“It will be just like riding a bike …”
It was my first day on skis in a decade. I’d made it – s l o w l y – down a long green trail a couple of times. (For those of you who don’t ski, green circles indicate trails appropriate for beginners, blue squares are intermediate, and black diamonds are the hardest trails.) I was definitely feeling rusty but wasn’t too worried about following my son as he turned down a blue trail.
Part of my excitement about our trip (and also my willingness to try a more challenging trail within my first hour back on skis) hinged on the notion that skiing would be a skill like riding a bike – that it would feel totally natural to my body as soon as I clicked into my bindings. This was true for my children, who we raised with the belief that if you were out of diapers you were ready to be on skis. It turned out to be somewhat less true for me, who learned at age 21.
In the immortal words from Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Huge.” Before my first turn, I knew I was out over my skis on that blue slope. It was steep and crowded. Too crowded for me to safely make “S” turns all the way across the trail and too steep for me not to do so. It could only have been panic that convinced me that if I just took the narrow trail to my left, I’d end up back on a green trail.
“Bigger mistake. Huger.” That little trail led to “the trees” – a way to add hazards for people for whom the regular trail was not challenging enough. My only good luck was that no one else had decided to ski the trees in that moment. Essentially, I cursed, side-stepped, and scooted (on my tush) my way down to the next intersection with the regular trail.
My legs were burning, my ego was bruised, and – most importantly – the rather blithe confidence with which I’d started the day was seriously shaken. I was so shaken that when I had a little fall on the flattest part of the easiest green I could find, I struggled to get back up. And when a very, very nice Canadian lady took it upon herself to help me (and continue to help me ALL the way down the mountain), whatever abilities I had evaporated in a sea of shame.
The only ounce of pride I had left was that I had not cried. That wouldn’t happen until I had skied all the way to the front door of our ski-in / ski-out hotel only to discover that I had taken yet another wrong turn and missed the ski lockers. As I stomped my way back uphill to the locker room in my ski boots, lugging my skis and poles, I gave myself permission to have a little meltdown.
I also made a very conscious, very deliberate decision that I would not, under any circumstances, allow one tough day on the mountain to ruin the next two days. After I pulled myself together, I did three things. I decided to make myself useful (rather than helpless as I felt on the slopes) and walked into the village for groceries and to find a deck of cards. When my husband and son returned, I changed the narrative of my day by telling the story in a funny way – and laughing with them at my mishaps. Most importantly, I stated my intention out loud by announcing that I was excited to try again in the morning.
Back in the saddle
While I didn’t know exactly what I was doing when I was doing it, my course-correction worked. I woke up feeling as bright and enthusiastic as the brilliant blue-sky-morning. I decided to spend the morning practicing my technique on a beautiful, long, green trail and loved every moment. My sweet family met me at the lift every time, so I got to laugh and talk with them as we rode the back up to the top. It was a great day. And so was the next.
Course-correction made possible by mindfulness
It was as we went to bed the last night, deliciously exhausted as you only are after being on skis all day, that I realized my course-correction was made possible by my mindfulness practices. I had allowed myself to feel my feelings (feelings that an earlier version of me might have deemed unfitting for a vacation). More importantly, I had allowed myself to let go of these feelings.
A part of me that was deeper and wiser than my dejected skier-self realized that I had to the power to choose how I would experience the remainder of our vacation. I am so grateful that I was able to let go and, thereby free myself, to enjoy the gifts we’d given ourselves by taking this trip. The chance to explore and enjoy a beautiful part of the world (albeit from “green” trails), the rare opportunity to spend time together with all of my grown children, and the even rarer chance to play with one another.
Seeing and appreciating these amazing gifts reminds me – and hopefully you – that mindfulness really is a superpower.
If you’re looking for help starting or deepening a practice of mindfulness, drop me a note!