"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." - Eleanor Roosevelt
"If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." - Dale Carnegie
I have spent my morning reading about fear, what it is, how it manifests, how to fight it. One of the best descriptors spoke of fear as being your future projection of a scenario that could happen.
And typically that human ability to foreshadow ourselves into a frozen state happens because we have common sense and can gauge certain situations, or we have some past real world incident that shook us. Hard.
I had one yesterday.
Living now in the grandeur that surrounds Telluride, Colorado, I have access to the sport of skiing. My access is such, that I even live within a few minutes walk of two chair lifts. And while given my personal desires that will always find me choosing the warmth of a beach over the cold of a mountain, I do love having that access.
Now, I am not a lifetime skier as many are, my husband included. I learned the rudimentary how-tos from allowing my husband to teach me (Rudymentary?) when we lived in Oregon. It was one of the few times in my life when I shut my mouth and accepted I knew nothing. Friends are always amazed that our lessons did not end up with him wearing one of my ski poles as a newfangled buttplug.
But, ski poles firmly in the snow, and the determination of a Type A Irish lass, I absorbed his teachings and was soon french frying and pizzaing my way slowly down the green (easiest) runs. Our two oldest children were off in ski lessons, and they added "squish the bug" to my inner mantra as I talked myself through turning down the slopes. (Squish the bug being how their instructor taught them to apply pressure on one ski when wanting to turn.) And it is because of Culley and Kendall that I finally went up higher. I happened to be in the lift line when they were with their class, and heard them talking about how they were going up to a different run. A blue run. (Blue is more challenging than green in the ski mountain hierarchy).
Welcome to the pysche of this Type A, bullheaded Irish lass. The pride fire was immediately lit, and despite being afraid, I refused to be bested my my children. So, up I went. And I made it down, squishing more damned bugs than an Orkin man. And having accomplished that, I began sneaking off to the mountain as soon as I dropped the kids off at school and preschool. I was determined to get better, more comfortable. Not in some pipedream about Black Diamond runs or heli-skiing some untracked back country - I just wanted to get to a place where I was less in my head with the french fries, pizza, and bugs, and more on the slopes enjoying the scenery and freedom.
And then we moved. No more skiing, except for a trip to Beaver Creek when business took Rudy that direction. Kids back in ski school, me back to squishing bugs on unfamiliar runs. It was a nice getaway and I remembered how much I enjoyed skiing.
Life went on as it does, and a year ago Rudy was wooed by the ski corporation in Telluride. For a man who grew up ski racing, this was a dream come true. For me, my first snow visit in 2016 was full of trepidation, fear, and the question - Could it be like riding a bike?
Answer? Just like riding a bike. A little shaky at first, but I found my body moving and adjusting by memory, and lo and behold, no squished bugs in my head. I admit fully that even the easiest run here found me taking my time and talking to myself a lot the first few times down. But soon, I was on a longer chair lift, going up higher, enjoying even greater views. One thing I love about this place is the number of green and double green runs, even way up high.)
I returned a few months later and enjoyed the process even more. Confident in my limited capabilities, trying hard to hone the technique that I did have. And again, I was loving it.
Now, in any endeavor such as this, injury is always possible. From snow bunnies to experts, everyone falls, everyone has collisions. And I had my own history of both - the worst being when a snowboarder plowed into me from behind while skiing in Oregon. I just remember flying through the air, ending up in a heap, my gear flung everywhere, and me being very still assessing all body parts. One does that in a bad spill. Left leg? OK. Right leg? Check. Arms? Seem to be pain free. Back? Okey dokey. Mind? %^$#%@#^^&$# snowboarders!!!!!
And before you ask, yes he apologized, acknowledged he was still learning and was out of control, and yes, he helped me gather my skis, poles, goggles, gloves... but to this day, I still avoid boarders like the plague.
I was shaken. Of course I was shaken. But I kept going, not really deterred.
I have revisited that memory often, trying to figure out why I was so nonplussed at the time. Why I just clicked my skis back on and kept going the rest of the day.
Yesterday I found my answer.
I had had zero input, control, or responsibility for that fall. It happened TO me. I had not caused it. It had nothing to do with my abilities. So on I went. Which brings me to how I found that answer...
Yesterday was the most perfect ski day. Six inches of new snow had fallen in the night, the sun was out, and my husband had taken the day off to ski with me. He works pretty much every day, and like back in Oregon, I had been sneaking off by myself to get better, more comfortable, challenge myself. And I had been doing well. Just the day before I had tackled a much steeper run, taking my time, making it down without incident (I still swivel my head constantly looking for boarders). So proud of myself, and realizing that, Hey, I can ski!, as I found myself moving cautiously around much newer skiers. Not cocky, trust me, I am not that good, but just acknowledging to myself that I have advanced in my abilities, comfort level, and enjoyment.
