[soul food] i challenge you to relax!

Spring Break always seems to come at just the right time. Eric and I went on vacation last week--skiing in Colorado with his family--and it was a break we both needed. Eric made the very astute observation that we'd chosen to spend our vacation doing something that is in all ways the opposite of relaxing. It occurred to me that the mental break from the rigors of daily life is what we really need vacation for, and sometimes just allowing ourselves to do something fun--strenuous or not--is what helps us relax. On this vacation I took up a new challenge. This was only my second ski trip ever; my first was three years ago, and I'd only skied for two days. Eric and his family are all excellent skiers, and while I quickly found that I enjoy skiing as well, I was not looking forward to spending my vacation in ski school on one little bunny slope while everyone else gets to ski together all over the mountain. I also wanted to take a picture of the mountain peaks, and I'd been told the best place to do that was off a lift on top of the mountain, which I wasn't skilled enough to ride. So I decided that I would just have to become a better skier immediately. Challenge accepted!

My mother-in-law skied with me a lot, which was great because she was an excellent teacher! The one thing that stuck in my mind was her advice that I have to get over my fear of skiing fast. It basically all comes down to your ability to keep your speed under control, so the better I could learn to slow my speed or stop quickly, the faster I could go without losing control. After two days skiing with her and one day of ski school (which really did help hone my technique), I was riding new lifts, and I even skied with Eric down a blue run!

Here's a color map of Copper Mountain that shows the difficulty levels of the ski runs:

By the end of the week, I'd skied most of the mountain, ridden ten different lifts, and even skied a black run! That one took me a while to get down, but I made it! I was actually able to ski with most of the group for three of our five ski days!

I discovered a new relaxation technique over that trip: allowing myself to focus on new challenges. It might seem counter-intuitive, but just giving myself a break from the challenges I work through repeatedly in my daily grind and opening my mind to a new challenge gave me the freedom just to think about something else. Strangely, it often feels like there isn't even time to think about something outside your regular concerns, but I learned that it is absolutely necessary to do that in order to keep yourself from getting mentally bogged down. It gives you new perspectives and helps you to navigate mental and creative blocks. Now, I'm not an Olympic skier or anything, but just facing a new challenge last week has left me with a feeling that yes, I do have the ability to be victorious, and the small battles are just as important as the big ones.

Oh, and I did get the photo I wanted. :)