Suck Big

This February break, we took the family skiing. I have not been on skis for 20 years. I would like to say I had a very open mind going into my first (and last) day of skiing but looking back, that can’t possibly be true.

I have never been an athlete. I never cared about sports. One of my ongoing goals in High School was to find creative ways to get out of Gym class. I had my period about 36 times a year. That only worked with the male teachers by the way. Little did I know that the love of my life would be one of the most athletic men on the planet. His fantasy job is one that involves intense physical training every day, all day long. There are days I feel bad for our kids because it must be tough having a father who doesn’t suck at anything. Something about this man makes me want to try to be athletic. I want to be with him and partake in the sports he plays so I try. Some good, some not so good.

Getting back to the skiing, I was ok for the first 5 minutes but came up over the hill of the beginner slope where 3 year olds were whizzing by me and I stopped. I stopped and stood, and stood, and stood some more. I couldn’t do it. What do you think of when you hear the words “paralyzed with fear”? That was exactly my situation. I couldn’t move and my eyes filled with tears. As I write this now, my eyes fill with tears thinking about the compassion my darling 13 year old stepdaughter showed me my first moments on that hill. 30 seconds after I finally started moving I landed next to some trees, one ski in the woods. She stood by me, giving me a pep talk as I sat there blowing my nose, saying how “I can’t do this”. This was not one of my prouder moments, my two year old son, off in the distance repeating “Mommy’s scared” 100 times.

Fear is a state of mind. It is that simple. This concept is so easy to comprehend yet when you are in it, it is next to impossible to conquer. Fear was not in the eyes of all of the toddlers on the slopes, or my step kids who have been on skis since birth, or my two year old son. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, it was actually warm in VT in February. The conditions were perfect. A situation is only stressful if we make it so. I made it so.

So, with the help of my very patient husband and very patient kids, I somehow made it down that mountain. A short five minute run took me almost an hour. When we finally got to the bottom and I could take my skis off, I kept repeating, “Thank God, Thank God” over and over like I survived a plane crash or something.

Is there a stronger word than humiliated? Like fear, the feeling of humiliation is in our own heads. For all anyone knew, I thought I did pretty well for the first time in 20 years. I can think of it that way or I can be honest with myself and admit that I felt more than humiliated – Überhumiliated. It all comes down to perspective. I could have slid down on my butt (which I did the last time I went skiing, 20 years ago) so I could view getting down the mountain on two skis as a major accomplishment.

Seeing the complete bliss in my husband’s eyes lets me know this will not be our last ski vacation.  My greatest joy this trip was to see a happiness I have not seen in him in all of the years we have been together. How perfect we are when we know we are. I have to say his self-confidence was very sexy!

So, will I ever try this again? Absolutely! If for no other reason than to show the children that it is important to “feel the fear and do it anyway” I felt that fear and did it anyway, albeit poorly. You think like in the movies, there is some great power that emerges from inside you to carry you to the other side, strong and graceful and done so well that everyone watching leaps to their feet and cheers. That’s not really what happens. Most experiences are like mine, difficult, humiliating, and ugly. But now what? What is so bad about that? It was an experience right? I could have sat on the couch and watched everyone ski away and been left behind. My experience on the slope was actually better than sitting on the couch and being left behind. I know this because after my first miserable experience I refused to try again. I wanted to try again but I didn’t. What stopped me besides a fear so huge, my ass was sweating? I was worried I was going to hurt someone else. It was crowded and I was all over the place and yikes, it’s just not worth it. Yet as I write this, I see these reasons as excuses to not even try. And that makes me mad at myself. I used my first lousy experience as an excuse to quit. That sucks. The rest of my trip was lousy because my ego got in the way of participating. I guess that’s the lesson. Participation is better than not. Trying and sucking beyond belief is better than never trying. We are here in this lifetime to participate in our lives. We can’t participate from the couch. We just might surprise ourselves and not suck so bad. Or we suck and suck and maybe the 3rd, 4th or 10th time, we suck a little less.

I couldn’t expect to get on skis and feel totally comfortable when I find just getting dressed for the sport makes me cranky. My subconscious expectations set me up for failure before I started. I understand that now. So next time I do this I will be prepared to suck and suck big and that’s ok. My son is just starting out in life and I don’t want to miss a minute of his accomplishments. That includes all of the sports he will excel at just like his dad. So I will be there on the slopes, in the pool, on the field and at the rink…Oh My God…ice skates!

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