Better Than We Think We Are

I am in love with a human that spends pretty much every weekend-no matter the season-engaged in some sort of outdoor sport/activity. I find this curious, but it is also a type I recognize. I like sporty people, I was married to one for a long time. I’ve just never thought of myself as one. I’ve done some sporty things, but usually think of myself as sporty-adjacent.

Jess is an avid skier. Not only is he an avid skier, but he is a telemark skier. That’s like taking how hard skiing is already and then adding extra challenge to it. It’s hard. It’s like doing lunges on every turn. When I watch him tele turn it’s like watching ice dancers in the Olympics. I’m kinda in awe. He also spent decades of his life being a semi-professional kayaker (boater, to use his language) and owned a kayak shop in Denver for years. He has traveled the world to kayak whitewater and lead kayak trips. He has skied, biked, hiked and kayaked his way through the world and has devoted a lot of his recreational time to those pursuits.

We’re so cute.

So. I have listened to him talk about all of this with awe and admiration since we met.

In fact, I swiped right because he was wearing a bike helmet in his photo.

His boys are also adventure junkies, as they are being raised by him, and their mama is also into outdoor sports. They’ve all been talking about skiing and wanting to share it with me.

Now that my cancer treatments are over and my body has stabilized after radiation, I was finally ready to go. I went for the first time two weeks ago and had a really great day. Jess set the day up in such a way that would allow for as much support for me as possible. He curated the day, as well as someone can curate a sport based on weather. He and his boys’ mom arranged things so he could give me 1:1 attention after my class. They did this without even telling me, they just wanted to make it a good day for me. I had an awesome day. I smacked my head slipping on the lift on my last run and had some whiplash, but it resolved quickly.

Cancer has taught me some important things about tuning in to my body. There is no more “power through.” Instead it’s “my body is telling me __, so it’s time to rest.” So I took breaks when I could feel my attention waning and I spoke up when I needed to slow down. Everyone showed up for me and slowed the pace, too.

Today I returned. I didn’t want the last memory I had of a ski day to be hitting my head hard. I got this incredibly fancy new ski helmet on a shopping excursion with Jess. (Oh he also LOVES to shop. Only if it’s for sporting goods, though.) Last time I’d borrowed one of his, but it was too big.

Yeah, I fell over going too fast twice today, but recovered quickly. For my 2nd day skiing in my lifetime (I am not counting the one time I went at 19 and had no lesson and no idea what I was doing), I did pretty great. I can do turns and slow myself down and speed myself up. I can do S turns. And get off ski lifts. And walk uphill in ski boots. And carry my equipment without beaning someone in the head. And stand in ski boots (harder than you might think…), and put ski boots on and take them off. Oh, and sidle along the flats to the ski lift.

And a million other things experienced skiiers don’t realize you’re gonna have to learn because they forgot they had to learn it. But, I learned. I found myself creating this ongoing proficiency scale in my head for skiing milestones. Yes. I will 100% be using skiing/beginner mindset as teaching tool this week. Everything I do ends up being written about or taught about. It’s who I am.

The top of Miami Beach run, in Red Lodge

What I really want to say is a giant love letter thank you to my partner. For being the kind of expert that can take a back seat to show a newbie the ropes. For slowing down to be at my pace and to be alongside me as I learned. I am humbled by this act of love, and so grateful.

He’s also completely managed to convert me, and I will be skiing with him next season as often as I can. Perhaps this was his motive all along. I’m okay with this. I want to do fun things with him.

At the top of Miami Beach ski run. Yes, I made a buff out of an old Hop Valley tee from Eugene. Alpha Centauri!

Up on the mountain, all I thought about was skiing and my form. I didn’t think about work or the state of the world or things I have to accomplish. I thought about how my weight was shifting from one leg to the other and how I could feel a difference in the snow under my skis throughout the day with temperature change.

So it’s another shock of my lifetime to learn that I love to ski. I grew up in Montana, but until two weeks ago, had never skied in Montana.

We didn’t really do outdoor recreation as kids–living in the Yaak was the epitome of outdoor recreation. I guess when you live your life like that, close to the earth, extremely remote…seeking adventure seems a little unnecessary.

I am reminded of a movie that Jess and I watched this week called Captain Fantastic on Netflix. Oh this movie wrecked me in the best ways. It also reminded me of my parents and the Yaak in the best ways.

I’m full of gratitude and hopefulness today. Spending time in the Beartooth Mountains in the winter shook a belief I had about myself loose and got left on the ground at the bottom of the hill. I am not bad at sports. I am just a beginner.

Being a beginner is powerful.

I’m owning it.


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