Its Sunday afternoon, I've just eaten a big venison burger, brought by one of my friends and then grilled outside on the snow, in beautiful blazing sunshine, under a bluebird sky. There are people all around, in their t-shirts and ski pants, drinking dark and foamy beers and laughing and smiling behind their sunglasses.
Sundays used to depress me. At the height of the worst of it, I would go into an anxiety ridden paralysis on Sunday and drink myself into an early bedtime and wake up on for work on Monday not remembering much of the day before and dreading the work week in front of me.
Today I'm in the ski shop, trying on this year's new equipment, new boots, new skis. I really like those red suede ones, do they come in my size?
I'm nervous. I've got lots of nervous energy and I've thought several times within moments of each other, even as I'm gearing up, that I could just make some excuse and not go skiing with everyone. "I'm not very good, I'm going to embarrass myself, I'm going to hold everyone up, they're not going to have any fun because I'll be holding everyone else back."
I didn't realize I had said out loud, "I'm nervous," and Max had heard me, responding "You say that everytime you go out, but you always have a great time."
I'm secretly surprised that he knows this, and wonder "Do I always wear my emotions on my sleeve and say out loud those things that are only meant for internal lament?" and all at once grateful for his words. What he doesn't realize is that those few words have just saved me from my internal barrage of negative self talk and the pending self sabotage that was just about to happen.
I get my skis and take them outside where everyone is gathering in the sunshine to go on "Robbie's Rad Adventure" a local Sunday tradition at White Grass Cross Country Ski Touring Center, and I'm amongst friends.
Good to know, at random synchronistic times, people show up along the journey and say just the perfect thing at just the right time, to save you from yourself.
I used to feel alone. Always.
No matter if I was actually alone, or in a crowded bar, or laying in bed next to a lover, or in front of my team leading a meeting. I hid this loneliness behind a big stoic wall of "I'm ok."
And "Don't fuck with me."
This Sunday, I'm climbing up a mountain on skis. I'm huffing, but I'm feeling really good, proud even, that I'm keeping up, and my skis are sticking, I'm climbing, and I'm not slipping. I can feel in my body, that part of me knows what I'm doing. There's more strength in me than I've ever felt. I'm surprised that I'm doing better than I remembered I was capable of.
I catch myself being in the moment, like really and truly in the moment. I'm in the woods, in the snow with my friends and this time, I feel, I know, I sense... I'm Okay. I mean I'm really Ok.
I wish I could bottle this moment and make it into medicine.
This is what it's all about, a few hours of daylight on a Sunday, where I'm out in nature, I'm using my body, I'm with other people enjoying the present moment and each other's company.
I belong. I'm alive. I'm alive on planet earth and I'm glad I'm still here. Still breathing, still living, still showing up.
I could have talked myself out of not coming on this afternoon ski with all these pals, because, they're all really good skiers, and I'm not. Not yet, at least.
I embarrass easily, but not because anyone is critical or competitive, infact just the opposite.
They are warm, inclusive, jovial.
I blush bright red when I mess up, I get nervous I'm going to run into a tree and cause a big scene. I get flustered when I fall down and sometimes panic that I won't be able to get myself back up, which of course, always makes it more difficult to get my skis under me.
My friends show me tips, tell me to go this way, not that way and Chipper even compliments my snow plow. I tense up and notice how difficult it is to accept compliments, even the silly ones.
I think, "I wish I was better at this."
"Man, I wish I was smooth on skis!"
I watch the other chics swish and swoop with their free heels through the trees and I say to myself Damn! That's fantastic. I wanna do that. I wanna look good. They are at ease, they're having fun.
They are NOT snowplowing.
We make it to the top of the mountain, taking a few breaks to sip from wild springs along the trail, and when asked if I'd like a drink, I say Yes, instead of saying "No... Thanks... I'm alright."
When I'm asked these days, I say Yes, instead of No.
Yes, thank you and, Yes, I'd love that, and Yes, I'll be there... and Yes, I'm glad you asked...
We're in the trees headed toward Ashram Rocks, I've been on this trail before and it scares the shit out of me, not because it's steep, but because you have to ski through tiny spaces in between trees, which requires some finesse and control in your turning skills, and I'm still working on a five foot wide snow plow.
But I've got people looking out for me...
"Once you make that turn and get over that rock, you're good."
"Grab on to that tree if you need to!"
And I do, I make that turn, get over that rock, and grab onto that tree to slow me down.
I say to myself, "Damn! That's the freaking ticket isn't it?! Chloë, just keep showing up sister."
If I'd kept myself hidden because I was worried what I looked like, or what other people thought of me, I wouldn't be here, out in nature, with my friends, having a good time. Not because, they wouldn't want me here, but because I used to be too afraid to show up in case someone should see me fall, see me struggle, or look silly, or have to snow plow instead of finesse my way through.
And what if I couldn't get up? What if someone had to help me? I used to wish everyone would leave me alone, so as not to allow them to see my struggle.
Now, I feel gratitude for being here. I struggle. I huff and puff. I keep showing up. I snow plow. I'm stronger than I ever was before.
I'm not alone.
I don't look smooth, always, and I'm not quite sure what I'm doing a lot of the time. But I'm here, and I'm having fun.
I snowplow like a motherf&*cker when I'm cruising down the mountain with the wind on my face, I laugh and I steer my poles like I am driving a car, sometimes waving them around in the air like two chicken wings.
I believe I must look awfully silly, but no one seems to care, and it doesn't appear that I'm holding anyone back, but myself.
I wonder... if I hadn't gone so astray for so long, gotten things so messed up. If I hadn't shut down all the way, and closed myself off until there was nothing left but the sound of my own beating heart to drive me crazy in the surrounding silence.
Would I get it, as much as I get it now? Sometimes, I wonder if I'm living my life in reverse, and all the mistakes I made along the way were on purpose leading me to the ultimate goal I had always longed for, for as long as I could remember, to be in love and feel happy. To have friends, to enjoy myself and my life, to feel good and to know in my bones that I'm Okay.
I started to show up, even when I was shut down, and in doing so, somewhere along the way, I came to belong.
Sundown on a beautiful winter wonderland weekend.