Scare Yourself to Success

It’s 6 AM and the alarm is blasting. I smack the snooze button and groan. Isn’t waking up at 6:00 enough of a stretch zone adventure? Apparently not, because I’m now sitting up in bed trying to stop my eyes from burning.

It’s Ski Free week in New Hampshire, and as part of my commitment to 10 Stretch Zone Adventures (SZAs) in 2013, I’m taking advantage of the opportunity to try my hand (or feet, as the case may be) at skiing. The generous offer of a free lesson, free equipment rental, and a free lift ticket sure made it an easy decision.

Melissa’s quite the snowboarder, but she hasn’t skied in many, many years, so she’s eager to check out the updated equipment. This experience will make for a nice date day!

On our drive up north, we chat, listen to music, laugh at some favorite podcasts, and get excited for the adventure that awaits. I find that I’m actually more psyched than terrified. Huh. That’s something different.

Enter Fear

skiing

Me and my guardian angel, Abigail.

As we pull up to the mountain, the anxiety that I hadn’t really felt until now, starts to creep up from my stomach into my throat. Shit, I’m really doing this!

We check in and get our gear. After suiting up, we head outside to meet our instructor — a tiny retired dude named Dwayne who seems sweet. After we introduce ourselves, I see him head over to greet some others. Oh no. How did I not give this any thought? This isn’t a private lesson.

I knew this, but didn’t really think about the fact that I’d be learning something scary among strangers. The bells and whistles start going off in my head. Deep Stretch Zone Alert! Deep Stretch Zone Alert! Approaching Panic Zone!

Then I remember, they’re all here to learn, too. I immediately start casing the group, assessing who might suck as much as me. (Yup, the negative voices have already begun). Hmm, she looks confident. Ooh, he seems shaky and nervous! Phew, I’m not the only one.

Ouchie

Within the first 40 minutes of the lesson, there are tears and injuries — all mine.

First fall: Heading down the practice slant (it doesn’t even deserve to be called a hill), and I’m struggling to stop. I try to turn as Dwayne instructs, but with no luck. I lean back to slow down and quickly learn that this is a bad idea. Leaning back = falling. Down I go. Did I mention we’re practicing the art of turning one-by-one? Yeah, so all eyes are on ME.

Dwayne tries to teach me how to get up. Nope. No can do. “Can’t I just take my skis off?” I ask. “You could,” he says, “but it’s good to know how to get up with them on.”

I begin to loathe him. He suggests several techniques to no avail. I eventually take one ski off and get up. Melissa skis over to me to see if I’m OK. I’m not.

“You were supposed to come right over to me if I fell,” I bark at her. “You left me here feeling stupid and incapable with Dwayne!”

“I’m sorry. He looked like he was teaching you, and I didn’t want to interrupt him.”

My sweet, Virgo, perfectionist, rule-follower quickly learns that I’m who we want her worrying about. Not Dwayne.

We rejoin the group to learn more turning tactics. Now we’ve moved onto the bunny hill, and I find that it’s much easier to turn when you’re going faster. That’s not to say I stay on my feet.

Turning Point

Fall number two: Going down the bunny hill, I again lean back, and BOOM. I’m on my ass, smacking the back of my head (hard!) on the ground and wrenching my left arm as I fall. Dwayne and Melissa come over as I struggle to take off my skis so I can quickly get up and away from everyone. Isn’t it interesting how embarrassment overrides pain? My arm and head are killing me, but I’m willing to hurt myself more just to get up and away. Curse you, vulnerability!

Melissa tells Dwayne that we’re going to take a break, and we head off to the side. I’m crying (more from shame than pain) and I feel really nauseous. “I think I’m done,” I say to Melissa. “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”

My breathing is shallow, my heart is racing, and the negative voices are screaming in my head — “I knew you’d suck at this.” “You’re in no kind of physical shape to try something like skiing.” “Good job being the suckiest student.”

I close my eyes and take a breath. After insisting that Melissa go rejoin the group for a bit so I can calm down, I lean against the ski rack to try to center myself. I’m struggling with internal conflict of calling it quits or trying again to go out on a high note. What’s the best self-care here?

Just then, a guardian angel in the form of a 9-year-old girl named Abigail skis over to me. She’s in the lesson, too.

“Is it OK if I offer you some advice?” she asks. She immediately warms my heart.

“Sure!”

“Well, this isn’t my first time skiing, but I used to fall. A lot. And my past instructors told me that with every fall, I’m learning. You learn from your mistakes, right?”

“I guess you do.”

“You’re getting better. Don’t give up. You can do this.”

Aw, man, I had just stopped myself from crying!

“You know, Abigail. You’re right. Thanks.”

