Thursday, February 18, 2016



Some say it's global warming, and others blame El Nino. Whatever it is, this winter has been a write-off for winter sports. Us northern Albertans are used to snowdrifts over our heads and -40C/F plus windchill. Instead we had no snow until Christmas, received January rain, and had several big melts throughout the winter.

Few are complaining, but it's made things challenging for those of us who enjoy playing in the snow. I tell people I finally got all the toys--the skis, the ice-fishing gear, the snow blower, snowmobile--and then they took away winter.

So I was excited last week when we got a few centimeters of fresh powder. I strapped on the skis, whistled for the dogs and away I went. If it had snowed a foot, things might have been perfect, but as it was, with little more than a skiff, the crusty ruts from the previous week's rain and thaw kept grabbing at my skis and my poles. Down I went.

Again. And again.

The first time I fell--okay, I might have justifiably blamed the weather. The second third and fourth time, though, it was pure and utter fear that had me windmilling down the slopes. As soon as my skis made a zinging noise instead of a soft shuffle, down I went.

Fear. Wow, can it ever keep one from one's goals, eradicate self confidence. Injure and maim. Fear is so instinctive and necessary for survival, it's one of the hardest emotions to control. Sometimes we are not even aware that it is our own fear behind our problems. It would've been easy to convince myself it was the snow conditions that were keeling me over and I might have stuck with that story if I hadn't proved to myself otherwise.

I spent quite a while smoothing out the trail in the trouble spots. I used my skis to flatten the ridges, get rid of the crust, and soften the snow. I skied back and forth over the area to define the safe path to follow.

And that's the first step we should always take when battling fear. Once we identify our problem as fear, we ought to do what we can change the situation that we are finding frightening.

Unfortunately, my work on the trail was not enough. As I came down the hill the second time, the memory of my fall was etched so deeply, my anticipation of failure was so ingrained, in exactly the same spot, I was down again.

Angry at myself and nursing a sore wrist, a bruised shoulder, and a sprained ankle, I headed home to leave it for another day to try. Throughout the afternoon and evening, I visualized myself going down that slope successfully, as I'd done so many times before that first fall. I blocked out the sound of my skis which seemed to somehow feed the fear. My eyes, on the path. Believing in me. Believing in my skis. Feeling the balance, the thrill, the success.

And that's the second thing we should do when battling fear, realize that the past is long gone and events or situations that might have led to previous failures, no longer exist. To overcome fear, we must visualize ourselves conquering it. We must focus on the positive results we want.

If every time I stand at the top of that hill, I remember falling at that one special spot half-way down, if I train my eyes on the trampled snow that bears witness to my failure, if I think about the pain and bruises as I head down that slope...we all know what is going to happen.

If you are not achieving what you want to achieve, investigate whether it is fear holding you back. Are you afraid of success? Are you holding onto the past? Are you imagining failure instead of success? Are you blaming circumstances instead of taking responsibility? Are you doing what you can to resolve the issues frightening you?

I have to stand at the top of that hill and look way down the trail, to the bottom and beyond. I have to keep my eyes on the path my skis have made for me. I have to conjure the whisper of my skis on the snow, anticipate a lovely, graceful slide down the trail, further and farther, coming to a stop slowly, gently. Upright. Successful. Free! Free of fear.

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Brought to you by FATAL ERROR - one mistake and someone dies. 

Eileen Schuh, Author

Schrödinger's Cat

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Eileen Schuh, Canadian writer

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