I am standing on a steep ski slope. The sky is clear and blue. The sun is glorious. Fresh powder from the night before. But I don’t notice any of those things because of how terrified I am. This is not the run I bargained for when I signed up for ski lessons. My teacher is busy talking to another student–trying to get her to take the plunge I’m resisting. Taking a deep breath, I turn my skis left and traverse across the middle of the run, feeling more and more scared with every crunch of snow I hit. Finally I turn my skis uphill to stop. I haven’t made it any farther down the hill. Instead, I’ve managed to make it to the other side! I want to cry! ‘Breathe Me Ra. Just breathe. You are the one who chose your word for 2011. You signed up for this.’
My word for 2011? Yes, that word. The word that got me into this predicament? One word.
You should hear me say “adaptability”. It’s such a foreign word to my life that I can’t even say it without sounding like I have marbles in my mouth. I also can’t spell it without spell check dinging me. But that’s all going to change this year. In 2011, I want to strengthen my ability to adapt. This has two parts for me. One, it recognizes that life changes unexpectedly (no matter how Type A I am), and the unexpected changes require me to adapt–not resist the change, turn my back to it, and fight it tooth and nail–but simply adapt. Just adapt. Simple, right? (yeah, right)
So why not start before the year ends! That’s what I thought last week. We packed up the kids and headed to Mt. Hood, OR. Brian’s dad owns a ski store, Hillcrest Ski and Sports, in Gresham, OR. (He is sixty years old and still racing!) When he and Brian suggested I take a refresher ski class, I thought, “Yes! Downhill skiing is a sport that requires adaptability since you never know what the snow conditions will feel like. You’ve also got to adapt to the skiers and snowboarders around you (and those rotten little kids who zoom by you like speed skiing is no big deal)! Skiing is all about needing to stay loose and adapt. Why not sign up for a class that will challenge and force me to adapt!”
Good grief! Back to the slope where this blog starts.
I’m frozen in place. This run is way too steep. And now I’m frustrated for putting myself in this position. As I stand there with my ski tips pointed uphill, beating myself up, feeling more and more anxious, my ski instructor skis up to me.
“Me Ra. Why is your BACK facing your fear? Do you think that if you look the other way, literally turn your back on it, that will make your fear go away?”
Yes. He really said that. And it didn’t stop there. With a loud voice and total authority, he said; “Me Ra, I know you are afraid. I know this run is steeper than you are comfortable with, but if you dare attempt to go down this run with your back facing it, this is for sure, you WILL lose your balance, you WILL feel unsteady, you WILL become even more scared and you WILL probably fall pretty hard.”
Then his voice calmed and in a gentle tone he said, “Me Ra, the only way to tackle your fear is to face it “face-on”. You’ve got to keep your shoulders square and facing downhill. And you’ve not only got to face it Me Ra, but you’ve got to do one more thing. You’ve got to lean into it. You need to lean forward into what you fear most and go down. It’s going to feel aggressive for what your comfort level is but this is how you ski a run like this. Then I promise, with your shoulders facing downhill, and your weight leaning forward, you will find your balance, find a steadiness and experience the thrill of skiing.”
Pause. Did anyone hear it? Not only do I need to face the very thing I’m afraid of, but I need to aggressively lean into it. Ahhhh! Why is this true for EVERY THING we fear! Why is it not enough just to face our fears?!
Adaptability. That was my word. Excuse me. That is my word for 2011. That’s why I signed up for a challenging ski lesson. I wanted to be pushed beyond the runs I was comfortable with. I wanted to be forced to learn how to adapt to situations I wasn’t prepared for and witness that I could adapt, and not only survive, but become stronger.
Here are the simple facts for me. I don’t look for change. I prefer to avoid change at all costs. So when change happens, like it or not, I have little practice at how to adapt to it. Those adaptability muscles don’t get used on a consistent basis. (And I wonder why they aren’t very strong or prepared when they are needed.) Instead of recognizing that I don’t use them enough, I assume I’m not cut out for what I’m attempting. I must be dreaming too big, or fooling myself. Wouldn’t this dream building be smoother if I was meant for it? (Not at all.) Anyone hear me?
This changes in 2011. This year, I’m going to find different ways to practice being adaptable. I’m going to give myself ways to strengthen those adaptability muscles. Whether it’s skiing down a steep run or swimming in open water that is dark and murky. The question: What can I do where I’m aware of how “out of control” I feel, so that I can practice adapting?
Why do this at all? I want to trust myself better. By the end of 2011, I want to have built a deeper trust with myself for when real life brings real unexpected change. Running your own business is made up of endless situations that require us to adapt. Being a parent is the same way. But often these situations feel so high in stress because of how high the stakes feel AND how low our hours are for strengthening our adaptability muscles. So instead of hiding behind my pillow and waiting for that scary thing called change to leave me alone, I’m going to work these adaptability muscles and do my best to prepare for all that change brings.
What did I do on the slopes that day?
I stood there, looking dumbfounded at my ski instructor, feeling like God himself was speaking to me. Then I was frustrated that I still wasn’t any farther down the run, regardless of how inspiring he was. I said some bad words in my head. I considered crying but figured it wouldn’t get me any farther down the hill and eventually, I ended up deciding to face my shoulders forward and lean into my fear. Even though my ski instructor said to expect it, I didn’t…I really did feel more solid on those two skis then ever before. I felt total balance and steadiness. And the thrill…well the thrill was so exciting that I did that run three more times before the day ended (even though my own rotten kids still whizzed by me!).
Adaptability friends. I want to become a woman that trusts her ability to adapt. I think I’m realizing this comes from tried and true practice, instead of being something I was born with.
That’s where I am headed for 2011! Want to join me?