When I was a child, my mother broke both arms while skiing, and I spent a couple of months bathing her, since she couldn’t get her casts wet. So as much as I adore skiing, I’m always a wee bit hesitant.
When I was training to become a surgeon, my teachers warned me never to do anything that might jeopardize my hands. “Your hands are your life,” they would say. So I always heard their words whenever I was tempted to throw my hand into a closing elevator to catch it. And last week when the wind was blowing through my hair as I cruised down a ski slope, the same words echoed.
Now, I’m no longer doing surgery, but my hands are still my livelihood. I make my living largely from writing, and the memory of those two casts on Mom’s arms still haunts me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a lingering fear whispers evil nothings.
I used to ski at least once a year, but then I got pregnant. And the following ski season, I had a newborn. And every year since, my Mommy duties have overtaken my desire to rocket down a snowy hill. But this year my daughter is 5-years-old, and my birthday was yesterday (wahoo!). And I’ve been working my butt off and deserved a vacation, so last week we went to Lake Tahoe and I found myself on top of the mountain, looking down — a long way down from the summit.
What if something happens to me?
As I got off the lift and wobbled a bit after getting on skis for the first time in seven years, I felt a clenching in my chest. Not only am I seven years out of ski shape, but I’m now a mother, and being a mother threatens to change everything. My daughter is safely in ski school, cruising up the “magic carpet” lift so she can “pizza” (aka snowplow) her way down the hamster hill (it’s really too small to even call it a bunny slope).
But what if something happened to me? Now it’s not just my surgeon’s hands or my writing hands I worry about. What if I crash into a tree and die the way that guy I saw in Aspen did? What if I collide with some snowboarder and wind up brain damaged? What if my selfish desire for thrill-seeking deprives my daughter of a capable mother?
As I stood there, looking straight down the mountain, I thought, “What the hell am I thinking?” and was tempted to beg the lift operator to let me get back on and ride down.
Fear is the opposite of love, and we simply can’t let it rule our lives.
Standing on the edge of that steep downhill is not much different than thinking about quitting a job you hate. Or leaving a husband who doesn’t nurture your heart. Or deciding to quit a bad habit or achieve a health goal.
Taking a leap of faith can be scary, but we can’t let the fear rule our decision-making.
But what if the fear is valid?
What if I really might break both arms or hit a tree and croak? What if my fear is meant to protect me?
This is where listening to my intuition comes in. Am I really likely to break both arms? Am I likely to hit a tree and die if I’m skiing only blue slopes and avoiding trees? Is it worth skipping out on the thrill and joy of engaging in one of my favorite activities just to keep myself safe?
My intuition says no. My intuition says, “You’re safe.” My intuition says, “Tell that Gremlin of fear to take a hike.”
So standing at the summit, I tip my skis down, and off I go.