How Cross-Country Skiing is like Life (subtitle: Or What I Learned by Doing Something Different)

For reaons that have everything and nothing (and so I won’t go into them now) to do with this post, last week I found myself with a week of leave and an unexpected change in vacation plans.  (Pete was off to a wedding and so I was on my own here).  My first thought, of course, was to fly home to see my family.  I love my family and being in the Army, moving around a lot, deployments/separation etc makes me treasure time with them more than you can imagine.  But I knew almost from the first thought that that wasn’t really what I was supposed to do this week.  So I started looking around for something different on the internet..a women’s retreat, a yoga retreat, travel to somewhere I’d never been …and then I saw it: the “learn to cross-country ski” package at Sun Mountain Lodge.   See, I’ve decided downhill skiing isn’t going to be my thing- I am too fearful of injuring myself and not being able to run anymore, but mostly I’m just fearful.  But I’ve REALLY been wanting to learn to cross-country ski so I knew when I read it that this was the perfect thing.
So, I packed the car, and headed over to Winthrop, WA- a few hours from my house- by way of Snoqualmie pass.  It was the most beautiful drive of my life- lightly snowing, snow and ice covered evergreens, Columbia river to my side, sometimes frozen, sometimes flowing rapidly by, beautiful mountains and wide open spaces.  It was beautiful and I wasn’t even there yet.  The lodge is perfect- warm and cozy and secluded on the top of a mountain, and b/c it is the middle of a week, there aren’t many people here.
So the first morning, I headed out for my lesson-the group lesson turned into a private lesson, which was nice since I had a million questions and by the end I was feeling like I could at least have fun and potentially not injure myself.  So the next two days I spent classic cross-country skiing (in the tracks vs skate skiing which I decided is a lesson for another trip- one thing at  a time!) again along BEAUTIFUL completely deserted, well-groomed, snow-covered tracks.  It was liberating and encouraging and invigorating and scary and fun and peaceful and hard and simple and perfect.  While I was skiing, and thinking of course, I kept thinking of all these ways that cross-country skiing is very similar to running (which I love) but also how it has so many parallels for life.  So, I thought I’d share a few here.  I’ll use the word “path” as a synonym for the cross-country trail and life in general.

