I know you all have seen photos that I’ve posted about backcountry skiing trips in Alaska and Colorado etc. What you may not know is that I’m relatively new to skiing. I’ve owned skis for a long time…but actually using them on a regular basis has somehow eluded me. I think it is that “fear of falling on my face at high speeds” thing. But admittedly, there’s more.
This year, Alaska got dumped on (where as the lower 48 got barely anything for most of the winter), my partner is from Alaska, and he definitely skis. So, I strapped those boards on more than ever this year, and it was a true experience in being humbled, and getting over my perfectionism (which had conveniently forgotten about).
You see, I’m actually used to big mountains. Lots of skiers, when they come to Alaska, are at least temporarily overwhelmed by the largess of what surrounds them. The largess, I am used to. I’ve guided in the Himalaya and even in Alaska itself. The massive glaciers and peaks are awe-inspiring, and at the same time, I am more accustomed to them than most outdoorsy peeps. But with slippery boards attached to my feet, I was freaked out to be in those big mountains, to put it mildly. And beyond that, if I were being truly honest, it wasn’t even fear that bothered me so much, because I adapt that way pretty quickly.
What got to me was sucking at something.
I am all about growth. After all, Full On 365 is about me pushing myself to grow in every humanly way possible, not just through physical challenges, but spiritual ones as well. And Alaska – as big mountains often do – pushed me to stretch in both ways this winter.
I know how to climb (rock snow, and ice), I know how to carry big heavy packs and suffer for the inevitably epic reward at the end of the adventure, and for the amazing times to be had on the journey itself. I know how to assess mountain terrain and cross big rivers and manage being in grizzly territory and plan big adventures in foreign countries and how to stay warm with very little clothing.
But, my dears, I know not how to ski very well. And that fact has kept me from doing it – often.
I have often spoken with my clients about how perfectionism, and needing to do something uber well every time can keep you from actually experiencing life – and more importantly, from enjoying it! Who cares if you don’t do it perfectly, right?
I’d like to not care, but I do. And it has taken me a lot of work to move through that, which is why I think I can speak about it so well to my clients, and help them through it as well. So when perfectionism reared its ugly head again on this recent trip, I was taken aback.
Pretty much every trip to Alaska this winter involved skiing. And not just every trip, but every day. And I went along, a somewhat reluctant adventurer this time around, wanting to learn and get better (the only way to get better is to DO it!) and hang out with my tribe in beautiful places having an awesome time, even if I did fall on my ass (and face) all day.
However, every one of my friends is a really good skier. I mean REALLY good. Some of them don’t even climb, but many have been skiing for the larger part of their lives, and telemarking at least several years. I was on tele skis as well, which are trickier that alpine skis because your heel isn’t locked down to the ski itself, and it involves a refined technique to make downhill turns. The tradeoff is that because your heel isn’t locked down, it allows you to strap skins on and hike uphill – to big mountaintops and to remote places. Sahweet, and totally worth it for me! Plus, making a good tele turn is a high in and of itself. But falling on your face when everyone else is rockin’ it seemingly effortlessly down the slopes doesn’t feel so awesome.
On this last trip, my partner and I happened to also go sailing – an absolutely stunning trip with incredible views and fortunate weather. We brought skis, too. We were going to be out for 2.5 days, and we skied for the first day above Jakalof Bay on Broken Knife. It was hard going uphill in funky snow for me (oh yeah, I forgot to mention – not only was skiing hard, but being out of shape hiking uphill in skis didn’t help either. I didn’t do much of that in Oregon the last few months). Then it was sketchy coming down in crusty heavy wet snow and I fell every two turns. We had to navigate through trees and gullies to get back to the road before hiking back down to the boat. But it was gorgeous at the top, and I felt satisfied back at the boat and relieved after having survived.
The next day, my partner suggested we go for a beach hike, or a sail into some other bays. I was pleased at this. To have a day when I wasn’t struggling up – or down – a mountain was a lovely thought to me. It sounded so…relaxing.
