People who push

Last year, my husband took up skiing again after a long absence, and after taking a class with the Colorado Mountain Club, he went out with our friends for a seemingly innocent day at a resort.

“I’m pretty sure Mark and Judy were trying to kill me,” he reported upon his return home, grinning broadly in the way outdoorsy types do upon surviving a challenging day.

This is why we like Mark and Judy.

Last week, we were all in Ouray to ice climb and took a day off from the ice to ski at Telluride. I’m learning how to telemark ski this year; I’ve been downhill skiing exactly eight times to date, and Telluride was number seven. Though I tried to dissuade them, Mark and Judy kindly took a warm-up run on greens with me. We rode a lift together above lodge-sized stone-and-wood ski homes (was one Oprah’s?!?), then we cruised down green runs. Mark gave me tips and I executed some sloppy-and-slow tele turns.

I tried to send our friends off to ski bowls and double-black chutes after this, but instead I was somehow talked into following them to the top of the mountain to take blue runs down to where we’d agreed to meet the rest of the group for lunch.

“But, I can take greens there if I go this way,” I said as pointed at the trail map.

“These blues really aren’t that bad from what I remember,” Judy said.

“Yeah, you can do them,” Mark said, nodding confidently.

They were a little too convincing, and I fell for it and followed them up the mountain.

It was the second time that Judy said, “Really Jenn, this is the worst part,” that I knew it was my turn at attempted homicide-by-sport.

Some people take to skiing easily. I have not. It’s because of my past. You see, I have childhood skiing trauma. It involves tears, Tahoe, and an expensive pink snowsuit. Others–perhaps those who don’t have memories of cold nylon mitts wiping away the snot of humiliation after repeated wipe-outs on the bunny slope–could easily ski blue slopes on the seventh time out. I did not.

The group waited for me at the bottom of each steep section and watched my feeble turns and nervous side-slipping. I grew more and more tired and finally crashed and didn’t get up simply because I needed a rest. My husband skied over to me and asked whether I was okay.

“I’m just completely wasted,” I panted. “Will you guys please just ski down to where we’re having lunch and I’ll meet you there? I’m going to sit here for a minute.”

Eventually, I made it down the hill and to lunch. Judy was smiling nervously as she ushered me to the table.

“Do you hate us?” She asked.

My legs wobbled underneath as I fell into a chair. “I hate you now, but I’ll love you later.”

And I meant it. The later, of course. One of the reasons that we hang out with Judy and Mark is that they push us. There are plenty of people out there who will sit on your couch with you and eat ice cream all evening. I love those friends, too, but when it comes to motivation, I can motivate myself to sit on the sofa. But finding someone who cares enough to try to kill you and your spouse via a sport you’re learning to love? Well, that’s rare.

People who push you should be embraced. People who push you have enough passion to risk your very friendship for the pursuit of something bigger than your ego and your doubt. They push you into empowerment.

I made it down the hill in one piece, and I learned some important survival-skiing skills. So I’m grateful for the push. Besides, it was karma–I’m one of them. I’d pushed one of the women in our Ouray group to try a mixed climb at the ice park the day before.