Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Am I Waiting For?

On our recent visit to Vancouver, Bill's mom kept asking everyone if we were making resolutions for the new year. No one took her up on that. She said her resolution is to learn to relax, to go with the flow. She followed through with that by serving us store-bought lasagna one night (three kinds!) so that she could go to Capilano Suspension Bridge with us that day instead of slaving in the kitchen. The lasagna was quite tasty, and we all had a wonderful time at the bridge.

But I didn't give resolutions another thought--until a few days after we got back home, when I was suffering from a bout of insomnia. As I lay awake for hours, I pondered the three types of people: 1) People who aren't afraid of anything and will try everything, 2) people who are afraid of everything and won't try anything, and 3) people who make themselves try things but then are tortured by fear.

Can you guess which group I belong to? Yes, you're right. Group 3. I'd love to belong to group 1, but if that can't be arranged, I'd rather belong to group 2. Because group 3 is such a frustrating place to be. I'm afraid of so many things, but I'm even more afraid of missing out on things. I'm afraid of big things and little things, important things and trivial things. Things like phoning a friend I don't know well yet, or breading and frying eggplant by myself (Bill usually does the frying on those rare occasions when we fry things in our house).

One of the things I'm most afraid of is skiing, and it seems to get worse every year even though my skills are marginally better each time we go. This time, it had been two years since our last ski trip, and I had a jumpy feeling in the pit of my stomach all the way to Mt. Baker, in Washington. I was dreading the cold, and the achy muscles, and the humiliation of tumbling end over end and landing on my behind, with snow creeping up my sleeves and down the back of my pants.

Although I said nothing about my fears, Bill remarked that maybe I'm getting to the age when I should just stay behind, that there's no point doing something if you're not going to have fun. This rather hurt my feelings--I'm only 40!--but I think it hurt more because he was echoing my own thoughts. "No!" I protested. "I want to be there when Allyson learns to ski. I want to see how good Ethan's getting on the snowboard."

As it turned out, I really didn't see all that much. Bill spent all morning on the bunny hill with Allyson, who barreled fearlessly down the slope but just couldn't get her "pizza" stance down. "Sorry! Sorry!" she'd say, just before she plowed into another hapless bystander. Bill said if she couldn't stop, she couldn't go up the mountain.

Rather than stand in the cold and watch Bill trudging up the hill over and over with her, I decided to ride the lift up with the rest of the family. "Is it a green slope?" I asked anxiously.

"I don't know," my nephew Kurtis (age 11) replied. "They don't really have colors. But it's pretty easy."

Kurtis (Age 11) Making a Glass Ornament at Capilano

"Yeah, come with us, Auntie Sarah," said his sister Katie. "Will you ride on the lift with me?"

Katie at Capilano (Age 7)

"I might knock you down," I warned, so she rode with her dad.

The scenery on the way up was breathtaking, awe inspiring. Or it should have been, but I was too busy worrying about how all four of us (Kurtis, my sister-in-law Lisa, Ethan, and me) were going to get off that chair at the same time. I probably said a prayer about it, and I guess God was listening because we all managed to get off pretty easily.

Lisa's husband Cory pointed the way to the "easy" slope, but I wasn't sure I understood his directions.

"Just follow Katie," Lisa said. But Katie zipped down the slope and out of sight before I had completed my first wide turn. All of them were gone, including Ethan, who thought he might not remember how to snowboard.

All except Lisa, who was following behind me, I guess to make sure I didn't get lost.

With superhuman patience, she talked me down that mountain. "Now go over toward that tree. Okay, turn! Turn again. You can do it! Perfect turn!" she hollered.

"Thank... oof!" I cried. My center of gravity had shifted too far back, and down I went onto my behind. "I'm okay!" I said, using the pole to push myself back on my feet.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, Lisa continued to coach me down slopes that seemed steeper and steeper. She said I was doing great, but not once did I relax. Instead, I spent all my energy trying to stay alive.

At last I crested a hill and saw the rest of them waiting at the ski lift. I made it! I exulted. I'm alive! Now I could go and check on Allyson. But where was the bunny hill?

"Get in line," Kurtis said right after I slid to a somewhat smooth stop next to him and Ethan.

"I don't think I want to go up again yet," I said.

"Oh, but we have to. That's how we get back down to the lodge where we were."

Ah, so this was a different lift. "Is it a green?" I asked hopefully. "Because I think that last slope was probably a blue."

"They don't really have colors," Kurtis repeated. "But this next one's pretty easy."

This time I rode with just Kurtis and Ethan, and we went way, way up to the top of the mountain. My hands were burning with the cold despite two layers of gloves, and the drips from my nose felt frozen. The view from up here was indescribable, and I tried to admire it, but my thudding heart drowned out my silent praises to the Maker of all this beauty.

