A wonderful thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that you have the ability to go play in the snow without having to live with it everyday. This past weekend, I was invited to go cross country skiing with some friends, and I jumped at the opportunity.
One of my primary practices I use to work toward wellness and joy is moving my body, and being able to do so outside is my preference. Skiing in the mountains seemed like a perfect opportunity. I had skis in the closet gathering dust and my whole Saturday free. My companions and I piled into the car in the early morning and drove two hours into the mountains.
I am always amazed at the sheer scale of the mountains in the Cascades. Where I grew up, the “mountains” I encountered were mere small hills compared to the gargantuan peaks of the Cascades. The day was a little gray, but clear. A light fog hung over the mountains, creating an eerie beauty. As we approached our destination, my spirits were high, and I was proud of myself. Look at me. Out on an adventure.
The ski trail was long, but I didn’t mind. I knew I was a bit rusty, but I was filled with adrenaline and fresh mountain air. It didn’t matter that I wouldn’t ski perfectly. I was outside on a beautiful winter day. What could go wrong?
The first leg or our journey was uphill, but I was ready to give this my all. I glided (shuffled) along well with my companions, and marveled at the sparkling winter scene before me. Life, indeed, was good.
We reached the end of the trail, and a large hill greeted us. Getting up this hill would be difficult, and I knew for me, who never learned how to downhill ski, getting down would be next to impossible. My confidence began to waver. But I still pigeon-toed my way up, caught up in the romance of adventure.
Then came the time to head back to the trailhead.
My overconfidence got the best of me. I attempted to ski down the steep hill without knowing the proper technique. I went right into a snowbank. My ego was slightly bruised as I walked down the remainder of the hill and put my skis back on.
I continued down the trail and soon realized the way back was going to be steeper than I thought. I stayed on my skis and tried to get down one hill after another, only to lose control and fall hard over and over. My friends were kind, patient, and tried to teach me the proper technique, but I was too rattled and embarrassed to really absorb what I was being taught. I slowly made it back to the trailhead with a mixture of skiing, flailing, falling, and walking, all while trying my best to prevent an anxiety attack.
By the time I got to the bottom, my sense of adventure, my pride, and my confidence in myself were completely gone. I was humiliated and in pain. As I write this, I have a welt on my hip the size of a softball. I remember now why I had been letting my skis collect dust.
I am not a thrill seeker. I was not even one when I was a kid. Losing control of my body and seeing all the ways it can be injured is a sure-fire way for me to have an anxiety attack. However, I am determined to learn something from this experience.
I have decided to use this as an opportunity to practice reframing. My instinct is to consider the outing a failure since it did not go as I expected, but I know that is just my automatic negative thinking caused by depression. What if I analyze the negative thoughts and reframe them into something positive? For example:
Negative thought: My negative emotions from falling ruined the whole experience. Reframe: Emotions are temporary and are not good or bad. I also had “positive” emotions during the experience. It is natural for emotions to ebb and flow.
Negative Thought: I should have handled the anxiety better. Reframe: I recognized the anxiety and breathed through it as best as I could. I was not able to get myself to try every hill, but I managed to work through my anxiety enough to get to the end of the trail.
Negative Thought: Everyone thought I was a fool. Reframe: Other skiers cared for my well being and wanted me to succeed in getting back to the trailhead. If they did think I was a fool, it is because they do not know all my other skills and abilities.
Adventures are good for us, and they are not supposed to be easy and go perfectly. There are always lessons to learn from them. However, they should not cause significant physical or psychological stress.
I am not sure if I will go skiing again anytime soon, but I won’t give up on my goal of getting outside more. Hiking and walking suit me well. If I do decide to go on another challenging adventure, I will try to not get wrapped up in the romance of it all and be honest with myself and others of my abilities.
Here’s to all you adventurers, taking chances, reaching new heights, and literally falling on your bums over and over. May you find wellness and joy as you grow.