 1.  You can certainly jump out there on your own, but it’s helpful to have more experienced people give you some pointers and advice of what to do and what not to do.
 2.  You learn a lot of different parts/things to remember, but sometimes it’s not until you are out there alone, trying, that everything sort of “clicks” into place.
 3.  Some times you just have to stop thinking about it so hard, and be ok with not being “perfect” and enjoy the scenery.
 4.  It’s ok at first to just stay in the tracks- the well-groomed ruts of those who’ve gone before you.
 5.  There will ALWAYS be others who are better than you, more talented than you, who look cuter in their clothes than you do, who are younger than you- get over the comparisons.
 6.  It’s ok to start on the easy trails.  Stay there for a while.  Learn the techniques and how things feel and get comfortable with the basics.  You can work up to the harder paths and when you get to those, you’ll be glad you had the core concepts down.
 7.  One of the most important things to remember is to RELAX. 
 8.  Along those same lines, sometimes when you are gripping tighter and more tense, it actually makes it harder to “ski” and easier to fall.  And those falls hurt worse too. 
 9.  You will fall. 
10.  It’s ok to fall.  It’s even ok to cry- sometimes falling hurts.  You are bruised, sore, embarrased and scared afterwards.  Get back up and keep going.  If you are going to give up, NEVER let it be after or because you fell.
11.  Sometimes you are worried so much about falling, and make it so big in your head, that it might be worth it just to fall.  You’ll see that yes, it hurts, but not nearly as bad as you thought it would, and so you get back up.  And keep going. 
12.  You can learn a lot from a fall.
13.  Sometimes if you relax and “let go” you find out you WON”T fall.
14.  No one can tell you EXACTLY what YOU need to do, but you can learn by watching what others do.  You can learn both WHAT to do, and WHAT NOT to do.
15.  Sometimes “skiing” is hard work.  Just “keep-going, push-harder, don’t-stop-now, you-can-do-it” hard work.  It’s good for you.  It makes you stronger- mentally, physically, emotionally.  Don’t be afraid of the work.
16.  Sometimes when you feel like giving up, it’s enough to just know that “you signed up for (or paid for?)” it so you keep going.  Obligations, committments, doing the right thing are not necessarily bad motivators.  We don’t always FEEL like doing the right thing.
17.  Sometimes there will be hills to climb.  They aren’t always in the place we’d put them or choose for them to be if we were in charge.
18.  Sometimes you slide backward on the hills.  DON”T GIVE UP.  Just b/c you slide a little backwards, you don’t have to go back down all the way to the bottom.  And next time you might slip even less.
19.  Watch out for other people who are falling and get out of the way.  Help if you can, but unless you are strong, instead of helping, they might pull you down with them.
20.  Sometimes the path is hard and you are tired and you can’t see the end of the path or even the next turn, but you just have to keep going.
21.  Sometimes, out of the blue, you look up and the path is gone.  There are no signs, the markers are missing and you have no idea where you are.  Here’s where you have to use all your resources- experience, wise advice from others, instinct and wisdom to find the trail again.  You should never hesitate to ask for help when this happens.
22.  Sometimes after a particuarly difficult hill or climb and especially after several in a row, you realize that you just started up another hill without even realizing it.  The work and experience and concentration of the hills before, made this hill easier- less noticeable even.
23.  Pride usually leads to a down”fall”- you look around at others and start wondering what they are thinking or comparing yourself- you’ll fall.  You get cocky at how “good” you’re doing- you’ll fall. 
24.  If you stop concentrating on what you’re doing- get distracted, or start thinking of everything you could be doing, or wish you were doing, or thinking how others would do this better than you- you’ll get out of synch.  It’s your path, your choices- concentrate on being the best you can be.
25.  Downhill skiing can be exhilirating or terrifying.  Sometimes both.  Being too loose or too tense can both be dangerous.  You have to have the right mix of freedom but concentration in the easy/good/downhill times.
26.  You don’t have to be an adrenaline junky to enjoy the downhill ride.  Enjoy them- the uphill will come again.
27.  Sometimes you feel ready for the next step, the harder path- GOOD.  Go for it.  Just don’t forget what you learned on the easy/basic path. 
28.  Sometimes you meet people along the path that need a little help- physical help, directions, a snack, encouragement.  NEVER be too busy to help someone you meet along the way. 
29.  Never be too proud or cocky or self-centered NOT to take the help of someone you meet along the way.
30.  Sometimes, just sometimes, when you least expect it, and you’re just going along like usual, and you aren’t thinking of anything in particular, but you are thinking of everything in general, and the path is even-or just slightly downhill so it doesn’t take much effort to keep going, and the wind is blowing in your face and the scenery is perfect… get a glimpse of how it’s supposed to be.

Wow- I learned a lot! 
Thoughts?  Similar experiences?  Please share. 
So glad to have you all on the path with me….and I’d love to go cross-country skiing with any of you anytime.  šŸ™‚

Much love,

7 thoughts on “How Cross-Country Skiing is like Life (subtitle: Or What I Learned by Doing Something Different)

  1. Benjamin Button February 18, 2011 / 8:54 pm

    I am ready to learn to XC ski! Now I won't have pay for an instructor! Great lessons, o wise one.

  2. Laura Lee February 18, 2011 / 9:07 pm

    I am honored to have been invited to your blog, Dawn. Thank you! What a lovely post.I feel I should return the compliment and tell you of my (much less profound and less articulate) blog, know you're prayed for every Thursday morning with Renee' and many days in between!

  3. Robyn February 19, 2011 / 12:14 am

    I LOVE IT!!! You are starting to sound like our girl KA! It's okay, I am beginning to look at scripture the way TK does. šŸ˜‰ I am just impressed that you did anything other than nap by the fire, which is what I would have done, no matter HOW MUCH I paid for lessons! Such insight. This should be in a mag. šŸ™‚

  4. Edie February 19, 2011 / 2:42 am

    Wonderfully stated!! Thank you for sharing what you've learned…it is how we grow and give back. I LOVE this. It's so very true and a reminder I needed today! Love you!PS I agree…mag material šŸ˜‰

  5. sara February 19, 2011 / 5:02 am

    You are an inspiration! Can't wait to hit the trail with you some day.

  6. Wiltshire Three February 19, 2011 / 7:38 am

    This is great! I actually felt like I was on a trail with you for a sec. Thank you for that perspective.

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