Saturday, November 9, 2013

Addressing the Skiing Critics

Ski season is quickly approaching in the Sierra Nevada. Mammoth Mountain opened this past week and I've been itching to get back on skis again because of it. To be honest, I've been itching to get back on skis again since last season was obviously cut short. For those of you wondering, I will NOT be going back to Badger Pass for a plethora of reasons (some addressed in the first post of this blog). Well, it appears that when ski season gets closer, my critics seem to come out of the woodwork. I thought I'd take some time to not only address them, but also share my thoughts on skiing again.

"You want to ski again? That's STUPID!"

I knew at some point there was going to be in influx of criticism about wanting to get back on skis. I could feel it in the air, maybe it was just the change in weather, but it was coming. It started with Mr Grumpy Pants at work. Before the accident he was always rude and grumpy toward me, but since returning to work, he's been relatively nice (asking how the back was, showing concern, etc.). Well, when he mentioned skiing last week, and I said I couldn't wait to get back on skis again, he called me stupid. Yep, I knew that being nice to me wasn't going to last long for him. It bothered me a bit, but that was his personality. That was just the beginning of it that day it seems. 

Later that morning, when two of my absolute favorite people and biggest supporters were at Bux (M&K), I got it again. No hesitation in it, just a huge "It is stupid!" when it came up. I tried to just brush it off, but this one hurt. Yes, people are entitled to have and express their opinions, but sometimes they are best left unsaid. This was one of those times. I've talked about my desire to ski again with K several times, including recently, and the only things I got were a change of subject or "would so-and-so want you to be doing that yet?" (It is well known that my neurosurgeon has cleared me for doing whatever my back feels up to.) I know that K hasn't been a big fan of the fact that I'm hiking again or wanting to backpack again, so this really shouldn't have been much of a surprise. It still really bugged me... and probably because she's been like family to me through all of this. 

While at the PT office later that morning, I finally sent K a message letting her know how I felt. I was sick of people criticizing me for wanting to get back on skis, etc. After I was done working out, I went over to K's office to clear the air on the subject. She didn't mean to upset me with the comment, but couldn't imagine what it'd be like for me if I fell, got injured, or wound up in the hospital again. I understand where she is coming from, but it was still tough to swallow. K has seen me come so far in my recovery, that it's probably hard for her not to feel protective (I would assume). It wasn't a long conversation and I didn't really say much. I knew what I wanted to say probably wouldn't be heard and would be best saved for a different time. Plus, I didn't want to say something off the cuff that I would probably end up regretting later. We hugged, I left, and sat with my feelings most of the afternoon at the engine shop. I decided it would probably be best for me to just not share anything relating to living outside of a glass box with K anymore.

I Don't Want To Live In A Glass Box

It's been 8+ months since I broke my back. I am very aware of the seriousness of the injury and damage that my body is recovering from. I still have awhile before the nerves in my legs and feet are healed, and there is the possibility they might not come back fully. I know that I need to be careful because of the titanium in my spine. I am aware of the risks of my new bionic body. I am very aware that I am very lucky to be alive. I am also very aware that my recovery has been above and beyond what anyone predicted it would be. I still can't believe how crazy my recovery has been - and it's happening to me! I know that I am very lucky that I had an amazing surgeon while in the hospital. I've had an awesome recovery team over the past several months (Thanks Tehachapi PT!). I've had an amazing support system since the accident happened. I've busted my ass during this whole recovery process - on the good days and the bad, through the awesome times and the times I just wanted it all to be over - I've given it my all. As a result, I'm walking again, working again, hiking again, ... and soon to be skiing again!

I fell in love with skiing last season. To me, it's only natural that I want to ski again. If I wasn't meant to ski again, I don't think my recovery would be going so well. I don't think I'd be alive right now if I wasn't meant to ski again. When I broke my collarbone in a car accident, I wasn't criticized for wanting to drive again! People hurt themselves doing ordinary things all the time, and they don't get criticized for returning to doing those ordinary things. The same should apply here. One thing that this whole situation has taught me, is to live life to its fullest. Do what you are passionate about and don't give up. I've worked my ass off over the past 8+ months and it's paying off. Hiking in the Sierra brings tears of joy to my eyes every single time. I know that I need to be cautious and listen to my body more than ever now, but I'm going to follow my passions. I'm not going to live in a glass box for the rest of my life! I don't want to be miserable for the rest of my life, and I know that's what I'd be if I just sat around wondering what it would be like to ski or backpack again. I want to spend my days enjoying my life and celebrating that I'm alive. I will not let my life be controlled by a glass box.

My Thoughts On The Return To Skis

If you know me or follow me on social media, you know I'm beyond ready to be back on skis again. I fell in love with skiing earlier this year and my time on them got cut too short. I didn't get on the black diamonds runs - I was planning to the day of the fall. I didn't get to do any backcountry ski touring. I didn't get the Dynafit setup I wanted. I didn't get to spend anywhere near the amount of time I wanted to on skis last season. I'm bitter about it. That bitterness has motivated me to push myself to get ready to be back on skis again. Well, that time is almost here.

Every time it has snowed in the Sierra recently, my excitement has grown... as has my nervousness. I have my neurosurgeon's blessing to do whatever my back feels up to (I'm going for a checkup/x-rays before skiing - just to make sure everything is stable). I've been strengthening my core, along with everything else, to make sure my body is as ready for it as it can be. I know that I can walk in ski boots again - I've done plenty of laps around Mammoth Mountaineering in the new Dynafit TLT6's. I've been telling myself that we need to wait for good, soft snow at Mammoth for my first time back. I've told myself, and Dave, that the first time back is going to be a lot of green runs so I can get use to the feeling of skiing again and see what's going to be an issue, etc. I've told Dave that the first several times on the lifts are going to be nerve-wracking for me. Oh shit, the lifts...

I'm not sure what makes me more nervous - how my back is going to handle skiing, what if I take a bad fall while skiing (which will happen), or having to get on a lift again. I have some legit concerns about falling while skiing, probably the same ones that K does, but it's something that will happen. Even the best skiers take tumbles, so it's just something that I'll have to adapt to and try and do "safely". Yes, I could hurt my back again while skiing, but I could hurt my back while driving, while walking, while coughing... it could happen with anything. 

I can't lie. I'm scared to get back on a lift. Our goal is to spend most of our skiing time in the backcountry, but I'm going to need to get back on lifts again to get ready for that. As the return to skis gets closer, the nightmares of seeing the fall from the lift have returned... with a vengeance. When I close my eyes, I can see it happening all over again. It's not pleasant. I wake up in tears some nights. It's something I have to deal with now. I'm not going to let the nightmare put a stop to my desire to ski again. If I did, the glass box would win. It's going to be hard, but it's a fear I have to face. 

All of this being said, I am nervously excited for ski season. I was nervous about my first hike, and it went much better than expected. We'll see what the first time back on skis holds for me. One thing that I do know, I'm going to keep on living my life to its fullest. I'm always going to have my critics, but that's a natural thing in life. I'm going to make the most of what I've been given - even if I have to be a bit more cautious. There is a very good reason my recovery has been ridiculously amazing... and it's not to live in a glass box.

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