Measurement of Self Image

Measurement of Self

In my youth my parents made marks on the doorway as to my height as I approached adolescence.  This was a measurement as to my physical structure, but not as to my mental or psychic maturity. To some extent my school report cards provided some basis for that as to my ability to handle intellectual challenges. BUT, what about my psychic, my handling of right from wrong, my compassion for others, and my acceptance of those so different from me as to language, culture, race, religion, skills, activities, cats vs. dogs, and ketchup vs. mustard.  Mom was an Angel in human form that taught me to Love all, albeit with restrictions as to those that can't love others. These folks were not to be ignored or rejected, but rather to be tolerated for their weaknesses. 'Hate" was not an option for those types.

As to my personal measurement of my stamina, drive, and perseverance, I consider my snow skiing for over a half-century to be one indication of whom I am in those regards (family (love) and professional (integrity/intelligence) experiences are of course other measurements.) For readers that do not ski, then you may not well relate to the following, but you may have your own comparative personal paths similar to what follows.

Learning to ski seriously is primarily about pushing oneself beyond natural limits of fear, in my opinion.  I am not referring to professional, Olympic contenders. Those individuals do not represent the majority of us that are seeking excitement within our own sphere of self-preservation. The same can be said for those that pursue extreme sports for personal satisfaction, e.g., surfing, skydiving, ocean sailing, etc.  This does not include those who enjoy sports that involve little to no risk, e.g., bowling, tennis, golf, riding a Harley, etc.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with those pursuits, but skiing and other such risk-related sports are a totally different level of commitment; a degree of commitment I have found that I can now measure as to my nerve, my guts, over the years.  

Starting to ski can be a painful experience for most I am sure, It was for me 50 years ago, especially due to  the clothes and equipment available at that point, e.g., leather tie-up boots, straight skis,  no helmets, and the lack of high-tech clothes (not Gore-Tex, but iced hardened jeans). In addition to the numerous falls that occur as one learns the handling of the 2 edges of the skis, it is the commitment that one has to make to face downhill and ski in control without fear of not being able to handle turns and speed without going into the trees ( Sonny Bono). Over time a skier will progress from what is referred to as stem-christie, to parallel skiing where both skis are in synch. That is a magical moment when you shift from one edge to the other effortlessly while facing your upper body downhill.  Well, that is, until in the East you hit an ice patch offering NO edge to maintain control, and one hangs on seeking control at some point before wiping out. It is with such potentially risky situations that a skier is well aware of his/her limits ... and then decides to move forward with additional risks .. or not. This is a definitive measurement of self, with many such similar situations to be forthcoming as he/she decides to address their perseverance to advance in this highly-risky sport. Not all will do so, of course. But those that do so will reach new levels of pleasure and self-confidence, only to be shaken up occasionally (the picture is one of my falls graciously taken by my youngest son), and then to take on additional challenges.  BUT,  as I have experienced, there can be a threshold that may be reached due to age and/or physical limitations.

I offer the following testimony to senior citizens like me, without excuses, for their consideration of when the challenge is different than in their younger years.  It is no longer a challenge to exceed further, but rather the challenge to pull back,  i.e., to accept unwanted but necessary limitations. This ski season was such a transition for me.  A year ago at the age of 73, I had major surgery regarding the removal of my prostate, a piece of colon, and the elimination of a major infection in my spine.  All is well now, but with the loss of 35 pounds in mass including muscle,  I was concerned (rightfully so as it turned out) that I indeed needed to back down on my aggressiveness on the slopes.

So,  a month or so ago, I hit the slopes after 2 years of absence. Again, after a half-century of skiing, as an advanced level skier (sans moguls), I was a disaster initially. My muscle memory in parallel sking was failing me. I took a really horrible fall from which I recovered thanks only due to my helmet.  I was really shaken up with a horrendous rib bruise.  In 3 weeks I went back to the slopes with the objective to regain my skiing skills, but not totally (as my youngest son will attest to,).  The short of this is my measurement of myself as a skier was severely challenged,  Those 2 trips were a correction factor for which I have to now consider going forward in that I have a new measurement for me to consider. BUT, will I?  What will be my perspective next ski season?  I will be rebuilding my physical strength over the next year. But, what will be my courage to take on the risks of aggressive skiing, i.e., my confidence in the combination of my muscle memory and the nerve to point downhill at the age of 75?  That extraordinary fall should not be challenged again as to my skiing aggressively, or can it be? That is now me, or maybe not. Skiing aggressively is my personal Measurement of who I am in some ways.






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