(I am going to try this thing where I don't post any photos with my words. Like it? Don't like it? Comment below (please!) and let me know so I can improve my posts in the future. Thanks!)
So. What have I been doing, other than thinking about what I might be doing next (after skiing)?
I normally move my body in many ways, including, but not limited to: up and down mountains, through woods and between countries, up cliff faces, up trees, across suspended lines and through ocean waters, lifting heavy objects and putting them back down, jumping on boxes and jumping off bridges. Not being able to do these movements has been emotionally disabling. Well, that, and the pain. But now that the pain has mostly subsided, I want to be free of the weight that is unfulfilling idleness.
Before I got injured, I began reading this book called Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about the creative process and how to reach your potential. The book's motto is 'Creative Living Beyond Fear.' (more on that throughout this post....)
Things have been confusing and dark for me, as of late. Figuring out how to satisfy my deep, internal craving is not as easy without a physical outlet. Is that why I am pushing through this injury? To return to something that quiets the internal hungry beast? I'm not sure. I love skiing, and that's my reason. For now. I want to see where else it can take me. And if it just so happens that it's time for the next pursuit? So be it. But I'm not quite ready to be done trying. Gilbert, in Big Magic, says, "Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon...'don't rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.'
Don't let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.
Because that moment?
That's the moment when interesting begins."
...When I think about it like that, my current situation transforms from being confusing and dark to being interesting.
There is so much to be learned, so much to be gained from every difficulty and challenge. It is truly incredible how I can go from this perspective to one of disabling fear and doubt -- back and forth, back and forth. Through the weeks, days, hours and moments. Sometimes I wonder, 'am I doing this right?' Am I doing everything I can to ensure that when I get back on my skis, succeed or fail, I have no regrets?
I'm not sure. I go back and forth about this, too, among many other things. I spend, on average, 5-6 hours a day working on my knee, my body. I also go out to dinner, go out with friends, forego the icing and rest to make connections and have some wine. Should I be fully focused, 100% committed to rehabbing my knee? Say no to social invitations and give up drinking, only eat at home and surrender the extracurricular activities?
Since I became capable of leaving my house with no pain I have been so much happier. Even a trip to the grocery store was thrilling at first (I still cherish these!). The first time I went out to eat, my knee became so hot and swollen that I had to go home after 45 minutes of being upright. But it was glorious. To smell the baking in the pizza oven (Jackson's Corner!), to see new faces, to sit on someone else's bench was even tactually blissful. I was out in the world again, and I could feel the life and creativity stirring within me.
So I started doing more things for myself, regardless of the discomfort some of them caused. I sat down at my piano. I picked up my guitar, my colored pencils. I meditated, I wrote, I collaged, I did homework and created things that were actually fulfilling. I colored, I socialized, I cooked and blogged and took photos. And, again, I was addicted. Yet again, there was so much to do, and, again, I had to start making choices.
Skiing, right now, is my top priority. Beneath that time-exhaustive, mentally-draining, all-consuming endeavor lies a whole boat-load of my other interests and fascinations on a long list. Although I am spending a lot more time than I thought I'd be on recovering from this injury, I'm left with a little spare time (or, am I creating it...?) to play and pursue other activities. For my class titled, "Exploring Design Careers," I was assigned to approach a personal problem from a design-thinking perspective. So I wrote down a list of things I love to do for myself (personal pursuits, if you will) and chose to not try to do them all, all the time. Instead, I opted for two activities per day -- for instance: ten minutes of drawing, journaling, playing guitar -- and was decidedly fulfilled by those two simple things. Sounds easy, right? Well, actually, it kind of was, and still is.
The weight is lifted ever-so-slightly from my chest, knowing that every day I fulfill the requirement of doing two things for myself every day. And, I actually do them! Instead of being overwhelmed by too many options and hence incapable of actually doing anything meaningful for fear of being incomplete, I just choose from my list. You have to laugh at the straight-forward simplicity of this tactic...how did I not figure this out earlier? I am, after-all, an avid list-maker.
All is not solved, however. I still worry about my knee. I still procrastinate homework until Sundays, when my weekly assignments are due. Some days I forget, or simply neglect, to meditate. I worry that I'm not doing rehab perfectly, that I'm walking too much or eating the wrong foods. I'm attempting to eat an anti-inflammatory diet: no gluten, no dairy, no potatoes, no fried food, no processed sugars....the list goes on. I am not incredibly strict about it, and I try to forgive myself for occasionally eating potato chips or Gouda cheese.
But I am still hard on myself. I am a perfectionist, and I'm not that proud of it. I pay scrupulous attention to detail, and I can't function on too little sleep, or when I'm surrounded by clutter and disorganization. I want to do everything, and do it all very well. This is impossible -- of that I am aware -- but the drive, the undying curiosity is in my blood. Sometimes I wish I could relax: sleep in, daydream, watch a movie without having to knit. But I'm also indebted to and thankful for my hunger. I need to be aware of my ego and my need for approval and reward, but my curiosity teaches me so many invaluable lessons. It shows me so many beautiful, unforgettable things: mountaintop views, the power of the ocean, new languages and new perspectives.
Right now I am learning about how to make a decent living as an artist, how to be a better listener (forever a work in progress), how to make gluten-free, sugar-free (delicious!) pancakes. I'm learning about sustainable design, Oregon's indigenous flowers, how important it is for me to read and write, how to improve my online personal brand.
