August 1, 2022

Embracing Life in the Slower Lane

As readers of this blog are well aware I grew up in a mountain town, a sporty town, an artsy town, a hippie town. While I related well to my hometown's mountain, artsy, and hippie aspects, I found the sporty one eluded me. Not that I wasn't fit, I really was. With the lifestyle my active family promoted I had no chance not to be fit. We were a hiking, huckleberry-picking-in-the-hot-sun, everyone-takes-swimming-lessons, walk everywhere family. My mother despised camping, preferring to spend a day out of doors then return to her own bathtub and bed. Thanks to my friend's mom who organized a week long camp through their church, I was able to attend summer camp two years in a row. We learned how to paddle a canoe, did nature themed art projects, played orienteering games with a map and compass, and sang riotous songs around the campfire each night, and I absolutely thrived. None of the activities intimidated me as school sports tended to. Oh, I could run and still do, but team sports? Anything requiring skilled eye/ball coordination and strategy? Nope. I was trained by the 1970's and 80's school system to revere sports and the people who were talented at them, always making me feel less than. I believed you were either good at sports or you weren't, and was confused that I could learn to steer a canoe but fail at volleyball. PE class, while not entirely humiliating - I could fake it 'till I sort of made it - felt like a waste of time. 

As I got older I began to align myself with the outdoorsy community. I spent a winter gaining my ski legs. I climbed some serious peaks in my area. I attended the Banff Film Festival and worked at a local outdoor sports store selling backpacks and canoes, offered the job by the owner because I was 'active'. I dated a ski instructor/mountain biker from a nearby mountain town. I read Outside Magazine when the store was quiet, reading about major feats in the outdoors by women much stronger than I. I found that my troubled back was not happy carrying heavy packs. I skied beyond my ability and ended up injuring my neck. I tried tree-planting and left after one day - it killed my achilles tendons. I felt unsatisfied by my outdoor athleticism. If I couldn't be like those women I read about or sold equipment to, what was the point of taking part in that world? I suffered from 'all or nothing' thinking. 

When I started falling in love with a super-jock I was unimpressed. Would I spend my life feeling inadequate because I couldn't do things at his level? He windsurfed and played beach volleyball and tennis, and was quite competitive. In winter he skied and played indoor volleyball in a Vancouver league. When he talked to me about all the wonderful, outdoorsy, sporty things we could do together, I looked him straight in the eye and said "What if I don't want to do all of those things? What will happen to us?" He paused and said, "but you love nature, don't you?" I replied, "yes, I really do, but I am not into conquering it, so if you want this to work you are going to have to lay off pushing me to do things I am uncomfortable doing." He still wanted to be with me (it must have been my sparkling personality and clever wit). He did not give up trying to get me to expand out of my comfort zone, though. I had to learn to trust him and we have had a rather wonderful life so far, filled with adventures that made me love the outdoors even more. My years of pushing myself to learn to ski, both cross-country and downhill, all the hiking I did as a child and teenager, and the canoeing at summer camp, prepared me for a life where I could, if not excel at any of those things, own enough skill to have fun doing them and become better at them as we exposed our children to the wonders of spending time in nature in all seasons. 

Today, our kids are grown and independent. I spend much time at the resort my husband manages. It comprises a ski hill, several beautiful lakes, and a vast network of cross-country ski and hiking trails. I walk, cross-country and downhill ski in winter. In summer I thoroughly enjoy a five kilometer run or hike around the main lake often followed by a swim.  I sit on our deck and enjoy the wildlife that visits our yard: deer, ground squirrels, grey jays, snowshoe hares, and the very occasional bear or lynx. On rare occasions my husband and I take a canoe out in the evening. Mostly we just go for evening walks or short hikes in the wildflower meadows when he is finished his work day. Nothing I do up here is major or epic. I simply enjoy the exercise in such a beautiful setting, and I am now at peace with that. Meanwhile, my husband is training to run a 60 km trail race. I will be proudly cheering him on from the sidelines.