Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Fearful Self

I used to see myself as a fearless girl, the girl who wasn't afraid of anything that could happen to her (only afraid of what could happen to her siblings!). I thought that being good at something would take time and practice (and it does) and if I was having trouble doing it, then I just hadn't done the right amount of practise yet. But I have come to realize that sometimes it wasn’t about needing more practise, it was about being scared of the next level. I would tell myself "I'm not scared of anything that could happen to me, I just need to spend more time at this”. But that wasn't it at all. Sometimes I would hold myself back and let my fear control me.

Here is the story of how I have come to realize that:

This winter, my whole family went skiing at a resort. It was kind of like a village, but we were right on a mountain. We were there to ski, but I didn’t know how.

So the first day me, Noel (9) and Joseph (11) were in lessons all day learning how to ski. The teacher took it slowly. She taught us one thing at a time. We started on little hills, then went to bigger hills. Even though all day we were progressing to bigger hills, the boys kept saying things like "Can't wait ‘til we're on our own tomorrow" or "She's holding us back!".

Of course, all my two brothers talked about the next morning was what trail we were going to conquer first. I realized I wasn't as ambitious as they were. I wasn't sure why, so I just put it out of my head.

When we went to go on the ski lift that second day, the guy in charge of the ski lift told me I couldn't go on because my tag wasn't working; I had to go get a new one. As I turned to leave, Joseph and Noel said "Can we go up without you?" I told them that I didn't like the idea of them skiing without someone watching them and I would be back soon.

But it took a lot longer than I thought to get a new one.

Frustrated with waiting, the two boys decided it wouldn’t do any harm to go up without me. (Typical.)

I came back to the ski lift and they were gone. I started worrying.

Were they waiting for me at the top of the hill?

Were they just about to come down the hill?

What if they had decided to go on a different trail?

What if one of them had hurt himself?

Were they running around the village looking for me?

And finally: What the heck was I going to do now?

I decided that the most likely scenario was that they had either gone down without me a few times and were now waiting for me at the top, or they were on their way down.

I decided to go up on the ski lift and watch for them below on the hill. If I saw them, I would call to them and make them wait for me.

I kept telling myself "I'm not scared of this hill! I'm only anxious because something could have happened to my brothers!" Well I went up the hill on the ski lift and watched for them, but couldn’t find them anywhere. (Little did I know I was looking at the wrong trail!)

When I got to the top and got off the lift, I was more scared then ever. "Where are they? What do I do now?" I thought to myself.

I wanted to stay up there and wait for them to find me, but by this time I knew that they would be looking for me at the bottom. I had to go down. Alone. Without anyone. So very slowly I skied (or really, slid) down the hill, not thinking to make nice turns or even keep my skis nicely side by side for that matter. I just kept repeating under my breath “Got to get down, got to get down.”

I fell. I rolled down part of the hill. I got covered in snow. I lost a ski.

When I finally stopped rolling, I took off my second ski (so I could run back up the hill to where my first ski was and collect my other one). I tried to put it on but I was in the middle of a steep section and kept sliding. I trudged down the steep section to a flatter area so I could get it on. By then I had a lot of snow on my boots and my silly skis, so it took me a few tries to get the snow off of everything so that I could click in. It took a long time. I was already hot and tired.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I was temporarily insane.

So in no time, there I was again, a big ball of fear rolling down the hill. This time both skis fell off. People were starting to look at me like: "Lady, if you can't ski then what are you doing here?"

I would just look back at them like: "I don't know. I must be crazy."

“I didn't know the trail was so hard! Where were those monkey-brothers of mine? Were they starting to worry about ME? I was starting to worry about ME!”

I got back my skis and tried to put them back on.

Of course, they were covered in snow, and I was in the middle of yet another steep section. I was tired. I didn't want to have to go through that mess I had to go through before to get my skis on. Worst of all, I didn't know how many more times I was going to fall. And lose my skis. And have to go get them. And have to put them back on. And have to try to ski another steep section. Just to fall again.

Now I knew I was scared. I realized that I had been scared all day. And maybe even starting the day before. I was scared of skiing down big hills. I was scared of going fast. I was scared that if I went downhill and started going fast, then I wouldn’t be able to stay in control and that I would have a bad bad fall and get really hurt. I was scared to die on that hill. Alone.

I really didn't want to be there anymore.

I started thinking about walking all the way down the hill, but knew that it would take hours to get down.

There had to be a better way.

Then I remembered everything I had been hearing about control, not only the day before in ski lessons, but everything I had been taught in figure skating as well. Was the reason I was messing up because I had no control?

I knew how to be in control; I had been figure skating for so long. And I had had some control the day before, in lessons.

I realized that I was giving all of my focus to my fear, and not really focusing on skiing well. Maybe I could overcome my fear and focus on control and form.

Deep down, I wanted to be able to ski. I wanted to go find Joseph and Noel. I decided that I would try again but, this time try smarter.

So I did put thoses skis back on. I pushed off down the hill, careful to make every twist and turn perfectly (or somewhat perfectly). I started gaining speed and having a bit of trouble, but I was on my way down and determined to reach the glorious bottom.

And that's how I finally got down.

I found my brothers who were waiting for me and told them not to leave like that again.

They told me that they had gone down the hill a few times then decided to wait for me, at the bottom. By then I was already lining up for the ski lift. Ready to try again. Ready to go fast. Downhill. Better. Ready to push past my fear, remember my lessons, and make it to the next level. (Preferably better than my brothers.)

Now I have a new way of learning. I call it "Best effort even when scared to bits".

This means that whether I’m scared or not, I’m going to try to keep my cool and try my hardest in everything.
And it works! Not only did I have a great time skiing for the rest of the trip, I just passed the next figure skating test!