Did Not Survive Undamaged.
I was now faced with a life moment, do I have the courage to stop skiing? Not to continue, but to stop. What would I do in the absence of fear I asked myself? Then the penny dropped, I was more afraid to stop skiing than to ski. For that would force me to imagine a future different than the one I was anticipating (or dreading).
As one comes to these moments in life I have learned that it is important to really listen, I mean really listen to that inner voice, your instinct…and try not to confuse it with that other inner communication device in your head…your ego.
In an instant I knew I was at a place where the past had changed and the future was uncertain, unwritten and that was where the real fear was lying.
So I caught my breath (literally and metaphorically) and there it began, the reframing of my continuously evolving narrative. It now does not include me gracefully swooshing down a ski slope as I always imagined but it does not exclude me from being the best version of myself as I hike the mountains or perfect my aprés ski... (just without the ski part).
Of course there are parts of skiing I will certainly miss more than others...say like my ski instructor. Wonder if he hikes?
Who we imagine ourselves to be, or might be was released on the side of a mountain that day and in the absence of fear… I gave myself permission and re-wrote my story. I think Rosa Parks said it best, "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear". Amen to that.