“I’m going too fast!” I shouted into sharp, crisp air that would never deliver the message to the man tethered behind me. My words vanished into the wind leaving only unrecognizable, soft sounds drifting. Flashes of icy mist whizzed past my cheeks and in the moment I was so thankful for borrowed ski goggles. “Left!” “Right!” were the simple commands that blew in my direction and I did my best to obey. But, let’s be honest, directional capabilities aren’t my strong suit. Eventually, I found myself tipped over, the sound of crunching snow close to my ear as I lay there on my right shoulder waiting for Mark or Tyler to come hoist me up.
My body was strapped tightly into a chair on two skis. Like an 1800’s girdle shape wear tightly. From my ankles to my chest there were harnesses and red safety straps. I entrusted this whole process to the Mark and Tyler mentioned above, the two guys who volunteered their time to make my outdoor adventure dreams become a reality. Or at least give me a glimmer of hope that I can be active with my family in some adapted capacity if I couldn’t do it on my own two legs.
Today I went skiing for the first time since 2003. 16 years ago I last stepped stepped into ski boots and 16 years ago I took a lift to the top of a beginner hill, looked down and said “nope.” So with a click, off came the skis and I walked down. Let’s just say skiing wasn’t a strength, nor love, of mine. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe the mechanics of it felt too out of control for my Type A in the box structure. Maybe I didn’t feel coordinated enough even though I was physically very fit. Maybe I just wasn’t brave enough and I know I didn’t believe in myself. Excuses just always got in the way even though my husband loves it so. I think I wanted to ski, the idea of it sounded fun, but when faced with the reality of sliding down an icy mountain (thank you East Coast conditions) I really said, maybe not. The cold, the wet, the ice and varying conditions…just didn’t seem like my thing. Then, years later, I lost the use of my legs. And then, for surely then, I realized I’d give anything to use them, even skiing.
Since I became disabled I’ve changed my mindset and jump at the opportunity to anything active, even though it is all adapted. I always held a lot of fear. Just in the last year I swung exponentially in the other direction and let go of it all. Multiple sclerosis affects people in many ways, and many of those with this illness feel sick most of the time. The way in which it has affected me is by cruelly stripping my mobility away slowly. It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say, it sucks to not be able to use my legs and get myself around with ease. Most every movement from my waist down is a struggle, not because I am in pain, but because I simply cannot get my brain to speak clearly with other parts of body. Those signals are blocked by the scarring where the myelin sheath of the neural pathways has been attacked and broken down…by my own immune system. So yeah, I miss my legs. A lot. I do not look back with regret because I did a lot with my legs in my running years and I am proud of how many miles they carried me. I will never, however, take for granted all that my body can do ever again. So every chance I have to move my body, push it’s limits and see what I am still made of, I am going for it.
The mindset I used to subscribe to might sound familiar to you. I know for sure it is familiar to everyone at one or more points in your life. I can’t do this. I’ll do it later. It’s not the right time. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll start over tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong. You are never guaranteed a tomorrow. It’s never going to be the right time. How could you know if you’re just saying that to yourself, the little voice inside your head, and not taking action? Only an action can be the truthful gauge of it will or it won’t work out right now. You are guaranteed a right now. Suck it up and do it. That is the very coarse way of saying let go and let God. I do believe some things should be put down and revisited later at times when when your energy is being zapped or your frustration level exceeds any ounce of joy. There is always a balance of emotion and reality and banging your head against a wall. You do have to know when to quit, but you also need to get acquainted with pushing yourself to follow your dreams. Try, and try again, and try again. Let go and let God was something I heard Wayne Dyer say in one of his talks. Whatever you believe God to be – Spirit, the Universe – being inspired literally means being in spirit. When you are following your dreams, inspired, you have locked your ego in a closet and are free to proceed without fear.
My push to ski is fueled by being with my family and redirecting the conversation that starts with, “What are you going to do Jodi while Russ and the kids are out skiing?” Hang out by the fire. Read a book. Spend time writing. Take a nap. All viable and extremely appealing options. Or, take advantage of an adaptive ski program, get some exercise, breathe fresh air, have fun and maybe, just maybe, conquer some fears? Yes, ding ding ding, sign me up. I can sit by a fire, read a book, write, and nap another time. A future time. Just not today. Today I am adventuring and maybe, just maybe, I’ll pick up yet another hobby to tinker with.
Adaptive ski programs are widely available at ski resorts throughout the United States. This almost feels silly to say but seriously, type adaptive ski programs into Google along with the name of the ski resort, state or town you are going to. I can’t believe I had never thought of it before and honestly, all the credit goes to a close friend of mine who sent me a link with the contact information of a local Pennsylvania adaptive ski program when we were making plans over the New Year. So, I took action. I typed an email. Everyone can type an email. In today’s world, almost everything starts with an email. Then, my mobile phone rang and it was Mark from the adaptive ski program. He educated me on my options, he asked about my disability and capability, we talked about my aspirations, and next thing I knew…I was standing in front of him with a pieced together (and very coordinated, of course) ski outfit to keep me warm, my heart beating out of my chest as I said yes, yes, yes to everything he was telling me. It was an out of body experience to smile and nod and accept a challenge that I didn’t have totally worked out in my mind. No expectations even. Thirty-year-old Jodi would have come up with 101 excuses, masked as questions, stalled, worried, thought up every bad scenario and as the story goes, she would have clicked off her skis and walked down the mountain. Not today, not ever again.
Type that email, pick up the phone, or start Googling to get your dreams in motion. Action speaks louder than words.
If you are in the Pennsylvania area and will be skiing at Seven Springs or Hidden Valley, please please please contact Three Rivers Adaptive Sports. They are the best.