For the entirety of my 18 year long relationship with my husband he has wanted to take me skiing. And every time he ever brought it up I absolutely refused. The reason for this was threefold: 1) I love to run and was terrified of breaking a leg or tearing a meniscus 2) I hate, and I mean hate being out in the cold and 3) I’m a bit claustrophobic and the idea of having my feet strapped into tight fitting boots that are then attached to skis just made me cringe. Plus, it generally just seemed terrifying. For these reasons I gave an emphatic “No” to skiing. Every. Single. Time. But, when all my husband wanted to do for his 40th birthday was go skiing with a bunch of friends and me, what could I do but smile and with a heavy sigh say, “Okay.”
I hate to spoil the ending right here and now, so I won’t give everything away just yet; but as you may have inferred, I did live to write about this whole endeavor despite my many oppositions (and with nothing broken or torn I might add). So without further adieu, here are my two big take-a-ways from this experience:
1: I learned a helpful way to calm anxiety/ fear. I have never been one to struggle with anxiety and in general I’m not an overly anxious person. However, as I said a few sentences back, there have been some incidents in my life where my claustrophobic tendencies have created some problems. Case in point: a wetsuit. Yup, a wetsuit. I really wanted to do a half-ironman triathlon, but in order to do that I was going to have to conquer my irrational fear of forever being trapped in a tight rubber suit. Because seriously, I really wanted to do that race but wasn’t about to go without one in the cold waters of Michigan in early June. Thanks to some helpful exposure therapy techniques from a former co-worker (who is also a very good friend), I was able to successfully navigate that goal. Looking back, I probably should have utilized some of the same exercises for the skis as I did for the wetsuit. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Outside of the ski rental building my husband patiently helped me get my boot locked into the ski. I was feeling overwhelmed at that point. The combination of all the people flying down the slopes and the sight of the lifts had me feeling so anxious. Pretty much the second the boot locked into place I felt like I was going to pass out. I said to him, “I don’t think I can do this.” As he was getting my other boot in the ski he said, “Sure you can. Anybody can ski, just like anybody can run.” He spoke these words with such a calm confidence that I weirdly just believed him. I then looked at the lifts circling around and around and thought, “Ok, I don’t have to get on the lift now. I just have to stand here with the skis on.” And that was the approach I took for the rest of the day. Rather than look at what was yet to (potentially) come, I decided to instead focus on the task at hand. One thing at a time.
It was amazing how well that tactic worked. During the group lesson I continued to keep my focus in the moment and concentrated on carrying out the ski instructor’s directions. If I started to worry about the lift, the people, or the big hills I would just think, “Ok, that’s not what we’re doing now. All I have to do right now is take small sideways steps with my skis up this bunny hill.” It may sound silly, but it got me through my fear. I’d like to say by the end of the day I was a skiing pro, but unfortunately, that’s not quite accurate. I did have a few good runs on the slopes though (complete with some awesome wipeouts). But I didn’t have a panic attack and I didn’t bail to go hang at the lodge. For me, that was a raving success.
Another tactic that kept my anxiety in check was being aware of the beauty around me and focusing on what was enjoyable. The brilliant snow covered trees and the white slopes were truly stunning. As I said, I’m not a fan of the cold, but I do enjoy the loveliness of a fresh snowfall. Incidentally, I was pleasantly surprised by how warm I felt all day. Being outside breathing in the crisp winter air but feeling comfortable at the same time was refreshing. What was also enjoyable was the amazing time we were having with our friends. It truly was an unforgettable day of love and laughter. And best of all, my husband was spending his birthday exactly as he had wanted.
I know in some way, shape, or form we all have our anxious moments. Whether it’s wrestling with an actual anxiety disorder, being prone to worry, or getting caught up in the “what if’s” of life by thinking too far ahead, feel free to take a cue from my day on the slopes and remind yourself, “I don’t have to do [x] right now. All I need to focus on is this present task.” By staying in the present and focusing on one thing at a time we save ourselves from a lot of needless angst- and in the process, we are better able to turn our attention to the beauty around us. Because whether we acknowledge it or not, it’s there. And as I found, it’s really hard to be anxious when you’re recognizing the blessings around you.
2. Don’t let fear keep you from trying something new. At the end of the day I felt like I was having a bit of a “Green Eggs and Ham” moment. You all know that book, right? “I will not eat them Sam I Am, I do not like green eggs and ham!” Yeah. We also all know how that story ends. Now, I’m not saying skiing is my new favorite activity, but I did actually enjoy it and would love the chance to go again. The reason for this is twofold: 1) My competitive nature kicked in and I really want to improve my skills to become a better skier and 2) It was a great way to spend the day with my husband and our friends…which is reason enough to layer up and hit the slopes any time.
In short, my only regret about the experience is that it took so many years for me to finally say, “Yes.” The next time an adventure is waiting I won’t let my anxieties hold me back. Instead, I’ll keep in mind the possibility of being pleasantly surprised by something unexpected. I’ll err on the side of hope and optimism rather than fear.