“Sure!” she says while swooshing away.

My inner child is really running the show right now, and I wasn’t able to remind her how much she’s loved despite not being the best skier. Apparently, she needed a peer to talk to. She heard Abigail loud and clear.

I’m gonna end on a high note, dammit. After Melissa is done taking her turn down the bunny hill, I wave her over. “I want to go down again, but only with you. Not the class. Not Dwayne. Just you.”

“You got it!” she says.

Progress!

Melissa skis down the hill a bit, then stops and has me go. I feel much safer practicing turns knowing that if I can’t stop, she’s right in front of me to stop me. Check me out! I’m doing some damn good turns!

Then comes fall number 3: While trying to get on the Magic Carpet (a moving belt that you stand on and it brings you up the hill), I fall. Again, it’s the darn lean forward thing. I leaned back. Boom!

I quickly take off my skis and walk away. I collect myself pretty quickly this time, and find I’m not beating myself up nearly as much. Melissa and I do a few more runs. She goes up the Magic Carpet, and I walk. Works for me!

We’ve been out here for 2 hours or so now and decide to head in for lunch. Phew. As we’re eating, we’re talking about each of our experiences so far. In processing it, I realize that attempting to ski isn’t the stretch part of this adventure at all. It’s being vulnerable in front of strangers; out in public; really drawing attention to myself. No hiding when you’re the one falling! After our meal, we both decide we’re done for the day. And I leave with a smile on my face.

While the details of the day may paint a painful picture, I look back on it with pride. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and tried something scary. I didn’t quit even though I really wanted to a few times. I eventually asked for exactly what I needed to feel safe. And I welcomed in the love and support of Abigail so my inner child could feel heard and understood.

My intention behind trying this new activity wasn’t to master skiing. It was to shake out the cobwebs and stir up the energy. By putting myself into my stretch zone, I show up to life in a more connected way. I’m more plugged in and present. Consequently, I’m a better wife, friend, colleague, and coach. My relationships flourish and so does my business. Oh yeah, my falling on the bunny hill is powerful energetic marketing!

I’d love to hear from you. Have you done anything lately that felt scary? Do you have any plans to? How do you challenge yourself in your life? If things are ever feeling stale, try something new!

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. It’s always good to feel like we’re in this together — because we are!

12 replies
  1. Cyndy
    Cyndy says:

    Wow, Kerri, what a day! Thank you for this example of self-care, courage, and an amazing stretch/leap!

    Sweet Sonny Clooney (you’ll see what I’m referencing when you read this week’s check-in) and I both salute and thank you – you and that little girl with her ‘try, try again – you learn from your falls.’

    Good week your way –>>

    Reply
  2. Erica Holthausen
    Erica Holthausen says:

    I love this post! Love, love, love, love it! I also love how brave you are. Not only did you go skiing, but you then wrote about it. The entire bloomin’ experience! And you hit the “publish” button on your blog (that would have scared the pants off of me). In fact, my writing often scares the pants off of me. Still. But I am committed to continuing to write. My big scary thing last year was singing karaoke for the first time. In front of real people. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and I was absolutely terrified. So much so that I sat through dinner with a few friends and couldn’t eat more than three bites. But they were there with me, cheering me on and poking gentle fun at me for actually researching the song I was going to sing. I was looking for a song that was under 3 minutes with no awkward instrumental breaks. Oh, and it had to be popular so the audience would sing with me. Twist + Shout totally did the trick!

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Congrats on your stretch zone adventure, Erica! Yeah, I thought this adventure’s stretch was all about the skiing. Nope. That was no biggie. The stretch was really in being vulnerable in front of strangers. Scary! So, what kinds of things do you have planned for this year to shake things up a bit?

      Reply
  3. Karen
    Karen says:

    After many, many years of New Years’ resolutions to lose weight & get more fit I decided that was NOT how I was going to start 2013. My weight has always been a struggle for me and a deep source of pain and self-punishment. Kerri’s January message resonated with me and I decided to approach the New Year from a place of love and encouragement. So instead of making the same old resolution that I’ve never seemed to accomplish, I decided to take a 3 week class on Setting Your Theme fore the New Year. The objective of the course was to distill your theme for the year down to ONE (yep, that’s right!–1) word. After much journaling, thinking and talking with my classmates & instructor I picked “Adventure”. Immediately, I began noticing adventure (the word at first) all over the place. It was on the back of the cereal box when I was feeding my kids breakfast, on a flyer one the announcements bulletin board in my office, a friend (unaware of my new theme) even sent me one of those inspirational “forward this email to 6 people in 6 minutes or less or else” chain emails saying what an adventure it would be if we put into practice the contents of the email. I tried a new recipe, accessorized for work with a new, flashy necklace (which is a big stretch from my usual conservative/frumpy style) and began working with a one on-one voice over coach which I’d wanted to do for many years but self-talked my way out of with lots of negative chatter about not being good enough, wasting the instructor’s time, blah, blah, blah. All this to say, I stretched this year by beginning it with love and trying lots of new things. So far I’m really digging this new vibe. And, oh yeah, I even tried a Zumba class for the first time on Saturday! Go figure…this adventurous new way of living may end up helping me with my years old resolution!

