Right after Thanksgiving, in the Northeast USA the temperature drops precipitously. It’s ice cold outside. As I step out of my warm cozy home, the best place I have ever lived, onto a newly planked landing, looking at one of the best cars I have ever owned, in my favorite mink coat with rosettes on the bell sleeves (cause it’s that cold); en-route to meet friends for coffee, the best friends I have ever had, my first thought when the chilly air hits my face is: I’m glad I am not on a ski lift!
The truth is, where I live, there are no gondolas or enclosed lifts. Being whisked to the top of the mountain is not a magic ride. No special occasion needing long fancy dresses, sporty rental car and hotel suites overlooking the ocean with 3 bathrooms. In my past everyday life, there was just the barebones steel wobbly 2-chair lift. It’s time to be honest with myself about why I don’t ski anymore.
Swooshing down the slopes with the sun shining down, the clean white snow punctuated by the greenest trees and the bluest skies. Counting on your body to hold you, propel you. Your mind and body – one. Making every cell align and feeling happy, exhilarated, free, at peace. No drugs, no alcohol, no help. Naturally leaning left or right, bending my knees, placing my poles in the deep soft snow, gliding down the hill in a graceful linking s-pattern. Digging deep into a tight mogul. Skiing was one of my life’s greatest pleasures.
I stopped because of the clothes. No matter how much I spent or how much weight I lost, they didn’t keep me warm or fit right. Halfway down the mountain, I would twist and something would shift either binding me or exposing a patch of skin, that didn’t need exposure.
My arthritis and the years of wear and tear made the ski boots uncomfortable. The other people on the hill got faster – or did I get slower? And once the trails were co-mingled with snowboarders, navigating was hard work akin to changing lanes in a six-lane highway. I missed the backroads. And what rant about the state of skiing today would be complete without complaining about the parking situation. Mushy, muddy, deep iced ruts. Getting through the parking lot, I always wished I had obstacle course training and could afford a valet.
So why do I have to come to grips with the statement: I used to ski?
For many years, I have not let myself think this deeply about why I loved skiing. Honestly, I started this blog post three years ago to the date. I moved to this town because it was a 12-minute drive to the mountain. And the mountain is everything. I see it going and coming into town. When it gets cold, before the first snow, late at night, the sound of the blower never fails to excite me.
The promise of skiing filled me with joy. I started skiing before I was 13 years old. I skied for 40 years. How come it is no longer in my life? How could my body betray me like this? When did my equipment get so old? When did it become too much effort to do something I love?
It was too painful for me to think about. It wasn’t just the skiing. It was the friends I shared the weekends with, my daughter relying on me and a weekend so different from my every day, that it reinforced me for a hard week.
When I break up or lose a lover or friend or family, I tend to have revisionist history. I only see black and white. I only feel it was all good or all bad. Usually, I remember the version that allows me to continue to mourn the loss and beat myself up. My internal monologue goes like this:
Why didn’t I appreciate them when they were in my life? It’s all my fault. Why did I start asking for what I need?
I don’t remember how they took advantage of me or loved to pick fights and were always (and I mean black and white always) running late. I remember only the good parts. No more.
My memory of skiing was all good. I loved it. My pants always fit, I was never cold, I raced down the hill like Suzi Chapstick, and all was right with the world.
I think there is a reason our hair turns gray. To remind us that life is just like that. It’s in the muted tone, the everyday, the realness that we find peace.
The hallmark of being older and living without regret for me is being able to hold two complicated thoughts. Such as, I loved skiing and hated the cold. Or, swishing down the mountain, I felt free and yet carrying all that equipment was exhausting. And then, the breath of fresh air as I gathered speed was exhilarating, and the long wait on the lift line exhausting.
Being able to hold these two thoughts keeps me balanced and better able to look back on my life with deep gratitude.
Now I force myself to write a list. Two simple columns. Usually, on a bright yellow or pink sticky note. Sometimes I use a frilly heart shaped pad so I remember to love myself. On the left, I list what was great. On the right, what sucked. No sugarcoating, no long sentences. Just the facts, Ma’am.
Writing it down forces me to see it. To come face-to-face with the assessment I keep making in my head but never changing in my heart and keep saying, one day, one day. I needed to change that narrative.
Today was that day. I walked into the cold air and said, “I’m glad I’m not on a ski lift.” It’s the first day I didn’t beat myself up about not skiing.
Once the “it sucks” column gets longer than the “it’s great column,” I know I have to change my ways. And when I forget and start getting angry and mad at myself that I no longer do something I love, I can spend time, looking for the list and once I find it, being grateful for the memories.
Pro Tip: Use one notebook for these musings. Or create a file on your computer or a note on your phone. The easier it is to find them, the more you look at them, the more you will remember to have the balanced view. For me, that changed everything.
The truth is that I probably couldn’t ski if I wanted to. I am not in shape. And that was even before the pandemic. All the way up to my 40s I stayed in pretty good shape no matter the pounds I packed-on. And before ski season, extra wall squats, getting those thighs stronger than ever to go all day long, up and down the mountain, up and down the moguls, up and down from falling. At age 60 I was no longer even close to being in shape.
And there’s more. When the pandemic hit, people had to make a reservation for the lift. That was way too much pressure for me. What if I wanted to linger longer over my coffee, the dog needed extra time or I just couldn’t get out of bed – all possible and real scenarios. I mean, how long would it take me to get my tight ski pants on anyway? The truth for me today is, I’m just happy I can get down the steps and to the car without breaking my other hip. Having to get to a ski line appointment just isn’t something I am willing to tackle.
If you were reading carefully, you noticed I said, “get down the steps without breaking my other hip.” Yup, one of my hips was replaced at age 46. I like to tell everyone it was a ski accident. Then I break the news, it happened the night before, in the slippery sliding parking lot at the lodge. The truth is, skiing compounded the lack of cartilage in my hip, after pounding down moguls year after year. The high heels I lived in didn’t help, and the years of walking on sprained ankles compensating with my hip was a recipe for disaster.
Know your body’s current ability. One of the downfalls of my skiing career was that when I bought my last new pair of ski boots and all the supporting equipment, I chose what I would have skied best in when I was in my 20s and 30s. Fast blades, with a deep wood core and racing stance. That wasn’t what my body could handle anymore. Instead of me riding the skis, they were riding me. It was scary.
Enjoy what you are doing now, like walking barefoot, shoveling the snow, because not being able to do it, may be just around the corner. You know, I used to be quite the skier.
Is there an activity that you were good at but have had to give up? What did that feel like? What was the reason for giving up that activity or hobby?
Tags Reinventing Yourself