So, it was the best of times and the worst of times.
Last week, the last month of winter rolled in. Bringing with it not only Dickens’s quote, but our annual family skiing holiday. For 5 days my lover and I saw each other, our smalls and ourselves in the brightest and sometimes harshest of lights. It seemed at times as if we were in the middle of the volatile French revolution. Except with nothing of the French – just a whole lot of “times” in the Australian snow.
Now, the thing with skiing is that it defies all survival logic. It involves firstly walking in obscenely uncomfortably tight boots which hold you in permanent knee flexion dorsiflexed ankles. The high kneed bounce makes you look like you’re either on the moon, crapped your pants or both.
You move in such fashion to the bottom a fully exposed, open chair lift with what seems half a million other punters. This is while holding your own skis, your smalls’ skis and dragging the hand of your middle red who was kicked in the shin by her brother in the drying room.
You then ride on said lift which is exposed to 50km winds at -7*. All the while playing I-spy to distract your 5 year old from the biting pain of sleet on his face and the punching dealt out to him from a revenge seeking middle red sister.
Upon making the top of the whited out mountain, you navigate the crowds wearing Anaconda or Aldi to find those fitted out in the latest from The Barwon Heads All Saints Op-Shop. That being, your eldest child.
You then all point the 2 planks of wood, strapped to your obscenely uncomfortable boots, down the mountain, lean forward and ski.
Being able to see less than 5 metres in front of you makes every basic brainstem reaction you have say “lean back”, or “slow down”, or “WTF is the lodge”. But the further forward you lean ironically the easier it is to ski.
Like a dance between holding the edge of your control or letting the mountain control you.
It is a right of passage with our small ones that upon their first year of turning 5, they tell anyone on the mountain who cares that they’re 4. Meaning a free lift pass for them, a $65 per day saving per day for us and on a holiday where you literally haemorrhage money – a kind of win for the little man.
Along with the 5 year old right of passage to lie, is the removal of said child from the inner thighs of his protective parents. We’re still happy to shuffle our pole-less penguin-like small ones across the flat. But with our 42 year old knees (and 20 years experience of rehabilitating broken ones), we encourage our school aged small ones to point their own crazy planks down-hill, lean forward and – well – ski.
Yes, on day 1 the experience is far from comfortable. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s Australian skiing 101. Our frustrated smalls spend the first day of our annual skiing trip IN the wet snow rather than on it. And despite bribery of Clinkers, hot chocolates ad football cards, our youngest lad proved much better at adapting to lying than to skiing.
Due to his approximate 6 hours of straight crying, my “worst of times” colours on display were plentiful. They include me telling him I’d push him off the chair lift (while on moving lift), me threatening to leave him on the mountain (half way down a white out) and shouting and the world for that matter at the top of my lungs to “Shut-Up!” To the later of my “worst of times”, he sat frozen, hurt and quiet.
“You can’t swear at me.”
And rather than congratulate myself on getting him through 5 and a half years of life without dropping the F-bomb, I felt pretty lousy.
And pretty icey cold.
Think standing twists, bound seated poses and bastrika breath.
When things are as hard as they can possibly be, it’s said our Yoga has the potential to start it’s true work. After the Ego has had it’s fill of huffing and puffing because it’s hard: or shouting and swearing because it hurts: there comes a moment where we have choice. To continue to let our ego throw her wild arms and words around. Or to surrender into where we are at. And into this surrendered moment we find where our true resilience lies. Where our strongest heart rests.
Where our higher knowing knows.
The buddha believes “yoga is the breaking of the contact with pain.” In building our resilience by facing what’s hard, our emotional intelligence develops in that we live from a larger part of ourselves. To develop brain elasticity, inner fire and an expansive heart, all we need to teach our small ones and to teach ourselves is to pay attention.
Clear, intimate attention.
Our trip home involved 9 hours, 7 vehicles, 3 sets of chains, 2 shovels, a torch and a battery jump start. We sat motionless for longer than we moved. All the while, I wanted to cry. To flail my arms around and scream at the world that I was cold, that I was tired and that I wanted to go home.
But I didn’t.
I played car games with my smalls. Because in the cold mountains all my smalls learnt to ski on their own two feet.
They learnt face forward when they wanted to pull back.
They learnt to get up when they fell down.
The least I could do was to learn all that with them. And make the worst of times, and the best of times – just what they are.