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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!