The Ultimate Ski Lesson
This past Christmas, several of my nieces and nephews came from Toronto to visit Maryann and me in Vancouver, Canada. They all loved to ski and had heard so much about the slopes of Whistler and Blackcomb, about two hours' drive from Vancouver.
When I met them at the airport, I was surprised to see all the gear they brought along. We needed a total of five luggage carts to haul all their equipment!
They spent several days skiing and snowboarding and all had a wonderful time.
When I visited them a month later in Toronto, they wanted me to go skiing with them. I told them I had never skied before in my life. "Why?" I told them I could not afford it when I was young and more basic than that, I was afraid of height. I could not handle the chair lifts which are usually tens of feet above ground.
In their effort to persuade me to go, they told me that the mountains in Ontario are very small and the chair lifts are not very high from the ground. One of my nephews even said, "They are only a couple of feet above the ground." That's not true, of course.
My desire to do something with them gained an upper hand over my fear of height. "I will go with you, but I am not sure if I have the guts to go on the chair lift." They all assured me that it would be fine.
In the evening before the dreaded day, a couple of them became concerned about my phobia. One of them said to another, "What if Uncle Wally can not get on the chair lift? What will he do for the whole day?" The other person answered with a blank look. Then she shrugged her shoulder with an I-don't-know-what-to-do look on her face. To put them at ease, I said, "I can always find something to do. I can always meditate. I enjoy being by myself." "There is nothing to do out there. Nothing!" "It will be OK," I said.
Later we started packing. More accurately, they started packing. I just stood there and watched, amazed at all the things that had to go into the various bags: skis, snowboards, poles, ski boots, thick socks, special pants, gloves, goggles, ear bands, helmets, caps, vests. It was the beginning of an expedition.
The weather and the snow conditions were ideal for skiing.
I needed help to buckle up my boots. It was an accomplishment for me just to be able to walk on them in the ski lodge. Once outside, I struggled into my skis with some coaching.
I was able to stand up with my skis on. But once I started moving, I sensed they were not doing what I wanted them to do. They were sliding under my feet. I tried to use my poles to steady myself. But, instead, the poles pushed me forward and I had my first fall within a few seconds of my new adventure.
If you think falling down is humiliating, try standing up. I just could not stand up with my skis on. I could not do it with coaching. I could not do it with someone demonstrating to me how to do it. Finally, two persons had to pull me up.
Undaunted, I tried to move forward again. No more than ten feet far, the skis misbehaved once more. Down I went. And again, I could not get up. More coaching, more demonstration and more humiliation. The final remedy: one person grabbed my left arm and pulled me up while another helped me to steady myself from the other side.
Before I reached a very gentle slope where they taught me how to stop on my skis, I must have fallen a couple more times. Then more falls occurred on the gentle slope.
Finally, it was time to go onto the chair lifts. I guessed all those falls must have shaken me so much that I did not know how to refuse to go on the lifts. The ride was short. The chair lifts were probably less than twenty feet from the ground. To my surprise, I was not afraid during the ride. In fact, the ride was the only part that was enjoyable up to that moment.
After the short ride to the top of a small slope, it was time to get off the lift. Before we got on the lift, I was told several times, "Just point your skis up. Push the chair away from you and move forward." Maybe I did not point my skis up. Maybe I did not push the chair lift away. Or maybe I did not move forward. All I knew was, I fell again. In fact, I fell every single time. The only time I was able to leave the chair lift standing up was on my very last ride of the whole day.
The fear of riding on chair lift was the only thing I was afraid of before the trip. But as it turned out, the only thing that was totally enjoyable and pleasant was the ride. The view from the lift was certainly much better than the view from sitting on the snow as a result of falling. Other aspects of skiing turned out to be much more difficult and painful than the ride up the slope.
Obstacles in our lives are similar to my fear of height. Our focus on a particular fear paralyses us. Some are fearful of pain, some of poverty, some of relationship, some of failure, some of success...and the list goes on.
More often than not, our mountain of fear turns out to be a molehill of nothing. Sometimes, our mountain of fear may actually turn out to be the kind of mountain that affords us a better view of life.
The thing that we fear most may turn out to be the thing that we enjoy most. The thing that paralyses us may turn out to be the thing that energizes us.