I went skiing this week for the first time. Oh, did I mention I am absolutely petrified of skiing?
The thought of standing at the top of a slippery mountain with enormous foot extensions fills me with a terror I can’t quite explain. My mind sees an edge of snow, but beyond that, my fear doesn’t have an end. It is irrational. And while the fear sliding out of control straight down to an untimely death is a natural, healthy one, mine related to skiing is not.
Thus, I decided this would be my week to overcome my fears as we visited Chapelco Ski Resort in San Martin de los Andes, Patagonia. So Noah and I began down an easy green path that extends from the top of the first chair lift down the mountain approximately 1000 meters. The first run took almost two hours. I slid back and forth, fell over and over and over, polled myself in the throat a couple times and at least once was brought to tears.
Here’s what I realized:
Falling Is Important
Yes, it hurt. It was humiliating, too, as I slumped in the snow flopping around with my polls attempting to get up as small children flew past having a grand old time. Ultimately, though, I learned not only how to fall, I learned to get up again. It also showed me that whatever the horror, pain and anguish of what I imagined falling while skiing to be, the reality wasn’t anywhere near as bad. It was actually manageable.
Fear Evaporates Far More Quickly Then You’d Imagine
The second time I went down the same slope took 20 minute, and the spots that terrified me on first sight, suddenly didn’t bother me at all. What once made me panic and fall, now was just a simple slope that I zipped left, then right and moved on with my life.
What Will I Tell Lila?
I want Lila to live as full and free a life as possible. How could I possibly explain to her that while, yes, I think she should take ski lessons and learn a new skill that I can’t. “Why not mommy?” she’s sure to ask. Then, do I lie about the reason or tell her the truth? Neither is acceptable to me.
Facing Your Fear Frees You
What once made me tense and unhappy is now a source of pride. I faced one of my greatest fears and won. As I whiled away the hours practicing, starting on the easy green meandering paths, then to open hills and even made my way down a few intermediate slopes, I found myself relaxing, even sinking into meditation. It was actually fun.
If Not Now, When?
Every time fear rises, you have the opportunity to face it. Or not. If you say, no, even convincing yourself you’ll do it later, you create a negative pattern of action. You run away, thus reinforcing the fear and often the shame that goes with it. The thing about those emotions, though, they don’t remain stagnant. They invariably solidify, calcify and grow.
As time passes, you put up a wall and no
longer even consider going beyond that fear. How many walls can you build in
your life before you one day find your life has become a tricky maze. You’ll
spend more time running from those things that frighten you and less time
actually living your life.
Is that what you really want? I don’t. I want my life to grow and expand no matter how old I get. Of course, there will be limits imposed by age and responsibility. Those I accept, but I simply cannot abide a limitation based on something I have created, grown and cultivated out of fear.
So here’s the challenge. Choose one fear, even something tiny, and do something today, right this second, to overcome it.
And if you’re really brave, share what you’ve accomplished in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of Ava's Flickrstream