Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Destination: Denver and Winter Park, CO

My sister moved to Denver last year so a few weeks ago Gman, my parents, and I went to visit her. We went to see where she walks when she talk to us on the phone, where she studies, where she rests. We went to meet her friends and try on her lifestyle. We met up with our cousin too for a bit of last chance skiing in Winter Park.

My experience in Denver consisted of little touristy destinations, besides a drive by of Coors field on our way to lunch on a rooftop bar nearby. The weather was hot, my thin turtle neck and jeans were too much, but the sun felt good on my skin. We were closer to it there in the mile high city. Our plan was to scout out Laura’s life, then head into the mountains for a weekend in a ski-town for a little R&R.

I was getting nervous about the prospect of skiing. I only went one other time in my life. I was decent then but I was worried now. They say it’s like riding a bike and as soon as you jump off the ski lift you remember what to do. Everyone else was a lot more experienced. I almost threw up from nerves while we rented our skis.

The snow was almost melted. Puddles of mud remain where only a week ago there were huge piles of snow. Bits of grass peeked out in other places. It was hot too, only a handful of people were wearing jackets with their ski pants (I saw a few spring breakers wearing bikinis!). I could barely take in my surroundings though because I was so distracted with my anxiety. Would everyone hate me if I just stayed at the lodge bar and watched the skiers? This was more in my comfort zone. But before I could finish my beer, which my sister insisted I drink to calm my nerves, we were on our way up the mountain. My mom and I hired an instructor to help me feel more confident (I recommend doing this). When I jumped off the ski lift I knew I was in trouble. My skis were heavy and cumbersome. I couldn’t remember how to get them to stay straight. I started sweating and a wave of heat came over me. I will never get down this mountain, I thought, and panic set in. Tiny children zipped past me and I felt crazy for being so nervous. But there was no muscle memory. I had no idea how to ski or how to get down this mountain. I was on the verge of tears, mostly from embarrassment. My instructor kindly held his poles horizontally and snow plowed backwards while I snow plowed forward holding onto him for dear life.
I was mad at everyone for making me do this and I was embarrassed that I couldn’t. But my instructor (his name was Bud by the way. How perfect is that?) calmed me down and said, “Jamie, in an hour you will be skiing down that mountain with confidence.” I didn’t believe him and just wanted to pay him to leave me alone. But he persisted and sure enough movement by movement I was learning and grew confident. I could feel my muscles working and my skis started to stay straight. I could control my speed and my direction. Heck, I could even look up without panicking that I was going downhill. I definitely had a few more freak outs on steeper parts, but overall I knew how to ski. I did it! I learned a new sport! I felt so proud of myself that the fact that my body was starting to give in to fatigue went un-noticed.
Meanwhile, the rest of my family was having a lovely day on the slopes. Or so I thought. When finally we returned to the lodge (I was about to collapse) for food and drink I found out that my daredevil sister broke her arm snowboarding. How terrible!
my dad and Gman pretending to be stuck in the icy lake

We spent the rest of the weekend sitting around the table in our rented condo eating, drinking (all local beers), and laughing so hard that our sides hurt. After a tough year, I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time. It felt good to let go and relax with my family.

Sunday we decided to explore the resort area of Winter Park where there were shops and restaurants. My sister had to go back to the doctor for her arm. So while my dad, Gman, and I waited we popped into a few places. I’m not usually one to buy a souvenir and I especially don’t like getting t-shirts, key chains or that type of thing. But we looked around anyways. I saw something that caught my eye but decided to think about it while we had some afternoon beers at the Cheeky Monk.

We sat on the patio in the sun and again laughed until our sides hurt, yet again. It felt so good. My mom and sister joined us and I was completely satisfied with my life sitting there with them. I did have a nagging impulse to buy my prize though, so I snuck over to the shop and bought one for me and one for my sister. Everyone thought I went to the restroom and got a huge kick out of me taking shopping breaks while drinking. (I’m not going to tell you know what it was. I’ll be revealing it on Wednesday! I’m such a tease, I know.)

While we sat there, it was time to remember the real reason we all came together that weekend. We toasted to my beloved Uncle Tom who had passed away one year ago that day. I consider him to be one of my soul mates and it felt like a piece of me was destroyed when he passed. But I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate his memory than being together and laughing. He had an infectious laugh and I could hear him laughing at my antics and fears, but then being so proud of my accomplishments.
The challenges in our lives can seem overwhelming sometimes. It can seem like we will never get through the day or the experience. I thought my heart would never stop breaking and that my life would never feel normal. I thought I would never ski down that mountain, but I did. I didn’t do it alone though, I did it with the encouragement of my family and with the expertise of an instructor coaching me through each step.
One of my favorite mantras that I say to myself almost daily is, “This too shall pass.” I say it for the good times and the difficult times. Our lives are fleeting and time ticks by without regard for our desires to cling to the moment. So enjoy the ones you’re with and if you are in pain remember that it doesn’t last forever and you can get through it.

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