It’s been a long, long time since I have had to physically pick myself up over and over again. Learning how to snowboard quickly reminded my body how to fall – sometimes gracefully, sometimes not – and what it feels like to absorb the impact of your full weight hitting the ground, at speed.
It takes everything you’ve got to get up just one more time than you fall. Sometimes I sat there in the snow, on the slope, laughing that I almost got it, almost made that heel-side turn. When I felt something new – ohh this is how it feels – I got the hang of what it feels like to feel right, balanced and grooving with gravity. The muscles are working, relaxed but not taxed, and your head is up, looking exactly where you want to go. Follow through with your eyes, my instructor said.
I couldn’t believe the power of this small epiphany: being locked in visually aligned everything else – the weight beneath your feet, the power of your legs, the balance of your arms and hands, and the ease in which you cruised across the mountain. Getting into and out of turns is where everything changes, transitioning from toe-side to heel-side, heel-side to toe-side. I strung together plenty of good runs by the end of the day, but until then I almost always fell on that heel-side turn, and put together an equally beautiful string a falls that got me nowhere. For a good half hour, all I did was fall and get up, fall and get up.
This was a new type of getting knocked down for me; that is, no one pushed or shoved, took a cheap shot or made a jab – literally or figuratively. There was no one to fight back or respond to. And so, the place I rise from is different. It’s not self-defense, it’s self-belief. And sometimes you have to let the doubt in, sit with it, as I did, overwhelmed with fatigue and frustration, that I found myself crying underneath my mirrored goggles. Just give me a minute, I said.
Trying new things, by yourself, has been the great adventure of my adult life so far, but sometimes it can feel incredibly lonely. There is a deep responsibility for giving yourself the experiences you want to live; in fact, no one has given me what I have given myself. Every time I step into the unknown, I am terrified and nervous but more often than not, it’s beyond rewarding, surprising in ways I never could have imagined – and that is what I trust. But it also means you’re the only one who can get yourself out of trouble or figure things out as you go, and today I felt the gravity of picking myself up – and having to do so for years – over and over again.
I know there was some sadness in those tears, too.
And then I got up and had the best run of the day, all the way down the mountain.