Sunday, April 6, 2014

Conquering old fears: Leaving the bunny hill behind

Last weekend, I experienced the exhilaration of conquering a three-decade fear
when I left the bunny hill behind, rode the chair lift and skied down a big hill.
Yes, I fell. Multiple times. But I got up again and kept going.

Has a terrifying experience while trying something new paralyzed you from getting "back on the horse?"

At age 19, I had a frightening first experience on a ski slope that kept me from alpine skiing for 34 years. Apparently, I'm not the first woman who has been dragged up a ski lift by a well-meaning boyfriend without first having a lesson on the basics. I didn't know how to turn, slow down or stop.

However, I did know how to scream at a decibel level that registered in the next county. After nearly tumbling off the ski lift, I fell all the way down the mountain, screaming in terror. My sister, Judy, was working outside in the ski resort's restaurant that day and recognized my scream echoing from the top of the mountain all the way down to the lodge.

That horrific experience kept me from the slopes for 34 years.

Last winter, Kirby, a certified ski instructor and my significant other, taught me to snowplow, turn, stop, control my speed. On the itty-bitty hill, he skied backward in front of me, coaxing me down the hill. On the way back up, I rode the magic carpet lift with the other beginners, all younger than me by decades.

Next, I rode up the handle tow and snowplowed slowly down the bunny hill. Again, Kirby skied backward in front of me, encouraging me all the way down. After several runs, he asked if I was ready for the chair lift, but I wasn't. That fear of falling still gripped me. I skied the bunny hill all weekend.

This ski season, I was determined to conquer my fear. Kirby told me people don't fall off the chair lift. But I'm accomplished at falling. If anyone could fall off the chair lift, it would be me.

After I made two successful runs down the bunny hill, Kirby asked if I was ready for the chair lift. I gulped, but nodded. I knew I had to face my fear. As we skied toward the chair lift, I boosted my confidence with positive self-talk: "You are a Mighty Woman dragon boat paddler. You've done zip lining, stand up paddle board and belly dancing. You can do this."

Kirby coached me on how to hold my poles in one hand, grab the chair lift with the other hand and sit down. I had a klutzy nanosecond and accidentally dropped one of my poles. But the snowboarder behind us picked up my pole and took it to the top of the lift for me.

As we approached the point to get off the chair lift, Kirby calmly coached me again: "Stand up, go into a snowplow and ski to the right."

Although my heart was beating wildly, I did it--and I didn't fall!

Kirby took me down the easiest run, coaching me down the mountain. For the most part, I did OK, snowplowing extremely slowly in a wide zig-zag. But when skiers and snowboarders began zipping around me, I panicked, lost my nerve and fell. Multiple times. I became an expert at getting up.

But then I reminded myself: "You've got this! You're the girl with the dragon tattoo! You can do this."

That positive self-talk--and knowing how to control my skis--made all the difference. So did Kirby's calm encouragement. On the second day, I even did some parallel turns.

Then my legs got tired and I started falling again. On my last run of the weekend, we went down a hill that ended with a fast, straight stretch all the way down to the lodge.

In reality, I wasn't skiing that fast, but to me, it seemed I was zooming down the mountain. The best part was that I felt in complete control--and I didn't scream or fall. But I'm sure I smiled.

Next year, I'm going to parallel ski all the way down the mountain.

No comments:

Post a Comment