There is nothing more beautiful than sitting by a roaring fire with a warm cup of cocoa, reading a book, and watching the snow fall outside.
That is how I am spending my Spring Break.
My youngest daughter and husband, on the other hand, are outside in that 28 degrees of falling snow sliding down a mountain on two wooden sticks… also known as skiing.
I used to ski, but one of the great luxuries of turning 50 is learning the power of saying, “No thank you.” So this year, I have exercised that option when my husband and daughter wanted to take a ski trip for Spring Break.
I skied off and on throughout my life. When I was a teenager, I learned to ski because my brothers skied and so did all my friends. I skied a few times in my 20s and a handful of times in my 40s. But, admittedly, I just never loved it.
On a good day, I am was an intermediate skier, but never felt like I was in control. I clutched my poles in more of a death grip than a gentle squeeze. My feet and shins always ached from the tight, heavy rental boots. My body is rigid and my jaw would be tight for fear of tumbling down the mountain out of control. And no matter what I wear, I am always cold… and I hate being cold. Now that I am older, the idea of falling is even scarier. If I were to injure myself, it would preclude me from participating in sports I really enjoy... like tennis and yoga. So the whole thing is just stressful, exhausting, and expensive.
So this year, I declared without any guilt, that I won’t be skiing. My husband was profoundly disappointed. For some bizarre reason, he likes to ski with me. I am not sure why. He is an expert skier and has skied his whole life. He is very comfortable on the expert runs, where I am barely comfortable on the bunny slopes. He says skiing is more fun when you go with someone else. But that still doesn’t make sense, because we aren’t actually skiing together. It takes him about 5 minutes to get down a typical run, where it might take me about 15 minutes. Which means, he spends a lot of the time waiting at the bottom of the hill for me. When I do finally make it down the hill, I look like an out of control 5-year-old in a less than controlled “snowplow” (beginner’s wedge). But somehow he doesn’t mind. He says he enjoys taking in the scenery together as we ride the chairlifts up the mountain. But secretly, I think he probably enjoys the comedy of watching me ski and so out of my (normally controlled) comfort zone.
But now that our daughter is 13, she is a better skier than I was (on my best day), she is fearless and she loves it. So now my husband has someone else to ski with. It’s a win-win. I applaud her for loving the snow, loving the sport, being fearless, tireless, and having such a can-do attitude. She loves everything about it. (For me, the only great part of skiing was “lunch.” And it turns out I can do that part without having to actually ski).
I still get up early with them, so we can eat breakfast together. When breakfast is over, I wave goodbye to them as they get on the gondola. I return to the comfort and safety of our hotel, where I have the luxury of watching the snowfall from the picturesque windows and sitting by the fireplace. I spend my day reading, writing, doing yoga, and meditating. I am currently reading Maria Shriver’s new book, I’ve Been Thinking… which I am loving. The solitude is heavenly, and I have time to reflect on my gratitude to be on vacation, enjoying all of my new hobbies. (Mostly I am grateful that I don’t have to force my feet back into those rental ski boots and endure the frigid temperatures while riding up the chairlift.) When they return in the afternoon, I get a recap of their day.
Apparently, the wind was really blowing and it started to snow sideways. A lot of the chairlifts were closed because it was just too cold and windy to go higher up the mountain. One of the chairlifts got stuck (thankfully they weren’t on it at that time). My daughter said she almost got clobbered by two snowboarders. She got stuck in fresh powder between some trees, so getting her skis back on was tricky a few times when she fell. She said it was quite cold in spite of all her layers. But as she recounted the tales of her day, she had a huge smile on her face, because she LOVED it all. There is a lesson in this for both of us. She knows that as much as I love being active, and spending time together as a family, skiing does not work for me. In turn, just because it doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t deter her love for it.
My daughter says skiing is a real challenge, but she loves the snow and didn’t even mind falling down. When she was stuck in the fresh powder between the trees, she was able to figure out how to get herself back up and start over again. In a weird way, this reminds me of my love of writing. It’s a huge challenge and I get stuck a lot. But when I find my way out, I feel exhilarated and can’t wait to do it again. I started writing as a way to help me process my feelings while I was in a career/life transition. I was looking for patterns in my behavior and in my thinking. But when I decided to share my writing, the greatest thing happened: Writing became a way of connecting with others too. There is no greater feeling than writing something and someone saying, “I can totally relate to that.” This is the thing that keeps me going when I feel stuck.
As I was walking through the ski village on my way back from lunch, I saw this chairlift that was repurposed as a lovely bench. I thought to myself, this is me. Retired from skiing and finding just as much purpose doing other things now.