What snowboarding taught me about falling, and getting back up again

Snowboarding like a badass in Italy

The name Suzanne means ‘graceful white lily’. Well, let me tell you, there was nothing graceful about my last week’s escapades. Last week was the week my arse met the mountains. Over and over again.

Despite my penchant for sporting activities, my parents never thought to shove me down a big white hill on skis when I was younger. Probably sensible. But after spending so long saying ‘I’ve never done that’, I decided 26 should be the age I spend an eye-watering amount of money on a holiday where I don’t even get a tan.

So chaps, that is what I did.

My sister and I were both snow sport virgins, but our other halves were not. They did their own thing in the mornings while little sibling and I spent some quality time with an Italian named Lucio whose favourite phrases were ‘pay attention’, ‘don’t worry’, and ‘how long time ago’. At least he learnt our names though – there was a kid in the class he referred to as ‘boy’.

Anyhow, Lucio was a good snowboarding teacher and, most importantly, PATIENT with us. He must have looked at us falling about like the most efficient dominos and thought ‘what is wrong with these English people’. At one point I toppled backwards and hit my head so hard I cried like a baby. But he just said ‘don’t cry, don’t worry’, and helped me get back up. We held hands. It was borderline romantic (sorry Olly).

In the afternoons after lessons we would meet up with the other halves and they would witness all the progress we had made in the morning turn to s***. I’ve never cried so much on a holiday. I mean, seriously, holidays are supposed to be where happy gets made. At one point I fell so hard on my face my goggles branded me and I may have chipped a tooth. Another time I fell over so badly an actual tantrum happened. I took off my board and stormed down the mountain on foot.

It felt like I kept taking one step forward, and two back. It was immensely frustrating.

And every time I fell, I was more tentative of going again. Because I was scared of falling again.

But this meant I restricted myself – trying to snowboard with tension in your body is literally setting yourself up for a fall. You have to relax for it to work.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see achievements in perspective. At the start of the holiday I could only just stand up on the board, let alone ride down a mountain on it. After four days I was riding down a mountain on it, and occasionally falling over. But instead of focusing on how far I’d come, I was consumed by how far I still had to go to be ‘good’. Good by my standard. Which pretty much means the new Jenny Jones.

This is a flaw of mine. Looking at the negatives over the positives.

But, I started to see, falling over wasn’t a bad thing. Falling over meant I was trying, pushing, myself, and not just staying where I was comfortable. Even though I didn’t want to fall over (it hurt, a lot, and after a few days my body was really suffering), I knew that if I didn’t then I wasn’t getting any better.

If I didn’t fall, I wasn’t learning.

The important thing was my actions after a fall. I could roll around in the snow whimpering like a small mountain goat and thinking ‘I’m rubbish, I can’t do it, if I was good then I wouldn’t be falling’, or I could get straight back up and try again, being aware of what made me fall in the first place, and trying to avoid repeating it.

Apply this to life. Every day, every week, every year, we fall. In one way or another. We bruise, we feel pain, we wonder what the hell we’re doing for life to suck so much.

But the real value we get from those falls is the way we recover. Brush ourselves off, stand back up, tall, and deal with them. Make life better than it was before those falls.

We can learn so much if we let ourselves. If we recognise that falling is all part of growing, and that if we aren’t falling we aren’t trying hard enough.

Remember, if we don’t experience any pain, we can never know how sweet the pleasure of success is.

We can never find our limits unless we push ourselves beyond them.

And despite the five bruises I have on my backside right now, despite the aches threaded through my entire body, despite the mark on my face that is only just starting to fade, I already want to get back up on a mountain and snowboard the best bejeezus I can out of it.

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Stress really stresses me out

Outsourcing stress

The word ‘busy’ suitably defines my time at work this week. We’ve been working on a tender the size of my backside (which is pretty big). I don’t know what it is about deadlines, but it always seems to go to the wire. Goodbye zen, hello heart palpitations. One part of this tender involved my first major contribution. Lots and lots of writing, and the responsibility for making it sparkle all on my shoulders. That’s pressure. That’s getting so absorbed in something it takes your heart and soul for a little while. That’s stress having its way with your body through pounding headaches.

Believe me, when the pressure is off I know exactly how to relax. I’m pretty good at closing the ‘work’ door of my brain. But when there is work to be done, and a limited time to do it in, I go batshit crazy. Stress seems to control me. And it’s really rather annoying. Annoying to the point that I actually get stressed out at how stressed I am. Yesterday I left work when I simply couldn’t do any more. My brain had frazzled itself and shut down of its own accord – just like my computer does sometimes. I got home, popped some pills (disclaimer: they were over the counter ones) and put myself to bed to try and beat the pain with rest.

But could I rest? No. I was too tense. Too uptight. And then my brain woke up. I can’t complain too much because I ended up being very productive lying there in a dark room; I managed to nail a headline that I’d been struggling with. But that’s not the point. The point is that when stress does rear its silly ugly head, I let it take over. I let it rule everything. And it’s bad for my health, and my sanity.

At university I got so stressed that my hair started to fall out. I took some stress relief technique classes and, although I’m not sure they helped directly, I did get a better grip on coping with stress. At least, I thought I did. It hasn’t felt that way this week. Maybe I’ve just become better at relaxing when I don’t have things to worry about, and then gone into total breakdown when I do. Whatever it is, stress is not conducive to productivity. A little can be helpful, but a lot can send you over the edge.

I need to learn to take a breath and remind myself that stress is not my friend. So I shouldn’t give it the time of day. When it walks down the path towards my front door, I must try not to let it in. But that is so much easier said than done.