February 21

CAUTION: ICY CONDITIONS MAY EXIST

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“Trust me, I’m a professional,” is a saying that we’ve all heard, but so is, “Don’t always believe what you hear!”

I’m a Floridian, my family has been in Florida for so long that when I asked my mother exactly how long…she told me she had no idea. Not only am I a Floridian, but I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type. My idea of enjoying nature ranges from dining on patios to taking advantage of the occasional sidewalk sale.

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I got married last year, and before meeting my husband, there were a lot of things I would not do (i.e. football). Although marriage involves compromise, there are also things that I once boycotted that I will now explore, not because I have to, but because I want to. My husband loves me just as I am. When he married me, he knew that I hated football. We are now season ticket holders, I get dressed up, and don the team colors, not because I have to, but because I want to. I want to experience things that my husband enjoys. I am willing to change, to grow, and I want to learn more about him, so I learn more about the things he enjoys.

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My husband learned to ski when he was five. I have only seen snow three times. Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow (or the snow that I’ve experienced), the winter (clothes), and who doesn’t need a vacation (can I get an amen?), but there was a tiny tinge of anxiety in me that said, “strapping slippery sticks to your leg and flying down a mountain? I mean, you never even played a team sport?” There was also a voice that said, “You can do it, come on, what’s the worst that can happen?”

“According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA): During the past 10 years, about 41.5 people have died skiing/snowboarding per year on average.” 

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I decided that I was big and strong and we packed all of our winter wear. We got up early, drove five hours to Atlanta, hung out in the airport for a couple hours, boarded the plane, did some Sudoku, occupied LAX, flew to Salt Lake City, then drove 45 minutes to our destination. We finally ate dinner at around 2:00 a.m. our time.

The next morning we woke up early (not my thing), and decided to take on the mountain. We headed to the ski rental place, we told the fellas that I had never been on skis, my foot was measured and I was given boots, skis, poles, and a helmet because, as the kind gentlemen  pointed out, I was about to ski the steepest mountain in Utah.

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 “We had lunch and met a strange man who told me that I was very brave for learning to ski as an adult. He told me that I would fall and that it would be humiliating.” 

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“Thanks Paul, it was great talkin’ to ya’.”

 I proceeded to hobble to my class, my shins where straight killin’ me. I figured this was normal, because, have you ever worn those things? Luckily, they did not put me in the class with children, as I worried that they might gang up on me and give me a wedgie, or steal my lunch money. Instead I was in a class with one other lady who had also “never been on skis.” Although as I am writing this, I am describing the uncertainty that I felt (maybe that’s hindsight), but at the time I was very hopeful. I was high on optimism and the sight of such beautiful creation.

As things started off, it was pretty difficult (but I expected it to be), the other lady was doing better than me (but I expected that too). I was slow to start, but I was hanging in there. I expected things to get better, but that was the height of it. Things started to go south (literally), when we started using the tow (or the rope, or whatever that thing was called).

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“Things started to go south (literally), when we started using the tow (or the rope, or whatever that thing was called).”

My instructor bore a strong resemblance to Stevie on East Bound and Down, but he wasn’t as nice. He wasn’t very good at instructing, he kept telling me to do things like “take a big step,” but my steps never seemed to be quite big enough. I had no idea what was wrong, things were a blur, but at some point I got wiped out by a beginner and I felt bad about it. I was in his way, he didn’t know what he was doing and I didn’t know what I was doing either. It was embarrassing. In sixth grade I opened a mayo packet, accidentally squirted it all over my face (glasses and all). Some subsequent mayo got on the girl beside me and I got in trouble for that. Who would squirt mayo on their own face to get a dollop on their neighbor? Thanks Mrs. Williams… This situation wasn’t as bad as that day, so I pressed on.

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“This situation wasn’t as bad as that day, so I pressed on.”

 The class was two hours long and we had been moving the entire time, I was tired, we were getting a workout, and I was suffering from premenstrual syndrome. Stevie then began to tell us that he had folks from California pass out because of the altitude and that it was more difficult for those of us from flatter places to adjust and that we would get tired quicker.

At one point he said, “Come to me, I need a hug.” I was pretty confused because 1) Did he think I was three years old? 2) Was he trying to hit on me? 3) Was I supposed to put my skis on the inside our outside? 4) Awkward.

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 “Truvy, you know what you need in here? You need a radio, takes the pressure off of everyone feeling they have to talk so much.”
“I had one once, but I threw it up against the wall when I couldn’t figure out where the batteries went. I know now I was suffering from pre-menstrual syndrome.” -Steel Magnolias

We  kept going. Another guy took me out and by took me out, I mean I started sliding backwards (again), until I was inevitably in some poor soul’s way and I think I knocked them down (since I was sliding backwards, I couldn’t really tell you who hit who, I can only assume).

Stevie realized that I needed a break. During my five minutes of sitting down and drinking water out of one of the tiniest cups I have ever seen, Stevie began to tell me that the only reasons why adults can’t ski is because they are either afraid or because they care about how they look to other people.

