I’ve just returned from my first ever – Gulp! – ski trip.
Experienced skiers – prepare to chuckle.
I was nervous yet excited for the trip. I was looking forward to time in the mountains (always a favorite of mine) and some quality time with my man. The nerves? Those were because I knew that I would have to face my nemesis – downhills.
As we drove the last few miles to Sugar Mountain in Banner Elk, North Carolina, winter suddenly appeared. The temperature plummeted as our elevation climbed and clear skies were replaced by a steady snowfall. The slopes were obscured by the snow and haze. This was probably a good thing since I was unable to see the full extent of the hills!
Loaded down with gear, I made my way over to the ski school while my fiance went off on his own to tackle the blue slopes. There were 15 of us in the lesson, lined up like dominoes along the gentle slopes of the school area. After learning the basics of the equipment, we were instructed to slide down the hill, one at a time, to practice the “pizza” pose (they’re used to teaching kids!) used to slow down your descent. I was the fifth one in line. Each time the instructor skied back up to the top of the line, I clarified a piece of his directions. I wanted to make sure that I understood what to do. Of course, knowledge is only the beginning – I then had to apply it. When it was my turn, I scooted out of the line and pointed my skis down the hill. With a slight push of the poles, I was off and moving. I was so focused on the placement of my feet, I neglected to be aware of my center of gravity. I overcompensated and started to fall backwards as my feet kept moving forwards. The instructor grabbed my hands and I slid between his legs. If this was a swing dancing lesson, I would have earned a gold star!
It was comforting to be in the presence of other beginners. We were all (way) out of our comfort zones. We were all scared of the skis on the slick snow. We all tried to control our speed and trajectory, some with more success than others. Some gave up. Others were cautious yet continued. And some threw themselves down the hill with reckless abandon. As for me? I’ll let you guess:)
I only had three opportunities to slide down the hill under the watchful eye of the instructor. Each time, I required his help. At the conclusion of the one hour lesson, I was exhausted. Not physically, but mentally. I kept my fears in check and relaxed into the experience but this took more out of me than I could have imagined. After a brief reunion with Brock, I elected to rest for awhile and then return to the school area to practice some by myself. I was very cautious while I was practicing. There were new skiers and young children everywhere. I didn’t trust my ability to avoid them, so I spent much of my time patiently waiting for a clear path. I did discover a strength of mine during that session – I may stink at going down the hills, but I was the best in the bunch at walking uphill in skis:) New sport, maybe?
At our next meeting, Brock encouraged me to tackle the green slope with him. Now, at this point, I had done maybe ten “runs” down very mild hills that were each about ten yards long. Not exactly a lot of practice! I was hesitant. I am way more cautious than he is and I was concerned that he was trying to push me further than I was ready to go. But I trusted him and it turned out he was right.
Now, this green slope in question is a real run. It takes several minutes on a lift to get the top. Surprisingly, I was okay on that first trip to the top. I was slightly nervous, but okay. Brock was coaching me on the way, telling me what to expect and giving me encouragement. Even with the coaching, I still slid into a crumbled mess as I left the lift.
That was my first real fall with no swing dancing moves to keep me off the snow. Much to my surprise, I was overtaken with laughter. It turns out that falling is fun. It’s just the getting up that sucks!
After much shifting and pushing and pulling, I managed to stand upright on the level surface at the top of the slope. I took a deep breath, pointed my skis down the hill, and took off. I made it about twenty feet before I fell again, a pile of Lisa shaking with laughter. That first trip down took forever. Sometimes I fell and sometimes I panicked due to speed or the proximity of others and I bailed by sitting down. But I made it and I never panicked. And, I had LOTS of practice in learning how to stand up again!
As I sat in the snow at the base of the run, I realized that I had carried expectations into this trip. I thought I would be in the “classroom” the entire time. I didn’t think I would be able to complete a “real” run. I thought I would freeze in fear. It felt so good to prove myself wrong.
The next day, I tackled that same run three more times. The first one of the day held a surprise. We were on the lift, about halfway to the top, when I started to violently shake, panic moving through my body. Why was this happening? I knew the course now and I knew I could make it. I guess I had enough experience to be scared but not enough to be comfortable yet. Brock helped me refocus and breathe and the moment my skis (okay, butt – I fell immediately again!) hit the snow, I was fine.
Each run was better than the last. By the end, I didn’t fall at all and I only bailed twice – once soon after the lift and again midway down the steepest slope. Brock followed behind me shouting, “My baby’s a skier!”
And, I guess I am.
I love those experiences that cause me to revise my view of myself. I always said that I could not go down hills, run a race, cook a meal or write a book. I used to say I could not live without my husband. I like proving myself wrong.
It felt so amazing fully submitting to the experience, letting go and leaning forward into the ride. I found freedom in the downhills which once only held fear. Brock’s support and encouragement added to my trust fund for him. But even more importantly, I learned how to to trust in myself and in my abilities. And, I learned that I when I fall, I can get up again.
Thanks to my new friend, Paulette, author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, I am up and running (okay, maybe walking:) ) on Goodreads. I’m doing a giveaway to celebrate. If you’re interested in winning a free copy of Lessons From the End of a Marriage, visit my book page!