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Ooh, Karen! This is fantastic! Good for you! Thanks for sharing!

      It’s so great that this new way is helping you to love yourself more, and I have no doubt that this approach is much more likely to help you lose weight and get more fit. I love how you really embraced the idea of a stepping into your stretch, from the new recipe, the bold necklace, and pursuing your voice over interest. Seems pretty fitting that your word is Adventure!

      You’re a STAR!

      Reply
  4. cindy Monten
    cindy Monten says:

    Hi Kerri,
    Thanks for helping me to put it all in perspective. I am in the middle of a mid-life do over. Left a 30 year career, sold my home, took some time off worked for someone else. a little while. Started creating art and writing. Self publishing my first book, building a workshop around that. I am doing my second cross country move in 2 years. Did I mention I am a single mom with a kid in college?
    If I lay it out like this it scares the hell out of me! But if I relay it to skiing it is not so bad, I am learning, growing and making friends along the way. Besides I know that in the writing I am finally doing what I am supposed to be doing.
    You post was a little shot of much needed courage.

    Cindy

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Wow, that’s a lot to take on, Cindy, but you’re doing it! Your comment highlights the importance of breaking things down into small, manageable, baby steps because, as you mentioned, when you look at it all at once, the overwhelm can freeze us. It takes a strong and courageous soul to honor her soul’s calling and you, girl, are it!

      What a wonderful service to yourself and your kid to step forward with bravery. Such amazing modeling for your inner child and your college-aged child. What a great mom you are to both!

      I took a peek at your website and really love what you’re doing! Your art is so fun and whimsical, and your writing is, too. It makes total sense that you come from a stylist background — they’re some of the most creative people I know! Congratulations.

      Have a look at my Biz Group Coaching program. I think it would be right up your alley. Through it, I support creative entrepreneurs take things to the next level, not only by looking at business practices, but also belief systems, stretch zone adventures, and more. While the current group is full and in progress, I’m currently taking names for a waiting list for the next one. You can read more about the program at http://kerririchardson.com/biz-group-coaching/

      Reply
  5. Tim
    Tim says:

    Kerri,

    This may be too late for your ski adventure but since you will be stretching yourself this year I’d like to tell you what I would have said if I were on the mountain with you. When you fall in skiing you have done ONE thing wrong. The thing you didn’t mention but that I am very sure about is that while you were doing that one thing wrong (leaning back) you were also doing many things right (arms in the right position… keeping to a safe speed…etc.) In this year of stretching yourself (oh how I love that idea) you will have many “failures” but in each and every one of these you will be doing some things correctly AND learning what NOT to do.

    Besos,
    Tim

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks, Tim! I love your perspective on learning, and your message of remembering to reinforce the positives is super helpful. I bet you’re a great teacher and coach. 😉

      Reply
  6. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I did something many years ago…maybe 20 or more. I went to my local library to volunteer to help teach people to read. But they said they needed ESL teachers more than reading and would I like to do that. I know I declined, but somehow ended up taking the class to teach ESL.

    I was petrified. The classes were great. But then came the part where I would have to demonstrate my stuff in front of many strangers at a “graduation ceremony”. I was scared speechless, as I often was back then, and all of these people were overwhelming. They were the students who were taught by ESL instructors…and even though it was obvious that I could not show what I learned then, I was still assigned a student…I tried for 2 or 3 classes but could not do it…I kept crying and my student kept telling me how good I was doing.

    Earlier this week I went down the hall to the vending machine in the United Way office and there was a sign up sheet for ESL training and I’ve been thinking about it. Would I be as terrified as I was 20 years ago? No…I’ve come a long way since then and I believe I could be a very good instructor. Would I melt into tears again? No…that fear is gone or at least it’s not as strong as it once was…I’m in charge now. I intend to face the fear and conquer it.

    So today I will go to the United Way office and tear off one of the tabs and call whoever is now offering this opportunity because I know I can do this now.

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Kathy. Congratulations on giving it another go! Based on what you wrote, you’re sure in a different place today to approach this adventure, and had it not been for that experience 20 years ago, you may not have been. Thank you Universe for presenting this opportunity to you again!

      Reply

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