This strive to be perfectly multi-faceted drives me insane yet holds me together. It will inevitably continue when I retire from ski-racing...although I may say it, I don't really think things will slow down. And I'm okay with that. As long as I'm living with intention and creativity, I will forever be happily unsatisfied. Inspired. Dreaming. Pushing. Creating. I can't sit at home and ice and do glute-exercises all day. Because I want so much more.
Elizabeth Gilbert put it nicely when she said, "If you can't do what you long to do, go do something else.
Go walk the dog, go pick up every piece of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it's procrastination, but -- with the right intention -- it isn't; it's motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.
So wave your arms around. Make something Do something. Do anything.
Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action, and -- most of all -- trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again."
So it's been a while. It's been a hard, painful while since I had surgery 6 weeks ago. What a journey! There have been moments of intense darkness: when I woke up for the first time after surgery. When I had debilitating anxiety before every therapy session for the first 4 weeks because of the excruciating pain I endured every time we had to bend my leg. When I felt alone, regardless of all the family, friends and love surrounding me. But there were also moments of brightness: when I held a baby goat and felt it's curiosity. When I received hand-written letters in the mail -- I could feel the concern and the hope. When I took my first steps, two days ago. It has been a scary, enlightening, and frustrating 6 weeks of countless peaks, pits, and plateaus.
With this injury (as with many) has come so many questions, concerns, doubts, considerations. What if I can't get strong enough to return to the level of skiing I was maintaining before my crash? What if I get back on skis and am stricken with doubt, crippled by fear? What if...what if I can't even ski again? Though it's unlikely, it is a real possibility. And then...what?
Although I have deliberated on this before, never have I done so so thoroughly. I have many passions apart from skiing: singing, climbing, ceramics, to name a few. I attend classes at the University of Oregon every spring term. I write in my journal almost every day: drawing, collaging, contemplating. I try to write a post on my blog at least once a month. I play piano whenever I see one. I paint, although badly, as often as I can. I love working with children, and helping others. Cooking, planning and socializing are a few of the things that keep me sane. Creating, moving my body, curiosity and connection are the things that I find most fulfilling. But, right now, my heart lies in the mountains. The snow. The speed. I want to race.
If it doesn't work out, I know I'll be fine. I can be happy, regardless of my chosen occupation. But that's just the thing: I want to have a choice. I want to be the one who decides when I'm done ski racing. I don't want my body to hold me back, or the Ski Team to make that decision for me. I want to leave on my own terms. And I don't think I'm ready to do that yet....
But what if I don't have a choice? What if I'm forced to move on by the powers that be? How do I come to terms with that?
Throughout my whole ski career I have been all about balance. Balance in my pursuits. Balance on my skis. Balance in my mentality. I like to think I have a balanced and well-rounded perspective. When I think about the number of people in the world who actually pay attention to ski racing, it seems absurd to be a part of this sport. Not to mention the ones who have access and can afford to ski....that's another story altogether. When I traveled down to Chile one year and drove through the slums on my way to Valle Nevado, I asked, "what percentage of the Chilean population actually skis?" And the bus driver answered, "0.1%." Point one percent? That's one in one-thousand. That number is minuscule, considering the incredible skiing they have in Chile.
Ski racing is a foreign sport to many people around the world. I once had a TSA agent in Atlanta ask me if my ski boots were roller-blades! So few people on this planet know what ski racing even is, it's a wonder that this sport even thrives at all. So, if no one really knows that my sport exists, can I truly make a difference in this world?
What is my ultimate goal? Why do I ski at all?!
Skiing is how I express myself. Ski racing is where I feel like my truest, freest self. I want to take that expression, take that creativity and share it with the world. I want to inspire others to do the same -- to follow their dreams. To fall, to fail, to rise back up. To persist and push the limits. To do it all over again. I want people to push to be their best selves. I want to be my best self. I want to not be scared of that person. I want to create positive change in this world, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
So, how do I do these things if I can no longer ski race at the highest level? There are so many incredible prospects, so much potential, so many means through with to achieve these dreams. I can make art. I can make music. I can make people think, create conversation about change and inspire that conversation to grow. I could travel the world, spread the love, blog, make connections, and catalyze change that way. I could volunteer at the community arts center, volunteer at a women's health clinic in Africa. I could volunteer as a leader. I could write a book, write a song, carve a new path through the woods. I could become a vet, an architect, a nutritionist. The options are limitless. But I'm not overwhelmed or afraid. In fact, I look forward to life after skiing: to completing my degree in fine-arts. To figuring out the next step, trusting in it, and jumping in head first, with no regrets. I will be an impetus of positive change no matter where I go, because that is what I really want to do.
But, for now, I will continue on this path to recovering from injury, and following my dreams of being one of the best skiers in the world. Of going to the Olympics in 9 months, and competing at the highest level. I will continue to work my ass off, as I have been doing, and grind until I can grind no longer. I will do everything I can to come back stronger, as I truly believe I can. This break from skiing is only going to make me miss it more, make me hungry, and make me fierce. But if it doesn't work out, there is another endeavor waiting for me -- waiting for all of us -- when this one comes to an end. And I will not let that end scare me or hold me back. I will let it be my motivation to make the most of what I have, where I am, right now. And to move forward with no regrets.
Change is inevitable. Nothing is permanent. I want to embrace that, and live that change to the fullest. Because....why not?
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind