Friday, December 12, 2014

Fall down seven times. Stand up eight.

I went skiing for the first time this week. Before Monday my winter sports experience consisted of ice skating and sledding in the Midwest. But my best girl moved out to Denver and demanded I come out so she could introduce me to the mountains. I stuffed all the random winter clothing I had in a duffel and flew out to Colorado.

Pictures don’t really do the mountains justice. No lens can truly capture the way the light reflects off the snow. How blue the sky gets when the clouds are blown away. It’s a juxtaposition of untamed wilderness… and hundreds of people trying to tame it with wooden boards buckled to their feet.

I wasn’t sure how it would go – but people I love really love skiing – so I put on my brave face and went with it. We went to the ski shop the day before and I got fitted for some concrete manacles covered in shiny plastic – ski boots, they called them. I think it’s what the mafia uses when they make you swim with the fishes.

We know I don’t do heights – but I was surprisingly okay with the gondola. Going up the side of the cliff – watching the trees float beneath me – hell, even in the chair lift – was completely serene. We shared a ride with a pair holding a power meeting, discussing marketing and branding opportunities for their snow bound start up – presumably before spending the rest of the morning boarding. Pretty good way to do business, if you ask me.

Learning to ski is not for the proud of spirit. You end up looking – and feeling – like a giant doofus. Not only are you hobbling around in those crazy heavy uncomfortable boots, THEN you finally click into the skis and turn into a human baby giraffe. Let’s put it this way – I fell trying to get on the chairlift. 

My instructor doesn’t believe in bunny hills – so we started on the easiest trail level – a short little trail with a very gradual slope. It was me, La, a few other schmucks, and a gaggle of children fearlessly flinging themselves down the mountain.

Nothing about skiing is intuitive. Not a damn thing. Your feet are suddenly 4 feet longer than normal, and you have to shift your body weight around in order to stop. After receiving patient instruction on the finer points of digging in my upper sides, making pizza instead of French fries, and facing perpendicular to the mountain when stopping or getting up after a fall, I tried it out. And fell. And then took five minutes to get up. And confidently pushed forward a few feet. And then fell again. And then got up again. And made a turn, made another turn (with much glee and excitement) then started hurtling down the hill, freaked out, and (you guessed it) fell over. Again. Wash, rinse, repeat. 45 minutes later, I made it to the end of the first trail – and somehow Lauren hadn’t throttled me.

By the second or third time around, I was starting to get the hang of it. When I let go and let my body take over, for the most part, good things started to happen. By the fourth run I was figuring out muscles – playing with small body weight shifts, using the poles for balance. I made it all the way down, and then fell as soon as I got back in line for the lift. Typical.

The voice inside my brain was freaking out. All these people, in their fancy gear, who’ve been skiing since they could walk, are judging you. They think you’re stupid and inept. They’re laughing at you. And then I ‘d say these things out loud and La would balance them out with a laugh and an affirmation of the opposite. You’re never going to see these people again. Who gives a good goddamn?

I hate being bad at things. I guess most people do, but this is why I don’t go bowling. I suck at it, and get grumpy. So after I took a little break (and Lauren went and did some actual skiing), we (she) decided we should try a bigger trail – with a medium level start and an easy finish.

We took a mega super lift up to the top. And I freaked. It was so much steeper than the little trail I had gotten comfortable with! It was more narrow, there were way more people. But there was only one way back – down. So, slowly, slooooowly, with much cursing, screeching, and general freaking out – we made our way down. There’s not a ton of snow in December, so most of the people out that Monday were locals and ski patrols training for the season. This meant after every fall, we were approached by 2-4 overly zealous patrol people asking if I was okay. Things that get old quick….

But when I was getting it, it felt a little like flying. I marveled at the ease and efficiency of swishing those skis (left one Gordon, right one Rightfoot. Yes, I was talking to my skis.) around. It was worth the fear and the humiliation.

By the end of the day, I nearly understood why people pay a ton of money to strap themselves into uncomfortable equipment to fling themselves down a potentially treacherous snow bank. Almost. Apparently I won’t fully get it for a few more times. It seems like a sneaky ploy to get me to come back.

And now for the analogy…

I feel like I’ve been learning to ski this whole freaking year. I’ve been throwing myself into new situations, feeling awkward and uncomfortable and trying really hard to get it right. At the gym. Just getting around. I thought I would have more friends by now. I thought trying harder would help- and it has. But I'm not there yet. Better than I was, but still gaining speed, freaking out, and landing on my butt.

I need a break. I need to fly a little, to feel the wind on my face. After the ski adventure I counted 13 bruises on my legs. I fell probably over 25 times in the span of 6 hours. But I tasted a little of that freedom, speed, exhilaration, and am willing to get up and try it again.

Maybe I need to switch the trail – and moving to a new neighborhood feels like we did that, in a way. But my hope for 2015 is that these internal bruises heal a little bit. That I get a taste of something exhilarating and exciting – friendship. Community. Flying.

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