What is the opposite of impatience?

Smooth, slowing down, trusting…

These things all sound desirable—except when your skies are pointing straight down a mountain. At that moment my shoulders rise to my chin. I become obsessed with my feet. Staring at my skis, I quickly jolt my entire body to parallel my skies to the mountain to slow down. This movement feels like I am violently organizing my body to avoid a large bus that ran a red light.

My ski instructor, Jeff, tells me that I am making jerky, uncoordinated movements with my body. His diagnosis is that I am freaking out in the middle of my turn when my skies are about to pick up speed. So the shape of my skiing resembles choppy Z’s versus long silky S’s.

Jeff recommended counting to 2 before turning. Can I just be a little more patient?

I am thinking, “Dear 35 year old Jeff, with all due respect, I am an accomplished and graceful tennis player. At age 57, I know how to be patient, thank you very much! And, dear Jeff—can you attempt to put yourself in my shoes with your request for patience? I am afraid of speed. Two women I know of similar age are recovering from broken toes and ribs they received just from tripping on the floor at home, and here I am, braving a steep slick hill?” 

Pessimistic thoughts enter my head such as, “What if I lose control and hit that huge tree?” “What if I fall on my bad hip?”

The healed bruise on my right hip is still floating through in my head. A month earlier, when skiing in the Catskills Mountains in New York, I did three runs and managed to hit an icy spot and fell hard on the right side of my butt. Of course, it was the same spot I landed on a decade ago.

I managed to ski off the mountain to First Aid and spent the rest of the morning sitting on an ice bag.

Over the next 24 hours a bright purple bruise the size of a small Frisbee emerged. I felt a small ache with every step.

I found myself a month later in Snowmass, Colorado, with the memory of that “purple Frisbee” bruise and my skies pointing down a bigger mountain.

Jeff smiled and asked, “Remember Mission Impossible?” The howling wind drowned out the rest of his advice, but somehow that TV show theme propelled me to see myself as James Bond, racing through the trees. Of course I am a patient James Bond doing nice long S turns.

As I hum the Mission Impossible song, I count “1 and 2”  and start to feel my breathing again. My shoulders retreat, my neck re-emerges, and I can feel my ankles flex against my boots. Negative thoughts about my purple frisbee fly away. I am looking down the mountain aiming for the big tree versus staring at my feet.  As I swoosh around the tree, I feel myself gracefully gliding down the mountain.

My confidence builds as the day goes on. How did Jeff get me out of my fear funk?  

When I engage in activities that trigger fear, I struggle to let go of past hurts and enjoy the moment. Here I am in Colorado with incredible mountain vistas, bluebird days, and the thrill of swooshing down nicely groomed slopes, but all this old baggage is jumping on my back!  

Of course, it’s not just the purple Frisbee that is pushing the fear button—it’s the fact that I am in the middle of swinging on that trapeze to a new life. I am finally emerging from the grieving process and making changes to my business and life. Most recently, I have let go of a key client to make room to finish a new book and doing more coaching and teamwork. Given that I am self-employed, these changes are critical to keeping me delighted and engaged in my work.

Yet these changes are as scary to me as pointing my skies straight down the mountain.

I realize that skiing is making me face my fears. And Jeff is making me laugh at myself, and imagine a new future—one where when I am scared, I need to get out of my head and tap into other senses. Sing a song. Breathe. Release your shoulders. Imagine yourself as confident as James Bond skiing down a mountain (hopefully without someone shooting at him).

As I start to relax and gain confidence, I accept my fears and realize that I don’t need to prove anything. My usual MO in life is to push hard and challenge myself: ski those black diamonds, try the moguls. But challenging myself doesn’t feel energizing right now. So I chose to ski easier runs and enjoy the views, the fresh air, and the thrill of swooshing down the mountain.

I leave my five day ski vacation without one fall. My skiing is smoother and more patient. And I feel more confident. I realize that for me to navigate fear, I need to lower the bar and seek guidance. Otherwise, the purple Frisbee images park themselves in my brain, saying it is time to quit this crazy sport.

Returning home, I feel clearer and more sure of the changes I am making in my professional life. When I feel afraid, I just need to slow things down, take baby steps, and ask for help. And, of course, hum the Mission Impossible theme while images of James Bond dance in my head.

 

 

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