This essay was originally posted on Medium.com.
I have started wondering why I like to ski so much. Yes, it is the beauty of the mountains, the fresh air, the social component, but it’s also because I regularly push myself. Every time I drop in somewhere steep or carve early morning turns maybe a little too fast, I take nibbles of fear. I’m not being extreme, just challenging myself enough to enter an alert state, entirely in the present.
You practice how you play, and you play how you live.
Why consume daily doses of fear like multi-vitamins? Maybe because, as a coach once told me, you practice how you play, and you play how you live. Practicing how to live alongside fear develops important muscles, the same ones you need to take any risk, to fall in love, to have a child. Traveling abroad and training for a marathon have been similar opportunities for me to flirt with fear. I credit facing those challenges with helping me write novels.
I have been so enjoying keeping up with the Story Club with George Saunders. One of the latest editions of this online master writing class was titled “Joy, not Fear. Unless fear is helpful.” He writes of a peril in writing being “the disappearance of joy in the face of fear,” defining the latter as caution and the former as daring. And so as I think about that sensation to which I am addicted when I ski, the wind screaming over my helmet, it is a fine blend of anxiety and elation, and maybe it is my joy muscle that needs exercising.
Listening to a skiing podcast THE LAST CHAIR which featured Kristen Ulmer, the first and one of the greatest female extreme skiers in the world, I learned how she turned that experience into a career as a high-performance facilitator and a fear/anxiety expert. One of her pearls of wisdom was to rename fear, to be aware of a state of heightened excitement and awareness, and to not think of it as a negative, but rather to think of it as a superpower. Our relationships with fear, after all, define our lives and can stand in the way of happiness. She wrote a book called THE ART OF FEAR which is a deeper dive into the topic. And of course Lindsey Vonn’s RISE: MY STORY sounds like a great companion story, both on my TBR!
The winter Olympics have shown outstanding examples of athletes who consistently overcome…
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