time to say good-bye, old buddy, old pal
There are few things in life as blissful as sitting in a chalet after a day of snowboarding, snow falling on pines, wisps of smoke drifting out of chimney tops, glass of wine in hand. Everything is soft and hushed outside. And inside is pinewood and skis and snow pants and thermals and rosy cheeks and vin rouge and low ceilings and a crackling fire in the corner.
Sure, everything hurts. Every single inch of my body hurts. I am a bruised and battered and broken woman. But I feel bloody amazing. Not only because I managed to get down a red run without breaking my face but because I have conquered a fear. A big one. And it feels a bit like being Bilbo Baggins in the dragon’s lair.
I can say this now, on day five. Day one wouldn’t necessarily qualify as blissful. Day one wouldn’t qualify as blissful at all, actually. Day 1 was ripe with pain and discouraging frustration and a whole lot of “this sucks”.
I consider myself a pretty sporty girl, not really afraid of a physical challenge. But I’m not a big fan of hurling myself at death speed down a mountain on a slippery board with trees and people and obstacles all around me and rather hard, compacted snow beneath me. And I’m especially not fond of not excelling at something within moments of trying it (Brene Brown would have a field day with me).
The thing, you see, is that in my perfectionist head, before I arrived, before I had even tried snowboarding, I was doing tricks and jumps within days, in deep powder off piste! A bonafide badass I was, up there, in my head (I blame Chalet Girl, entirely, for my delusions of grandeur). But it turns out what I imagined in my head wasn’t matching up to this mess of a woman by the side of the piste with a massive lopsided green helmet and snots running down her face.
So. That was disappointing.
After I accepted that I was a mere mortal and not Chalet Girl and I was going to have to start at the beginning just like everyone else, things got harder before they got easier. But I was dedicated. I gave it my everything. I said “Hello scary slope, pleasure to meet you, here is my everything”. I took a course with a very nice and very French man who said things like “zee ski” and “cup of tsea”. I walked up the bloody practice slope dozens of times before the sun had risen over the farthest peak, before the resort had even opened, when everyone else was asleep. I walked up, practiced my three turns on the way down, took off my board and walked up again. Over and over and over. And when I’d mastered that, I took to the “Charmettes” blue slope and did that one over and over and over. I fell rather theatrically a thousand times and I have the ass and knee bruises to prove it (as well as some super awesome padded shorts that do nothing for my sex life but saved my bum bones from certain breakage). And I cried in frustration too many shameful times to count: “I might as well give up, I’m never going to get it, I’m too old for this, it’s just not for me.” Then, I’d shout “FUCK” and, fuelled by anger, get off my bruised arse and try again. And within 5 days, in just 5 days, I went from being a complete beginner to boarding down a red run without falling.
I soon realised that 9 times out of 10, the reason for my falling was fear. I’d get the fear, kids. I’d be so afraid of falling that… I’d fall. Funny thing, that is. The thing you focus on is the very thing that will happen. Call it physics, call it mind over matter, call it the law of attraction. Whatever it is, it’s a very real thing. And when I breathed through the fear and remembered everything I’d learned and focused on the task at hand, I got it. Every time.
Most of the things that no longer serve me have their root in fear. Fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of socialising, fear of missing out, fear of not being good enough, fun enough, cool enough, intelligent enough, witty enough, generous enough. Fear of being alone, fear of aging, fear of getting sick, fear of dying, fear of being… unloved.
And so it is that I am rooted in fear. I am so full of fear; it’s like a cancer spreading throughout my entire body. It casts a dark shroud on everything I do. It sucks the enthusiasm right out of life. It is curiosity’s sworn enemy. It is the monstrous shadow on the wall that, when you turn around, turns out to be a very little creature (that probably just needs a good hug) casting a very large shadow.
It used to be that fear was what kept you alive. It was a real fight or flight response. But these days, fear is a thug, a cunning con artist that sells his lies so very convincingly; they turn to truths before your very eyes. I believe so strongly in my fears, I’ve given them so much power over the years that I sometimes feel like I can’t move forward. I am in belief paralysis.
(Because we all know that power resides where we believe it resides.)
My word for 2014 is BRAVE and I am reminded of that word every single day, when I feel the stirring of a thousand fears in the pit of my stomach. And I am exhausted from the business of being afraid. I am tired of caring so deeply what other people think of me. I’m constantly comparing myself to others and fretting over what I’m not good at instead of focusing on those things at which I excel. And I’m so busy being someone I am not and so deep in the habit of morphing into the person I think people want me to be that I haven’t the slightest clue who I am or am incapable of accepting those parts of me that are in direct conflict with 90% of the people I know here. I’ve somehow equated these differences with inadequacies.
- It does not serve me to be afraid of what other people think of me. I will never please every single person on this planet. It serves no purpose for them to love a Botoxed version of myself.
- It does not serve me to be afraid of failure. What else am I here to do if not try everything?
- It does not serve me to be afraid of death. It’s going to happen whether I’m afraid of it or not. Might as well live my one life to the fullest.
- It does not serve me to be afraid of socialising. I do not have to be an all singing, all dancing monkey. I can say, “yes” to things that light me up and “no”, unapologetically, to anything that doesn’t.
This bag of fears is far too heavy to carry any longer. It’s time to lighten the load. If I can conquer the fear of hurling myself down a mountain, cut through that pain with cold presses and hot baths and Ibuprofen, then I can rise above other fears too. I do believe that anything is possible with will and perseverance and dedication and repetition. The rewards far outweigh any potential pitfalls (real or imagined).
It’s all about practice.
Over and over and over until you stop falling.
This post is part of the Let it Go Project: a collection of stories leading up to a beautiful releasing ritual, hosted by Sas Petherick on the 30th of January. All the details for this free event are here. And you can take part! Be inspired by other posts in this project, and share what you are ready to let go of on the Let it Go Project Community Page!