Then, a boatload of people (literally) pulled up in skies at the dock we had slept at, and two of Thai’s friends (Thais is my partner – I always forget to just say his name) showed up inviting us to ski. He looked at me and said, “So what do you think?”
And I wanted soooooo badly to shout back, “WTF do you think!!!!! NO I don’t want to ski. I’m tired of being stressed out and feeling lame and sucky at something. I am tired of struggling uphill and feeling out of shape and clumsy. I would like to do something I am fucking GOOD at today!”
But I didn’t yell that. I just said calmly, “The last thing I want to do right now is go backcountry skiing with a bunch of strangers.” And he understood.
But you see, I think I WOULD have liked to have gone. What I didn’t want was to feel all that incompetence and struggle and other icky feelings. And I realized that was ALL MY SHIT. Thai didn’t care if I was slow or if I fell. He loved being out there with me no matter what. And I felt a sadness that I was keeping myself from having another adventure. If I didn’t care what other people thought, if I didn’t compare myself to others, I would have gone, at my own pace, in my own way.
So I took a walk to the end of the dock after everyone left for their kick-ass adventure, and I sat on the edge, looking at the mountains and at the reflections in the beautiful water, and I cried. I didn’t like feeling embarrassed or scared to do something. I didn’t like feeling like I was holding my partner back (I told him to catch up to them and go, while I hung out and read and went for a hike or something, but he wanted to stay with me). Whatever was going on, I didn’t like it. But I let it wash over me. It was so obvious to me that it was my shit, my deep feelings of self-worth and all that shtuff were getting their buttons pushed. So I opened to it all. I was surprised by it, but attentively watched it all move through me like a movie.
Then I allowed myself to receive my partner’s hugs and words of love and encouragement, and we set sail. The water was stunning and perfect and we had porpoises playing around us, views of the marine volcanoes across the water, and watched sea otters and loons and it was just…life at its finest.
I felt better.
(Here’s a video of the porpoises playing ear the boat: http://youtu.be/f9hLElIRia8 )
The next day, we met some friends at a mountain cabin for a work party, and we almost didn’t ski because it was drizzling and there was a lot of work to be done on the cabin. But then it got a bit warmer, and it was decided that skiing was the thing to do. Ugh.
I had left my skis at the car for these last two days in Alaska. And I was going to continue to leave them there. I was with a group of guys, all of whom go backcountry skiing almost every day after a long day at work, when most people make dinner and go to bed. Hell no I was not going to ski again. Especially after my messed up epic falling every two turns at Broken Knife.
But these guys are convincing, and kind, and oh so sweet, and they repeatedly told me how it didn’t matter, that we wouldn’t be doing anything epic and that I could turn around whenever I wanted. But what really got me was when our friend Cliff said, “You have to get your skiing mojo back, You have to remember that skiing isn’t about the falling or the crappy snow. Come out and get your mojo back.”
Again, the reluctant skier, I went.
And IT WAS FREAKIN’ AMAZING!
We hiked up to this gorgeous broad face of snow, hung out at the top and shared some scooby snacks, then we skied down. I fell once, but before and after that, I linked beautiful turns in perfect spring snow, and took in the views and laughed and smiled a HUGE smile because it was so incredibly fun.
So, I am not saying one should push themselves to being uncomfortable every day in order to grow. I am also not saying that wanting to just rest on the sailboat was in anyway “wrong” on my part. But what I do want to remind myself of is that I cannot let my desire to be good at something (let alone kick-ass at something) keep me from doing it imperfectly.
Do it imperfectly. The imperfect moments in life are TOO MUCH FUN.
Note: Ana Neff is a personal life coach, guide and FreedomJunkie™ She helps individuals awaken their lives of freedom and personal success with confidence, clarity, self-love, and passion. Her monthly Jedi Juice ™ eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. Her Full-On 365 blog posts stem from her commitment to living full-on, every day, for 365 days in a row. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting Anaverzone.com (note: it’s new look will be up to rock your world soon)! Sign up for her next FREE Jedi Juice Training call on the Law of Attraction at Anaverzone.com/jedi-juice