Discovering the Self
As a follow up to last month’s piece, I wanted to talk more about taking chances and risks and living life to the fullest.
Our family went away recently for a skiing vacation, up in gorgeous Maine, and I signed up for a 3 hour Learn-to-Ski lesson. I already had a helmet, and I’d rented boots and skis and poles. I was all set. I kept the giant ball of fear locked away in a closet in the back of my mind, and I went into the lesson with every intention of skiing out of it at the end of those three hours.
Things started off really great – the instructor was fabulous – really knew how to put the five of us at ease before bringing us out onto the snow. We all introduced ourselves, learned why each of us had come that day, and learned a bit about the instructor’s history as well. After that, and a little lesson on stepping into our bindings and getting back out again, we were off.
On the snow, we began with basic things, like balance, and positioning your body and knees where they needed to be…snowplowing…turning…stopping. The weather was perfect – sunny and relatively warm. The gently sloping hill where we had our lesson was wide and welcoming.
As the lesson went on, though, a few things happened. First, my legs – from just above the knees down to my toes – hurt. My right ankle started to feel like it was occasionally dislocating or something. My knees were on fire. Where the tops of the boots encircled my calves hurt. I couldn’t even just stand still – that hurt, too. I was getting distracted by all of that. I fell several times (which is normal, but still – not fun.) and the only way I could get up was to pop my boots out of the bindings. I felt old.
There were, however, wonderful, all-too-brief times when I felt that wonderful sensation of flying across the snow. The kid in me shrieked in delight at these moments. And then the present day ME in me realized that neither of us could stop well, so together we tried to turn the skiis and angle them against the snow…and then just went ahead and fell down because we knew THAT would work. But together we – kid me and ME me – got back up and tried again.
As we neared the end of those three hours, my store of enthusiasm had been drained considerably. My knees and ankle were really bothering me, and I felt like I had crashed, and was just waiting for the burning to begin. The instructor suggested I loosen the boots and take a break – he told me his boots bothered him most of the time as well. If I’d known that at the beginning, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hyper-aware of my own sore legs. Who knows. I also knew that I wasn’t as fit going into the lesson as I could have/should have been.
While I hung out on the deck of a nearby building, rubbing my knees and flexing my ankle every now and then, I did a lot of thinking, a lot of contemplating, a lot of soul-searching. And I realized that I didn’t really necessarily want to ski. I wanted to give it a shot, because I wanted to maybe ski with my family…and because I wanted my kids to see that you’re never too old or too anything to try something new. But had I ever had a burning desire to ski? Um…no. Not really. And I decided that I didn’t HAVE to ski if I didn’t want to. I’d wanted to ski for my family. So we could, all four of us, ski together. But had I wanted to ski for me? No. Would any of them – husband, son, daughter – be heartbroken if I didn’t ski? No. And with that, I was lighter of heart than I’d been all day. I spent the next day in the lodge, my laptop plugged into the wall nearby, typing my little fingers off. And I was perfectly happy.
It is now the end of our vacation week, and last night, while I was making dinner, my husband and I were talking, rehashing the trip, and we got to a point where he was…I don’t know, trying to sort out my portion of the vacation. He couldn’t fathom how I could possibly be happy to sit and type like that. For hours. With just a break for lunch. “If I had to do that, I’d go crazy,” he told me. Of course he would. But, I tried to explain, HE is not ME. I am not HIM. Just because something would drive him nuts doesn’t mean it would have the same effect on me. And vice versa. We are two different people.
We’ve been together nearly 13 years, married for nearly 10. This might have been the first time it really sunk in with him that we are, despite some shared similarities, two very different people. And – that’s just fine.
It was sort of funny, this revelation. I have my things that I love to do, and they are different from some of the things he loves to do. Maybe he had a really hard time processing that because there are plenty of things that we both enjoy. Cooking, for example. And maybe I’m partly to blame, because in my “keep everyone happy” mentality, I have happily (usually) jumped in to do the things he loves to do. Even if it wouldn’t have been my first choice. Because it was more important, at times, for us to be doing something together than it was for me to do MY own thing. And my own things tend to be rather solitary things anyway. Reading. Writing. Sewing. But those are also things I can always do later. I can tuck them into the cracks and crevices of our days, and most of the time, that’s enough.
I told him I’m not even necessarily done with learning to ski. Next year, maybe I’ll have another go at it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll spend my portion of the winter vacation sitting in a lodge with my laptop and a cup of coffee. Or with a brand new book to read. Or meandering around outside, taking pictures of the skiers and the snow and the beauty of winter.
That sounds like a perfect vacation – to me.