Monday #29: Determination

Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life– think of it, dream of it, live in that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. ~Swami Vivekananda

Well, Daylight Savings time is here, which means Spring is almost here, which means ski season is almost over. We anticipate that next weekend could likely be our last trek onto the slopes before the big thaw. If you have been following my blog during the last year, you know that last winter I went skiing for the very first time. While I am an athletic person who enjoys endurance activities of all sorts, I have some serious fears of heights and of speed. I also fought with my feet and legs and constantly struggled to get them parallel so that I could make turns more easily and graduate to some more advanced runs.  All in all, skiing did not come naturally to me and, while I always felt like I could kind of do it, it took an enormous amount of physical and psychological focus every time I went down a slope. I was slow and I fell a lot.

Because I was beginner all last year, I did most of my skiing alone. No one wants to wait ten minutes at the bottom for slow girl.  At lunch, I would meet back up with Jeff and the kids and they would report on their top speeds and all the black diamond trails they’d done already that morning. Soon my kids were reaching speeds of over  50 m.p.h. and learning how to ski backwards and I was still stating, very matter-of-factly, that I was happy on the green trails and would never do a black, never ever. Then I would go back out and spend the afternoon trying so hard not to snowplow through every turn, my quads toasted by the end of the day. Jeff says you should never say you aren’t going to do something just because, at the moment, you can’t.

Despite all of this, I turned in my seasonal rentals and furthered my commitment by buying my own equipment. I guess I figured that even if I never went beyond being a beginner, I wasn’t going to let this sport totally whoop my ass. Plus, it’s a whole season of weekend fun that I didn’t want to miss out on and my children were completely hooked.


So, this year, I have skied twenty days already and there are two things that have completely changed this game for me.  Somewhere after the few first weekends, Jeff started skiing with me instead of the kids. I have no idea why but I’m glad because this is probably when things really started to change. The night before this happened, however, I’d been online desperately looking for some new insight on parallel skiing and found this video which really addressed some of the mechanics I wasn’t getting quite right. Armed with a new approach to think about and practice, I had a new sense of determination so, when Jeff urged me onto some steep blue slopes, I went with a little less trepidation and a little more confidence. Maybe, I thought, I could dial this up a notch.


Now, there is a weird moment of terror when you get to the edge of the slope, just before you go down. The feeling inside of you as you see the view down from this place, the precipice, is one that conjures up all your resistance and fears, combined with the fact that you know once you go over that edge, the only way down is, well, down. I’ve tried to capture the visual perception of it on camera but it just doesn’t quite translate to what you really feel when you are there, which is intense. If you’ve ever stood at the edge of anything very tall and steep then you know what I am talking about. Jeff says you cannot let the precipice scare you from the slope.

But, I was able to do the blues and even gain some speed. When I got to the bottom at the lift, Jeff remarked that I was only a couple minutes behind him! A few weeks later in NY, I did my first black diamond, Belleayre Run. And I did not fall.

Last weekend, Jeff and I tackled a scavenger hunt at Killington Mountain in VT. We were overly ambitious (or, I should say he was overly ambitious) and signed up for the “advanced” course instead of the “intermediate.” We also made a critical error in designing our strategy map for hitting all the checkpoints and had our butts handed to us on a black diamond called Royal Flush that was in a natural, ungroomed state, full of rocks and moguls and covered in ice. I think that my newfound success, however, changed the voice of my inner critic from an insulting and degrading one to a drill sergeant who screamed at me somewhere in the middle to put my skis back on, get up off my hiney, quit sniveling and get down the damn hill! I won’t tell you exactly how much time this little activity cost us but let’s just say we could have won the prize for the last team to come in. It was humbling to say the least and gave me a real understanding of how mastering moguls are going to take a different kind of practice!

Screen Shot 2014-03-09 at 10.05.10 PM

But, now something had happened in both my body and my brain. Skiing was finally starting to feel natural to me. I was going to the precipice and not feeling that paralyzing terror. I began to actually want the challenge of something more difficult. I was enjoying the feeling of conquering these slopes. The next day, just before the lifts closed, Jeff and I, both double diamond virgins, did Cascade.


Yeah. I’m a double black diamond skier.


Over time, a bit of good advice, practice, renewed determination and the encouragement of another led to real success. Skiing, like running, has become a metaphor for my life and has taught me many things about myself and how to approach the moments in my life where fear and lack of confidence can creep in. I’m about to really use this vibe in upcoming weeks where I will be immersed in something professional that is very new and pretty overwhelming to me because my skills are few and fresh. I’m determined to approach this with a sense of adventure, though. Heights and speed are, after all, just another thing to conquer.

TRY THIS WEEK: Don’t let the precipice scare you from the slope.

About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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