So up we went. I started down a familiar run, and then decided to cut off to the blue that I had been practicing on just the day before.
Now, for those who have never skied, snow comes in all types on a ski mountain. Groomed snow that looks like corduroy and is packed and pretty level, a light addition of snow that gives one just a wonderful amount to cut into while turning, ice from either sleet falling or a warm day the day before and freezing temps overnight, and a decent amount of new snow that requires a different approach. You are not so much skiing on top of it as through it, and as more people come through, mini moguls begin to develop.
So, with six new, largely ungroomed inches? Challenges galore. (See the snow I am on in the above picture? Same run I am about to describe, but nicely packed and groomed snow.)
I was zooming along, passed by Rudy who had been waiting for me, and was heading towards a level patch where my speed would naturally adjust itself. I decided to adjust it a little before I got there. In all that new snow, I caught the back edge of my left ski, and ended up head over heels barreling backwards through the air until my tailbone connected with the slope and my head slammed into it just below.
According to my husband, it was quite impressive. (Yes, I am quite certain Cirque du So Lame shall be calling anyday.)
I don't remember it beyond knowing my edge caught, and then hitting my head - my only thought in that moment was, "This is why you wear a helmet." I lay there momentarily stunned, stunned even more by the fact that all of my gear was still attached to my body, and began the assessment. Or tried. Another skier got to me before Rudy to see if I was ok, and Rudy quickly caught up. At that point, my concerns were twofold - I couldn't see - nothing lasting, I just had snow completely packed under my sunglasses. And my neck hurt. Helping me to sit, we got my skis off, un-iced my eyes, and I took a few breaths.
As much as the Irish lass wanted to be bigger and ballsier than the incident, she couldn't. I was not just shaken like a James Bond martini -I was stirred. And I was scared. I managed to get down the mountain to the easiest run, and while Rudy took a phone call, I did it a couple times to try to reassure myself, regain my equilibrium, and shake off the fear.
We went back up again where it had happened, and I found I was following the perfect recipe to get hurt again - I was completely in my head and second guessing every move I was making. So much so, that while looking out for a little girl skiing near me, I somehow began skiing backwards. Go ahead and laugh, I did. I do NOT ski backwards, and did the prudent thing - sat my ass down on the slope. Gently, nothing traumatic, yet this time? BOTH SKIS CAME OFF.
While not impossible, it is pretty damned close to it to try to put your skis back on while on a steep slope. I gave up and walked down to a level area to put them on. It was at this point that my vision began a charming kaleidoscoping around the edges. I skied ten feet. Stopped. Skied to Rudy. Stopped. Tried again, stopped. Needed to sit down and recalibrate.
Vision settled down, but I did not. Inside, I had answered the question about that snowboarder collision long ago. I could not blame anyone else for what had happened. It had only been me involved. And that left me questioning every single move I was making. And afraid.
We went to lunch, I tried to relax, and then I called it a day, sending Rudy back out to have some fun up higher where he can actually be challenged. For me, the day was not going to get better. I skied the easy slope and walked back home with my gear. Still in my head, kicking my own ass, yes, a little embarrassed (it was the first fall of mine all season), but mostly just scared.
Last night, every muscle in my body began to inform me how it had been involved in the tumble - my tailbone - Hey, remember when you hit the slope ass first?; my shoulders and neck muscles - Yo, Lindsey Vonn! Nice how you slammed your head into the hill and then introduced your chin to your solar plexus!; and every ab muscle I own - "What crunches? We don't need no stinkin' crunches with an owner like you! - all cautioning me to not do what they just knew I was contemplating...
Going back out today so as to not have been bested.
They win. I am sitting here, one massive ball of ache, thankful that I already had a massage scheduled for this afternoon, and Googling "fear".
Because fear cannot win. I cannot let it. Personal, stupid pride aside, I like skiing. I love the breathtaking views. I love listening to my music on my BONX while I casually make my way down. I love the feeling of doing something that yes, is pretty stupid (strapping slick sticks to one's feet and pointing down), but that I can do. So I have to beat back the human response to project what happened yesterday onto any future skiing.
Onto any future anything actually.
Fear keeps us from doing. Acting. Moving forward. Fear keeps us locked in place, on a stationary bicycle of "What if?" that takes us nowhere. Fear means we watch opportunities pass us by. When we let fear win, we lose. Not just the opportunity, challenge, or desire. We lose something inside.
So I will be back out there this week. Partly because the Irish lass is pissed off and determined, but mostly because Dale is right - I can't just sit home thinking about it. It happened. It's over. I will heal. I will learn from it. And then I will go out and get busy.
Because I am Sharp, Linda Sharp, and I may be shaken, but I am not deterred. :)