Now there are lots of things I don’t do for my husband. I don’t go winter camping. I don’t go hiking off trail at midnight. I don’t go walking in pouring rain even if it is a mild winter day. I draw the line against lots of activities that would leave me too cold, too wet or too scared to manage. But I do know that a sure fire way to make my husband happy for months at a time is to agree to go skiing at least once every year or two.
I’ve never seen my husband fully downhill ski. I’m not that good yet, but I do know that if he can ski backwards and hold a camera up to film me skiing all while maneuvering divots and children he must be pretty good. I also have seen him waterski, which is rather poetic. But skiing is one of his favorite things to do. Maybe his utmost favorite thing. It is crucial that I attempt repeatedly to bear this pastime gracefully.
For me, a day of skiing is akin to a trip to the dentist office. No, dentist appointments only last forty minutes at the most. Let’s call it a root canal instead. For me skiing requires worrying, anticipating and then arriving to find it is actually much worse than I had feared.
As I am a hesitant and rather nervous person, skiing combines a large quantity of my favorite fears.
- Fear of crowded spaces
- Fear of being cold
- Fear of heights
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of going fast
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of being around others when they lose control
If you add to the list a couple of things I detest greatly, you can see the full scope of the day.
- Hatred of wearing large amounts of clothing
- Hatred of wearing uncomfortable shoes/footwear
- Hatred of being limited in my ability to stand upright
- Hatred of having my face covered
- Hatred of having my hands or eyes covered when I am scared
Really it is the perfect combination of outright fear and hatred. But every time we go I am excited about the fresh air, the beautiful snow and glorious sunlight. I forget all the specifics.
Because I am a teacher I can see great benefit to being in the beginner mindset and feeling that moment of the body turning completely to stone when we get overwhelmed. But that wasn’t what skiing was like this weekend. It was an introduction to a level of fear I have only experienced a few times in my life. In fact it felt as if my body was reliving all the different times I’ve ever been afraid. The second we got into the car at the end of the day I put my head in my hands and cried like a child that it was over. It was that bad. But as I regaled my stories to my parents and to friends they have all said the same thing. How brave I was to do something that scared me so much.
Believe me, it didn’t feel brave and it didn’t make me feel proud of myself. It made me afraid to leave the house all day Sunday while I covered my body in arnica, hydrated and laid on the couch resting. And it made me think a lot about fear. Fear is one of those honest emotions that can only hide from strangers and friends up to a certain point. A very nice 10 year-old helped calm me down on my first chair lift ride, but that was nothing compared to the utter fool I made of myself at the top of the mountain when I thought my heart would actually stop and I tried to throw myself off the chair lift rather than continue towards the open vista. Really there is nothing mature or adult about fear.
I’m going to be talking about the connotations of fear according to Chinese Medicine in a couple of weeks, but I want to leave you with these questions. How much fear should we really subject ourselves to? Does it make us stronger? Does it just make us weaker and exhausted? Does it make us more afraid or less afraid? Do we learn from it or just max out our poor nervous system? Three days later, now that my ankles and knees have stopped hurting and I can walk smoothly again without a limp, I’m just not certain it was worth it. But I am curious as to how I can face my fears in a more manageable fashion. I’m also curious about what we have to learn from our fears and the moments they flash up and attack us.
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