Like downhill skiing, focus on where you want to go when life’s road gets bumpy

When I was a teenager learning to downhill ski, a friend taught me how to tackle the bumps. A formidable challenge for someone new to the sport, I had no idea how to navigate the series of hard bumps dotting a steep incline on a popular trail. What made the challenge even worse, especially for a self-aware teenager, was that this set of bumps was located right under the ski lift.

All eyes, of course, were on me in my 15-year-old little center of the universe.

He was relaxed and encouraging. “It’s easy,” he says, “just look where you want to go, and your body will follow. Don’t look at what you want to avoid – you will naturally go in that direction. But –” he demonstrated, rolling down a few bumps, then stopping and looking up, “If you just look a few steps ahead of you and stay loose and sort of hop-hop-hop, you’ll understand quick. .”

Of course, I went down the slope and made two or three turns before crashing spectacularly with imaginary hoots and boos from the skiers on the lift. But those two or three corners were more than I had managed before, and I took his advice to heart.

Look where you want to go.

Last weekend, in the hot, dry calm of a cedar sauna, I initiated an exercise invented with my husband.

“What are the things we like? Go.”

He was up for it, and we took turns joining freely. Later, I wrote down what I could remember in my diary.

A hot meal after a cold day outside. The smell of buds in April. Fall in Alaska. June in Alaska. Good conversations. Fancy dinners with the child. Cycling downtown to meet friends over a beer. Accomplish difficult things. To feel like a cog in a well-run machine. Community. Contributing. Sincerity. Sarcasm. Skill. Creating and organizing things – writing, experiences, art. Feel fit and flexible.

It was a mishmash of our two answers. Some of them overlap; some don’t. But it felt good to reflect on both the things I like, the things he likes, and the things we both like.

My world is made up of where I focus. Everything I experience passes through the filter of my own brain and my interpretation. I am increasingly aware of this and of my responsibility in my own life, as I realize that I have an outsized influence on my own perspective.

Case in point: Earlier this year, I was extremely – and understandably – caught in a rat’s nest of logistics and financial stress. Part of that I could have done more to deal with emotionally, but part of it was just the nature of the beast. I accepted this. It was a finite period of time.

But, it was also in the service of a greater adventure. I noticed, however, that when I started what I had worked so hard to plan, I had a propensity to create stress in me.

I was nagging and poking things that didn’t need my attention. I was looking for stress because it had become a habit and, in its weird way, comfortable.

I had to do a reset and give myself the emotional equivalent of training on the hill of moguls, looking where I want to go and letting myself follow naturally.

It is lifelong learning. I managed to let go and live again from day to day, moment to moment. And now that I’m back from the big adventure, I find I need to find the balance between the everyday stresses and pressures of navigating a life, and the ease and joy of seeing the world as it happens.

I find that I have a lower threshold for feeling bad.

So I’m working on retraining my brain. Again and again. I am not someone who espouses outright rejection of negativity. I don’t even believe that’s possible, although a particular breed of life coaching and a “grab yourself by your boots” mentality would make me think otherwise. I also think that in our fast-paced world, it’s important to stay educated and engaged; don’t tap into what’s going on around me.

But I have to look where I want to go. If I look where I don’t want to go, my body, my mind and my life will naturally follow. It’s unhealthy and, in the grand scheme of things, beside life.

I watch as the watermelon berries form their ruby-colored zig-zag patterns along the trail during a hot and humid Sunday hike.

I enjoy the sound of the rain.

I focus on what I can give and improve through the different facets of my work, from writing and art to consulting.

I appreciate the conversation that goes beyond the weather.

I fill my focus and my mind with those things I love, not to crowd out everything else but to change my main perspective. I hope I can naturally follow.

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