For those of you who already scrolled down in search of the photos, sorry, there are no illustrations and no, I did not chose that title to snag readers… well, not entirely. I do wear pants when I ski and a jacket and all the stuff that goes underneath, but emotionally, while standing in hesitation at the top of a steep ski run, I’m as naked as it gets. The combination of fear, doubt and insecurity has more than once pulled me into an emotional heap that has me totally understanding what’s going on in the heads of those few people I’ve seen walking down the mountain with their skis in tow. Believe me, I’ve looked down at my skis while contemplating their removal with a hesitation long enough that people passing me on the mountain may have thought I was praying, and I suppose I was. Naked. Without clothes. Vulnerable. It’s me up to bat in the 4th grade and hearing “easy out” from one of the boys in the infield. Same girl. Same emotions, only this time I have the benefit of experience, maturity and confidence on my team, suited up and ready to leap off the bench when I need them, as well as the wisdom to know what’s coming into play here.
It’s those moments of hesitation that quickly become full out fear that make the pride soar when the skis do eventually point down and go. Those moments remind me why I continue to ski.
Last year I froze on a steep narrow section of a run at Keystone. Froze. Couldn’t move. Didn’t want to move. The person who I was skiing with and receiving instruction from, told me I had to move as I was in the blind spot for the skiers and boarders who were flying down the mountain behind me.
But I can’t….
And that’s when he told me that there was nothing wrong with taking off my skis and walking down until it felt comfortable.
Absolutely not. That was the beginning of the nudge I needed….
To that he added the advice of thinking of some of the scariest experiences I’ve encountered in life and obviously survived. THEN point ’em down and GO!
I thought about the first time I flew an airplane by myself… not just take-offs and landings, but my first solo cross country flight (don’t be impressed by the “cross country” in that sentence… it was only across Highway 50 from the Johnson County Airport to the small airport in Warrensburg, then back again, but still…). I thought about the fishing camp I worked at in Alaska and being stuck in the bath house with a brown bear outside, likely weighing in at over 1,000 pounds, scratching himself on the tar paper covering. I thought about the first speech I had to give in college and having to set my notes down because my hands were shaking so much that the moving paper in my hands became the subject matter that had my audience captivated. Yes, that was just as scary as any big bear or being up in the air in a small plane by myself.
Enough already. I pointed ’em down and skied. And I didn’t die.
The next time I did that run, several days later, I couldn’t even find the spot that had scared me so much.
Life experiences pile on top of each other, changing where that point sits of being afraid and being brave, but it’s always there, and that kind of vulnerability, that facing life humbly in all of your nakedness and conquering, is where the growth is. Funny though while finding myself in the jaws of heart-racing fear, knowing that I’ll be stronger, wiser, bigger, better once on the other side, staying right where I am and skipping the growth, sounds just fine at the time. Not being able to move can feel like a very safe place to be as there’s little danger in standing still, right? Peace in the pause, or something like that. Inertia and I have have palled around a lot together.
I skied my last run of the season yesterday on a sparsely populated mountain with wind, blowing snow and a layer of confidence that was far too thin to be able to save me had I needed it to. Why did that happen when just a few days ago, I was invincible? My instructor, Tiger, told me the other day that skiing is 80% mental, which I suppose would have to mean that you’re only operating 20% on a physical level (likely not the way the math works on this as 20% physical hardly seems like it could take you down the mountain… in any form), but his 80% mental words have proven themselves right as rain (or snow?) countless times for me. I didn’t have enough of a positive swing on my mental 80% yesterday to get me down the mountain with grace, dignity and clothes on. Nope, skiing when that 80% head talk is saying “you can’t do it…easy out,” puts me high on the vulnerability scale, exposing my naked self to the mountain, other skiers and more importantly to myself. I recognize that girl all too well and teeter between wanting to scoop her up and tell her it’s OK, to wanting to shake her by her shoulders so hard that her teeth rattle out of sheer frustration.
I don’t think it’s always a negative thing to end on a bad run. It gives me the motivation to get back out there and get it right the next time, even if that next time is a season away. I know that may be backwards thinking for some, but after skiing naked, you really do look forward to being able to put on some layers of confidence and flex some muscle at those taunting voices in your head that remind you that yes, you rarely hit the ball in softball, but is that 4th grade boy who humiliated you while you struck out, once again, on the mountain contemplating difficult runs while standing on a snow-covered mountains in skis? Yea… that’s what I thought…
|No, this is not a steep run… but isn’t it pretty?
|Just point ’em down and go!
|And she did….