We've made it something of a tradition to spend time between Christmas and New Year's in Tahoe, playing in the snow. We make snowmen, sled, drink hot cocoa, sled some more. You get the idea.
This year, however, our friends Fred and Julie really wanted to take their kiddos and Mielle skiing, and convinced me to come along. And that is how I found myself on skis again, after something like 20 years. I did a bit of skiing in high school, but that was a long time ago... and I can't say that I've had any pangs of longing in the interim. Truth be told, enough time has gone by that I actually felt a little afraid. But it felt fantastic! And, surprisingly, I got the feel for it again pretty quickly.
We took a family lesson with the kids, so most of the afternoon was spent on the uber basics, and we finally built up to snow-plowing down a very gentle slope. It was really fun and gratifying to see the kids settle in and get more comfortable on the skis, but after a bit I was really itching to do more. So when Julie offered to take the cold children into the lodge, and Fred asked if I'd like to join him on a couple of grown-up runs, I was thrilled to say YES!
We didn't have much time, and we weighed our options: a green trail, or a blue one. We debated and then decided on the green. We didn't want to get too crazy. Well, it was basically the bunny slope and while it was longer than the training slope we'd been on with the kids, it wasn't much more satisfying. We eyed the blue slope again... it really didn't look too bad... it seemed to be small, steep-ish hills with little plateaus in between. We decided to go for it.
Ignoring the huge sign that declared "This is NOT a beginner's slope", we hopped on the lift and went up, and up, and up. Well. Turns out that the part of the slope we'd seen and evaluated was just the tiniest little end part of the run; my stomach dropped as the chairlift stretched up as far as the eye could see, and the mountain got steeper and steeper and steeper. It was going to be way more challenging than we thought, and I won't lie - I was freaking out just a little. I mean, I was never that great of a skier in the first place, and it'd been 20 years, and the mountains where I grew up were nothing like this... I wasn't prepared for this!! Fred and I, we chuckled nervously and said things like "You know, you just go slow, keep making turns, and stay in control. It'll be fine." Except I remembered how easy it is to get out of control and shoot straight down the damned hill.
But, as they say, there's only one way to get down, and so we disembarked the chair lift, adjusted our gear, smiled nervously and started down. And this is what I did: I went slow, I kept turning, and I stayed in control. I was fine. I was better than fine - I was AWESOME and I was having a great time. My legs felt a little jelly-like at times, but whether that was due to nerves or simply from calling on under-utilized muscles, I don't know. It took a lot of effort and concentration, but about halfway down I was able to loosen up a little and let things fly a bit. And it was SO FUN.
Okay, all you black-diamond skiers that are reading this -- you can stop laughing now! I know that this is not all that impressive in the big picture of skiing - just as my personal record for the half marathon is not all that impressive in big picture of running - but it was for ME. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment - triumph even - for conquering that hill that was so frightening from a distance.
It's exactly the same kind of triumph I feel when I run faster than I ever have, or farther than I thought I could - and I need that feeling of triumph in my life. I need it because, every single day, there are so many things that I can't control, that I can't "triumph" over - at least, not in the way that I really want to. I can't cure my daughter's illness, and I can't make my son's disability disappear. I do everything to help them that I possibly can, and I always will - but ultimately, it's not within my power to change the fundamentals of either situation.
What I'm realizing is that stepping out of my comfort zone, doing things that feel scary (terrifying, even), and conquering them makes me feel powerful, and triumphant, and is amazingly therapeutic. So for 2011, I think my goal has to be to do more of them. Any suggestions? Better yet, anyone want to join me on some yet-to-be-determined adventures?