A few weeks ago, my family and I went skiing. While I was swooshing down the slopes, I was thinking a lot about a new, non-Light Series story. (You’ll hear more about that in future blog posts!) And I was thinking about how analogous skiing is for life.
I found myself feeling very confident on runs I had done several times. Which made the runs more relaxing and fun, but I found myself not paying attention to the details of the slope or my form. Every time I almost fell, I was on flat ground. The one time I did fall was in the lift line. Awesome, I know. That’s how life is, when we get too comfortable, we mess up in our careers, our relationships, our driving, etc. It’s good to have some level of discomfort, if that discomfort makes us pay attention to the life we are living.
The first morning out, my rental boots were awful. My legs were getting banged all around in the boots causing awful bruising. Before lunch on the first day, I took the boots back and got boots that fit better. I stopped adding to the bruising, but the bruises remained for long after we returned home. The quality of the equipment you bring to the mountain matters, just as the quality of things like nutrition, education, type of media consumed matters in actual life. And making a change can stop adding to the problems, but it doesn’t mean the problems already created will magically go away. Our bodies, minds, souls take time to heal.
My first panic attack was on Pikes Peak, I was 16 and didn’t know what a panic attack was, but as my dad drove us up those winding guardrail-less roads, I started crying. I was certain that at any moment we were all going to be swallowed by the sheer cliffs around us. Once we reached the top, I stood in the very middle, by the sign, hoping maybe there I wouldn’t die. When I lifted my eyes and saw others near the edges, I began crying for them, certain they too were moments away from plummeting to their deaths. Once I returned to Florida, I tried to make myself face my phobia of heights but there are no hills here, let alone mountains. So, I would forget I had a fear of mountains suddenly crumbling beneath me or the abyss below them sucking me from their cliffs … and then I would go skiing. For years, this phobia controlled my mind on the slopes. I would break into cold sweats when I came to the edge of a run that seemed to, but did not actually, go straight down. I’m about 20 years out from that first panic attack and for the most part I have gotten over them and conquered this phobia. The result is my skiing has dramatically improved and become way more fun. Life is the same. If we see life through eyes overshadowed by anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, (the list continues) then even the most gradual roads will appear too difficult to go down.
As much as it matters what you bring to the mountain, it also matters what the mountain brings to you. Skiing is not nearly as fun when you are sliding on ice or being bogged down in slush. When the sun sets behind the mountain causing the temperatures to plummet and the slopes to turn into gray sheets of shadow it’s time, for me at least, to call it a day. Sometimes in life, we have to know when to walk away from things before we get hurt. But sometimes in life, the setting sun catches us at the top of a run and we have no other option but to keep going down the mountain. It happens, and all we can do in that moment, is all we can do. We do it with as much caution and care as possible to try and keep from making a stupid choice that will cause us pain or make it even more difficult to get to our goal.
There are times though when the mountain also brings incredible views, perfect snow, and the sense of peace and goodness that makes every tough moment worth it. In life, I have had tough moments but beautiful views, and amazing goodness have come from them. Looking back, I would never trade the pain if it meant losing the beauty and goodness that came after it.
The life lesson I heard over and over again, was that when you’re on the steepest slope or a slope filled with slush or ice, it’s hard to do french fries instead of pizza. Keeping skies parallel is the goal (french fries), and it’s what I can do with relative ease most of the time. However, in those moments where I have reached the edge of my ability, it’s hard not to revert to what I first learned, the pizza wedge. Most of the time I can be a pretty relaxed human being functioning at a decent level of sanity, but in those moments where I am pushed to the brink, it is really hard not to revert back to a more basic level of coping. And the problem with pizza wedging your way down a slope is it takes way longer, uses way more muscles, makes you exhausted and fatigued, doesn’t allow you to respond as quickly to the nuances of the slope, and just looks awful. We all revert to the first coping mechanisms we learned, as kids and young adults, when we’re pushed beyond our limits. For the most part these aren’t great. Often taking a break to reassess and remind myself I can handle that run allows me to break free from the poor form and go forward with my skies parallel. Sometimes in life it’s the same. Stepping away, taking a breath, asking for help, talking to someone who loves us, all of these things can remind us of what we are actually capable of.
And sometimes in life you just have to laugh at your face plants. This is my son’s proudest picture from our trip. His ski instructor told us he was trying to do a trick and instead fell face first into the powder. We were told our younger son found this beyond hilarious, falling to the snow in laughter. It sounded amusing, but it was not until the next day when we were going down a run and my son yelled, “look there’s my face plant!” that I realized just how hilarious it truly was! Here’s the imprint of his 8-year-old body falling face first into the snow, still there 24 hours later 😊 I hope you can laugh at your face plants as much as we have laughed about this one!
Have an awesome start of 2019
The Light and Through the Ashes are on Audio! Here’s a link for Audible, but they are also on every other audio book platform and can be found at your local library. Happy Listening!