This person was telling me that I was having such a hard time because of me, that it was my fault and that it was all in my head. I felt some uncertainly, sure, I was trying something new, I was getting out of my comfort zone. But afraid? I had already suffered two collisions? If I was truly afraid wouldn’t I have quit after the first one? Did I care about how I looked to other people? I mean, I had two collisions, there were people all around, I had a hot pink jacket on. Everything was covered except my nose and mouth. I’m sure lots of folks got a few good laughs that day at my expense. I felt like an Eskimo baby, but not as tough, or cool. Nonetheless, I hadn’t given up.

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” I felt like an Eskimo baby, but not as tough, or cool.”

It was the last leg of the class, we rode the tow uphill. All I had to do was “take a big step” and I was home free, done for the day, it would be over. I took what I thought was a big step and then began to slide backwards (eye roll) down the mountain (for the third time). Stevie caught up to me, he told me that it would be a good time to fall and so I did. I saw my legs go up over my head and oh well, what do you do? As I got up, Stevie yelled at me and said “I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU KEEP DOING THAT!” I yelled back and said, “I DON’T KNOW WHY I KEEP DOING THAT EITHER!” I mean, did he think I was just doing this to mess with him? It was the mayo experience all over again.

We made it back and while I waited for my husband to pick me up, the Stevie look-alike added insult to a long day’s injury. He proceeded to tell me that I reminded him of the first person he ever taught to ski. Stevie told me that this guy was learning to ski so he would be accepted by his significant other’s family. I knew that I wasn’t like that guy. I knew that my husband and his family would love me whether I could ski or not, but it had been a long, hard day and boy did Stevie’s words sting. His comments where the tipping point. My eyes watered with tears and when my husband asked me how it went I told him that I didn’t want to talk about it.

I don’t know why the Stevie look-alike was so mean to me that day. I’m sure he had his own problems which had nothing at all to do with me. Thinking back on it now, I feel bad for him. I’m sure he was hurt and for whatever reason he hurt me. Maybe he wasn’t a very experienced instructor. Maybe he was getting his degree in psychology and thought he could psychoanalyze me. Maybe he really believed that I was afraid. Maybe he really believed that I cared what people thought of me. Maybe he thought my husband’s family wouldn’t love someone who couldn’t ski. I was tired, it was a bad day and he was getting to me. Did I really feel those things and not even know it?

“Do I really feel the way I feel?”

My husband told me that it was my choice whether or not I skied again, but that he knew I wasn’t a quitter and he knew I could prove Stevie wrong. Although skiing again was the last thing I wanted to do, I knew he was right, that we would be there for the remainder of the week, and there was nothing I loved more than proving people wrong.

The next day I didn’t literally pull myself up by the bootstraps, but figuratively I most certainly did. As i strapped on enormous booths, I again complained about my bruised shins and the discomfort. I wondered if actually being able to ski was worth the pain…did you get used to it…weird.

“The next day I didn’t literally pull myself up by the bootstraps, but figuratively I most certainly did.”

We headed to a new location and my husband explained to them the situation. I sat on a bench in all of my garb and waited. After a few minutes, Tyler and Jo (my soon to be hero) emerged around the corner. Jo was probably in her 60s, was 5’3 and tiny. Later that day, another instructor told me that Jo was the best instructor in the Rockies, and I never doubted it for a minute.

“Jo was probably in her 60s, was 5″3 and tiny. Later that day, another instructor told me that Jo was the best instructor in the Rockies, and I never doubted it for a minute.”

Jo asked me to stand up. She asked what size shoe I wear. She told me that the boots they gave me were two sizes too big and that the skis are not good for beginners. It wasn’t me! I was having problems because of my gear, not because of me. I wasn’t afraid. I didn’t care what people thought about me. I knew my family would love me no matter what. It was the gear.

“It wasn’t me! I was having problems because of my gear, not because of me.”

What a metaphor. How often we hear of judgement passed by professionals, or people whose words we take as truth. I thought about so many times in my life when others passed harsh judgments on me but they didn’t see the whole picture. How often we all think we have all the facts and know both sides of the story, how often we are so hard on each other, myself included. We need to show one another more grace, I need to show more grace. It’s hard living in a flawed and broken world. We are all imperfect people living in an imperfect world.

“I thought about so many times in my life when others passed harsh judgments on me but they didn’t see the whole picture.”

We also should not always believe what we hear, even if those words are spoken by experienced mouths. How many of us have believed the bad of ourselves that we’ve heard from others? What if I wouldn’t have given it another go? I would have believed this person who really didn’t know what what he was talking about.

“How many of us have believed the bad of ourselves that we’ve heard from others? What if I wouldn’t have given it another go? I would have believed this person who really didn’t know what what he was talking about.”

Then we have the Jo’s of the story. When the Jo’s speak, do we listen? Do we receive the hope that she had to offer, or do we sit in self-pity and disbelief thinking that things can never change?

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Have any of you experienced a similar situation? I’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments.