so i went snowboarding. at 40. in dubious physical condition. and i didn't die.
along with a whole host of other things i vowed never to do, snowboarding was always at the top of the list. i'm not a snow sports kinda girl. i don't enjoy adventure of the icy fast kind. it's just how i don't roll.
but my husband LOVED snowboarding when he did it. and the duke joined the snowboarding club at school and learned how and LOVES it. and wingman has always wanted to try it. so i said great, they can all go together!
but then i started thinking about it and i realized that if they were all off doing something fun together that i wanted to be part of it. as the duke gets older his interests become more his own. fueled by invitations from other kids and the interests of his peer group. and i started thinking about how much i want to have something fun to do with him. separate from the parent/child things we do. something that wasn't eating dinner together or running errands or helping him study for his tests. i want a bridge with him. a shared interest. especially as he begins the age appropriate process of separation from us. so. i made the decision to learn to snowboard.
and yes. it was the worst decision i ever made. it sucked. it hurt. i hit my head. i fell on my ass. i simply could not understand anything the instructor was saying. he was kind and patient and bless his heart for holding my ass up for longer than anyone should have to. and thank god he was a big guy. and that i didn't get the hippie bird lady instructor. but i just didn't get it.
what am i doing here i wondered more than once. i can walk away from this right now. and should, i reminded myself more than once. nobody would think ill of me. i tried. it was hard. i could. i could walk away.
it started with the boots. the learning curve with the boots happened in the bathroom when i went to pee. did you know your ankles don't move in snowboarding boots? yeah, see, i didn't know this. i discovered it when i landed on my bare ass. hard. bruise #1 of the day.
the goddess mother decided to take the class with me. her two kids and wingman were all taking instruction, too. we gathered up. and right then i saw a penny lying on the ground. stupidly i took it as a lucky sign. but after the debacle in the bathroom i didn't dare try to bend over and pick it up. we headed out. and from the minute that board was strapped to my feet i had no fucking clue what was going on. it's like everything that instructor said was in a whole other language. i was completely out of my element. i fell and hit my head so hard i thought i was a goner. okay. not really. but i thought it might get me out of the rest of the lesson.
meanwhile the goddess mother is totally awesome. she's falling, but she's getting it. i could not get it. and i could not even stand up on the board without the instructor holding me up. and the minute the board started to move a fear gripped me like nothing else. i was 100% out of my element with no control whatsoever.
i discovered i did not like inclines or speed. just as i suspected. and told myself all my life. i couldn't even *get up* off of the snow let alone mosey down an incline without intense fear and a total fucking wipeout. what in the fuck was i doing out there i kept asking myself. what am i doing to my body. this is so hard. and i am so scared.
it was my mantra all morning. i called it the mantra of the damned.
then right at the end of the lesson i discovered two things:
#1 i was getting up the hard way. as in not able to get up at all. i kept trying it the hard way and the instructor didn't push me to do it the easy way. he just kept pulling me up. i discovered the other way was the easy way. and if you saw the 'easy' way you'd laugh your ass off. easy, no. easier, yes. so. i could get up. finally.
#2 i was riding all wrong. i was leading with the hand i write with like they told me. but that's not the dominant side of my body. i was riding regular when i should have been riding 'goofy.' truer words...anyway. i discovered this by complete and total accident when the instructor let me go and i lost all control and got turned leading in the 'wrong' direction. and even though i was out of control and had no clue what in the hell i was doing, it was the first time that day i didn't feel total abject fear. and then i got going too fast and wiped out so spectacularly and painfully. good thing that fence was there.
so. i could get up. and i wasn't riddled with total abject fear. baby steps. jesus.
it was lunchtime and i didn't know whether to cry or throw up. i was so miserable. despite that small bit of progress i could not understand why i would put myself through this. this is awful, i said. this is expensive and horrible and why people do it i don't know, i said. and the pain, the pain i said. i was near tears the whole time we ate lunch.
but you sure look cute in your gear, my husband said.
my father would say that's half the battle, i answered. cracking the first real smile of the day.
so after lunch no more lesson. but my husband said he'd work with me. we switched my bindings around so i could ride goofy. and even though i could now get up, i just slid. i had no control at all. i could understand my husband in a way i didn't understand the instructor, but i wasn't getting it. at all. i sent him off with the duke to have some fun. wingman was getting the hang of it and there's the goddess mother heading up to go down the big hill!
her little kids were kinda done and so was i. i'll just hang here with them, i said. at the bottom. safe.
and i watched wingman doing it. from the bottom. safe.
i did this for awhile. and then i did it for longer.
and then i got mad. mad at myself. because i stuck myself at the bottom of the hill. because that's what i do. that's what i've done. my whole life. played it safe. down at the bottom. i don't risk anything that way. not public embarrassment. not failure. not doing something hard that i may be horrible at. when everyone around me is good at it. i stay in the boundaries i draw for myself.
which is what my father did. his whole life. until he fucking didn't. and went off every rail there was, never finding a balance. and i got very angry. for falling into that (the boundaries around, not the going off the rails.) and i thought about that lucky penny on the ground i didn't pick up because i was afraid of falling. god dammit. here i am again. here. and i looked up into the sky and i said, dad. i'm gonna do this. please watch over me. because i'm really scared.
and so i grabbed my board and hiked up the stupid little incline. and i sat at the top and strapped on my board. and it took forever to get the bindings all squared away. and then i dug the top of the board, with me strapped into it, into the snow and hoisted myself up and over and landed on my knees. and then i got up. the easy way. and i used my toes and dug the edge of the board in the snow and i didn't move. i got up and i wasn't sliding. how i did that i will never know, but something clicked. and i understood the words of the instructor. finally.
but now i was facing the hill with my back to the bottom of the incline and i needed to turn around. so i went easy. tiny movements. and i saw wingman. WHAT DO I DO NOW i shouted down. TALK ME THROUGH THIS. he told me to bend my knees, and reminded me what my husband had told us both, lean your shoulder in the direction you want to go. so. i did. and i wiped out and slid. and it hurt. but i made it a few inches, with no one holding me up before i fell. baby steps.
i got out of my bindings and grabbed the board and hiked back up the incline. and i went through it all again. and i got up. and i didn't slide. but i couldn't figure out how to get down the hill without falling.
and then i remembered what my husband said before leaving me to go to the chair lift. he told me that i was thinking too much about stopping. stopping and how to stop. that i needed to think more about moving. how to keep moving. how to move down the incline.
so. i did. i thought about moving. and then i was. and i bent my knees and leaned my shoulder in the direction i wanted to go. and i was about to wipe out but i was able to touch the ground and push myself back up. and i made it down the stupid little incline. and fell spectacularly at the bottom. and heard wingman cheering me on.
i got out of my bindings and grabbed the board and hiked back up the incline. and i made it up. and i made it down. and i fell. a bunch of times. more than a girl my age should be falling. but i made it up and down and i did it.
it was hard. and it sucked. and then i got it. and it was still hard. but it didn't suck. and i wasn't afraid anymore.
i have spent a lot of my life afraid. afraid of trying and doing. afraid of looking stupid. or being bad at something. i limit myself with ideas i have about what i can and cannot do. i hide behind an old neck injury that actually doesn't bother me anymore. i hide behind my age. my physical shape. i hide.
what i don't do enough of is tell myself about the times i haven't hid. about the times i took the leap of faith. made the jump. sometimes literally. the times i tried. i jumped out of an airplane i said 'i do' twice i held the hand of a dying friend and watched her take her last breath i gave birth a second time after nearly dying the first i forgave the person who hurt me the absolute most in the world i lost my house and found my way forward i lost my father and i'm still getting up everyday.
i don't want to live the next half of my life at the bottom of the hill. where it's safe. where i have convinced myself i belong. because it's easier that way.
because the thing is, it isn't any fun. because more often than not, you're down there by yourself. and i can't build that bridge of shared interests with my rapidly growing older kids if i'm down at the bottom.
so we decided we were done for the day. and as i was taking off my board i looked up and saw the guy who had been running the magic carpet along the incline (which i did not ride thank you very much) giving me a thumbs up. he had been watching silently the whole time i was huffing it up and down the incline. all the times i was cursing and near tears and falling and then not.
and after we turned in our gear and were leaving i walked over to where i had seen the penny earlier. and sure enough there it still was. and i decided it was indeed lucky. and i picked it up. and said what you say when you pick up a lucky penny. and i thought about my father. about how he didn't try and how he did. and i thanked him for helping me get down that incline. all the inclines he helped me down.
and the ones he helped me up.
and i missed him profoundly right in that moment. and i was so proud of myself right in that moment.
so. i guess i've picked up snowboarding. at 40. just like that.
and it turns out it was one of the best decisions i've ever made.
and like my father would say, isn't that something?