As we age, things shift. Ask any woman, and she’ll give you a long list of how her body’s changed over the years. But, what is less obvious is how our perspective adjusts as we grow older. Sometimes we become “more so,” yet I believe that we can also expand our views as we age. In fact, these subtle shifts happen all of the time. Often, they occur without us even knowing. The challenge is to be present in order to actually see the effects time has on how we view aspects of our life. I think these subtle shifts are what help us become wiser as we “mature.”
My most recent subtle shift occurred on the slopes, at Mt. Bachelor, this past week. Our sons were visiting, and it was a perfect “spring skiing” day, so we headed to the mountains. Honestly, several hours of skiing are ideal for me at this stage of my life, allowing my legs to get warmed up, but not worn out. This particular day we were blessed with warm temperatures, sunshine, and easy to navigate snow. It just couldn’t get much better. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed skiing as much as I did this particular day. But what I experienced on the slopes was something new, a different sensation. Instead of expecting myself to navigate difficult terrain and keep up with my husband and boys, I just skied at my pace, in my time, in my space.
As we drove home I wondered why I didn’t remember more days like this. After all, I’ve skied for almost fifty years. There had to have been other glorious days on the mountain. What made today so different?
I mulled this over for some time. Maybe my euphoric state this particular morning was not solely due to the 45 degree bluebird sky day. Perhaps it was something more. That’s when it hit me… I had experienced a subtle shift. No longer did I view skiing as an activity to be achieved, it now transitioned to something to be experienced. For the first time in forever, I left behind my expectations. And in the process, I experienced freedom, peace, and awe.
Growing up I always wanted to be the first person on the lift each morning. I had to catch the best powder and have access to the slopes that had not yet been skied off. My intention was to get the most runs in, skiing until the mountain closed. But it wasn’t just the time on the hill that seemed important. What and how I skied mattered. In my mind, if it wasn’t a black or a double black, it wasn’t worth my time. If there were bumps, I wanted to hit them. I mean, I was there to push myself, go to my edge, and challenge my abilities with steeper and harder terrain. After all, this was a workout, an epic day on the ski slope.
Then, in my early forties, I didn’t quite have the drive to be the first one on the mountain each morning. Sleep and relaxing breakfasts seemed more important during ski vacations. Nor did I want to be on the slopes for eight hours a day because my body would become sore and my feet would freeze. While I still felt drawn to the most difficult trails, I wasn’t as confident and didn’t feel quite so daring. After all, if I were to hurt myself, there would be consequences. Who would drive the kids to soccer practice? How could I keep up with all of the grocery shopping and laundry with a broken leg? What would I do if I couldn’t workout?
On top of this, my kids were becoming good skiers, perhaps better than me. And they skied fast. While they never outright said that I slowed them down, I knew that I did. Plus, they loved skiing the trees, and that terrified me. So I pulled back, became cautious, and let the boys and Scott ski together. I believe that this may have been an unconscious struggle with the natural aging process. Instead of dealing with growing older, accepting that I couldn’t ski with the same intensity that I had in my twenties, I pulled back, chose not to ski that much, often opting to stay by the fire and read. In essence, I was avoiding the obvious.
But this past week I gave myself permission to view skiing from a different lens. I accepted that my body has changed and so has my drive. What happened on Bachelor was that I discarded any expectations of being a stand out skier. Instead, I chose to have fun, take in the beautiful scenery, appreciate the amazing snow, and enjoy the people that I was with. But it wasn’t just about the skiing, rather, it was the experience skiing… the conversations, the shared appreciation for the splendor of the mountain. This is the real stuff, what’s important.
So, as I approach the middle of my fifth decade, I’m not so concerned about whether I’m on a black diamond, blue square, or green circle. After all, it is kind of irrelevant. But what has become liberating is choosing to release the self-imposed demand to perform at a certain level. Instead, I am opting to have fun. Now I am able to carve through the snow with the sun on my back and a song in my head. That’s pretty much a perfect day for me. Top that off with being with those I love, and it just doesn’t get any better. While I still have flashes of skillfully navigating down some really tough slopes, I am content with where I am at. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, when the time is right, I’ll try the double blacks again. But when I do, there will be no expectations, no limitations… just being.