Fill in the blank ___________.
The answers that come to mind immediately for me are one arm, one leg, one parent, one more day or one eye. In any of those cases you would experience challenges that not everybody faces. It would lead you to explore new possibilities. In all probability you would adapt and other resources would find there way into your world. I’m grateful that I don’t face any of those challenges.
Today my answer to that fill in the blank question was one pole.
My magical day was spent on the slopes of an epic Colorado ski resort. I have not skied for a few years. If I had to categorize my self I’d say I’m a slightly advanced intermediate skier. I’m not a fully advanced intermediate skier. I ski pretty much every green hill (easiest), most blue hills (more difficult), and an occasional black hill (most difficult). That is my comfort zone. I never try to ski harder black hills or double black hills (expert). I’m finally at a point where I can let go of the ego of what I think I should be able to do and I accept that I am supposed to do what feels right.
I started my day on Chair 5. It is a chair that accesses only green and a few blue hills. I decided to get my legs under me and see how they felt. I was still adjusting to the altitude after just getting into Summit County early yesterday afternoon. The first few runs went well.
I decided to move on to the next level by riding the high-speed quad chair to an area that had exclusively blue hills. The sun was out. The temperatures were in the mid forties. Things were going about as well as I ever could have hoped for. After a few more successful runs I decided it was time to level up again. I would never ride the lifts up to the expert terrain or the bowls. I did decide I was ready for the six-person high-speed super chair though. This chair services the challenging blue hills and I was ready for my first taste of what would be my high end of difficulty for this day.
The six-man chair has what is called a magic-carpet loading mat. It moves you automatically from the on-deck position to the chair after the group ahead of you loads. I’ve never done this before. Mostly it went well. I wound up seated on the chair with five other skiers. Unfortunately in the process I dropped one of my ski poles. I tried to pick it up before the lift got me too high to grab it. I didn’t manage to make the scoop.
The chair ride to the top was about ten minutes. The ride gave me time to go through a series of mental possibilities. The first possibility was that I was screwed! I was about to ski the most difficult terrain I had skied in many years and I was going to have to do it with one pole. The second possibility was that I could go to the concession stand at the top and ask if they had any extra poles. I’m way better at asking for help than I used to be. This second possibility was leading the race for most of the way up the chair lift. The third possibility came to my mind as I neared the top. The third possibility was that I would just deal with it.
I thought about the many people who have to go through their life with only one of which that they should have had two of. My first wife’s mother lost an eye at age 65 and has adapted and lived a life that continues to be remarkable and inspiring. I got off the chair lift without falling despite my lack of a second pole. I turned to the left as I exited the chair and stopped at the top of the steepest hill I have seen in many years. I had an instant of fear…and then and total sense of calm came over me. The sun was shining. Everything was exactly as it was supposed to be.
I took the strap of my one pole off of my wrist so I could switch the pole from hand to hand as needed. I pushed off from the crest of the summit and I proceeded slowly across the steeps cutting from side to side along the slope. Each time I set up for a turn I moved the pole to the other hand. I trusted my legs. I trusted my skis. I trusted myself. Space opened up for me on the crowded hill exactly when I needed it to open up. As I got further into the run I realized that I didn’t even need the one pole that I still had at my disposal. I had adapted and relied on my other resources. While my physical body provided some of the resources, it was mostly my mind that had made the adjustment. I allowed my thinking to let go of my limiting beliefs of what I needed to have in order to accomplish the task and I instead relied only on what I had in the moment. By being in the moment I experienced the perfect run. It took longer than it might have otherwise taken, but maybe that’s exactly what I was supposed to understand. Sometimes taking it slower allows the experience to be richer.
When I got to the bottom I skied over to same the chair lift and asked the operator for my wayward pole. He looked at me and said, “We sent it to the top in the chair behind you. We always do that so you can wait at the top and have your pole to ski down with…”
I could do nothing but laugh at the irony of the whole situation. I did so much planning in my head that I never even considered the possibility that someone would help me by bring my pole to the top. I wouldn’t have had the outcome any other way though. By coming down the hill with only one of which I usually have two of, I was given the chance to see the situation in a way I might have never seen it.
I rode the chair back to the top with my one pole and when I got there I saw my matching pole stuck in the snow next to the exit ramp. I grabbed it on the way off the lift. This time I turned to the right instead. I turned into the land of difficult blues and easier blacks. I figured if I could make it down the steepest hill I had faced yet with one pole, that perhaps I should consider other possibilities. It wasn’t my ego talking to me this time. It was a deep sense of knowing that everything was exactly as it was supposed to be.
What a remarkable day I had. With special thanks to an unforeseen circumstance within the first hour of my day, I chose a path that tested my limits with respect to my boundaries. Isn’t that all we can hope for in this lifetime?