Do not be anxious about anything, but pray about everything, I reminded myself. I prayed all during Kurtis and Ethan's chatter. I prayed while we dismounted from the lift--again with no problems. And I prayed when I saw an even steeper slope waiting for me.

Once more, Lisa stayed with me and helped me pick out my path, and she waited with me when I had a big wipeout, the kind that makes your skis pop off, and then you have to stand on a ridiculously steep hill and try to clip your snow-covered boots back into them.

But I made it down alive, and you can imagine my relief when I spotted Bill and Allyson at the bottom of the last slope--just before a snowboarder knocked me down right in front of them. (Only my pride was hurt.) 

And that was the end of my big, fun day of skiing. Under other circumstances I would have forced myself to go up one more time, and I might have had a little fun on the parts I knew were safe, or maybe I would have found the real green slopes and tried those. But Bill had been with Allyson for hours, and I wanted him to have a chance to use his $50 lift ticket, especially since I knew he would actually enjoy himself, which he did.

Meanwhile, I had fun getting warm in the lodge and drinking cocoa with Allyson. Maybe Bill was right, I thought. Maybe I am getting too old for this.

The Resolution
But I thought about it some more on that night of insomnia, and it made me mad. Why do I have to be afraid all the time? Why can't I let go of control and trust that everything will be okay? Why can't I have a little fun now and then like everyone else?

What bothers me the most is the way I'm afraid about my novel. I should be having so much fun writing that first draft, but instead I spend most of my time worrying--that it won't be good enough, that no one will want to read it, or that they'll read it and they won't like it. It's enough to make me want to quit, and I probably would have if it weren't for the encouragement of friends and family.

I don't know how it's going to happen, but I've decided that 2011 is going to be my year for letting go of fear. I think the key will be my new memory passage, the one about being rooted and established in God's love.
According to 1 John 4:18, perfect love casts out fear. So I'm betting that once I begin to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, I'll be able to start enjoying that abundant life He wants to give me.

What about you, which group do you belong to? Are you fearless, fearful, or in between? How do you deal with your fear? Can you have fun doing something you're afraid of?


Mindy said...

My next post was going to be about my snowboarding trip this year, too funny!

I would like to think I'm pretty fearless, I'm only afraid of things that are truly dangerous, beyond that I think I'm pretty adventuresome. For example, the fear factor for snowboarding = no big deal, the fear factor for sky diving = almost right up there with infinity. I mean anything could go wrong and you could die. That's a risk I'm not willing to take.

Anonymous said...

My fear is not taking that step that God is waiting for me to take….if not taken, then not only am I not reaching God’s potential for me, but then I will not be ready for the next step and the next….I will not grow to the women God has set out for me to be. That scares me. This year I have set out to not miss the doors God opens for me and to pray to know that the open doors I see are His doors to go through.

Anonymous said...

<>< Gentle

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Thank you for praying for me when I was not well.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely part of the 3rd group. I made myself learn to ski even though I was terrified. I used to be part of the 1st group until I had a sledding accident in my mid-twenties. I got hurt, and realized there is wisdom is some caution. The next time you go skiing try this. Either quote scripture while you’re skiing down the mountain or sing a worship song. The first year I skied I quoted I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. The next two years I sang worship songs through the scary parts. By engaging your mind in something else it eases the fear.


Sarah said...

Mindy - I can't wait to read about your snowboarding. Yes, you are pretty fearless. Remember the time I thought I was going to encourage you as you learned to snowboard, and instead you talked me down the mountain (the time we went night skiing)?

Gentle - You ARE growing into the woman God wants you to be, and it's a pleasure sharing the journey with you.

Victor! I'm so excited to hear from you. I'm thanking God that you must be feeling better.

Amy - I will definitely remember your advice the next time I go skiing. I never would have thought about singing, but I love the idea.

Anonymous said...

I see my self as fearless....but, as I pondered my comment..I realized...well, I do have some fears! Heights, bugs in quantity, mayo on any of my food, my teeth falling out, offending someone, being late, losing the sight I have and not be able to see the world as I do today, and losing memories.

Jenny said...

Don't quit on your book, you are a wonderful writer and it's inevitable that some people won't enjoy the book but it's also inevitable that many people will enjoy it. I personally can't wait to read it!

Sarah said...

Jenny - Thanks for the encouragement about the book. I needed it today as I am hoping to sit down and work on it tonight--if my kids ever settle down and go to sleep. The bed is calling me, but this is one of my rare opportunities to be uninterrupted while Bill plays hockey. I appreciate all your support.


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