My nine year old nephew was able to do what nearly olympic class skiers, friends with years of ski experience and even expert ski teachers have been unable to succeed at: He effortlessly taught me to move into, over and out of fear as we skied into trails among the trees, making fresh tracks through powder, all day long.
This ski season was my second on a pair of J Skis. The back story to this new pari could be lengthy, but suffice to say they were earned after 10 years on the same pair of skis, the same ones I was on when I found myself in need of a new ACL and learning to ski all over again. That ACL replacement inserted a very strongly engrained memory of the pain associated with it (which in turn, created a nice story for suffering, but that’s a story about vasana and samskaras for another time). Ultimately though, that memory, and its resultant story created a very serious fear of having to go experience that particular pain, again.
While I might be a strong and agile, when it came to skiing, and no matter what my Soule Man would tell me, my fear always overrode my belief in my ability to ski as freely as, and with the confidence I had before my ACL tore.
Then I skied with this guy, Zachary Gideon, my fearless nephew.
He turned around with his big smile and said “Come on, Becca, you can do this, it’s fun!” It was our third season skiing together, and he still remembers the day “way back when” he was 6, and we went skiing together, just me and him. (That was a really special event.) He couldn’t imagine me not being able to ski something, especially some fresh powder in the trees on an uncrowded mountain full of awesome local Vermonters.
And so I leapt. I followed him. We tucked down onto a line he picked, into the quiet of the trees and the magic of the untouched powder. I was absolutely terrified but I could not say no. My heart was literally racing and I could feel it pounding in my chest. I kept breathing deeply and followed him, turn by turn, into my fear. When we emerged, I hooted loud and strong, and so did he. I could not stop smiling, tears were streaming down my face, and my heart felt like it would burst from my chest with joy.
I told Zach thank you. THANK YOU. For taking me where I had been so afraid to go.
We skied all day, in and out of the trees, making fresh tracks. But that first time, when we emerged from the trees, when I emerged in front of my fears? I can still trust that experience. Sometimes I remember the simplicity of it, when I’m feeling fearful of doing something else in my life, personally, professionally or just for fun.
When you’re feeling really afraid about something, go play with a fearless 9 year old, who sees you as a hero, as all that you are. They will remind you of all that you can do, everything you should grasp, and all there is to enjoy, fearlessly.
Thanks, Zach, for a really, really great day.