I grew up downhill skiing on a glorified landfill at the old Playboy Club. The small town Wisconsin “ski resort” boasted just three chairlifts, a tow rope and a whisper of an incline. But to me, it was a little slice of heaven. My mom or school bus dropped me there daily in the winter and I logged thousands of hours of my youth skiing, hanging with friends and chasing cute boys down the slopes.
Fast forward thirty years and I still get wistful about skiing. And, if I am being completely honest, I still appreciate a man who knows his way down a mogul run. But middle age and four kids have ushered in the hard reality that downhill skiing, at least during this season of my life, is an expensive hassle.
A couple of years ago, it seemed like a good idea to teach my kids to ski since we live a mere mile away from a decent ski area. But here in Minnesota it can be 40 degrees right up until Christmas. Then the temperature drops below zero and holds steady for weeks. So rare are the days when a) the slopes have enough snow on them to ski and b) the negative thirty wind chill won’t literally freeze your face off.
When the weather actually cooperates, I usually wind up cursing the fact that we spent two grand on ski passes I now feel obligated to use. Because there isn’t a word in the English language that adequately describes how it feels to load all the kids and their gear into the van, unload all of the kids and their gear at the hill, click the littles into their boots, spend an hour on the bunny hill and have everybody want to go home. I can’t even do the math on how much each run costs me without needing an adult beverage.
On one such day, I was riding up the chairlift with my seven-year-old. He was excitedly waving down his siblings, trying to holler for them to wait at the top of the hill so he could race them down. I was helping him flag down the kids, holding his poles, wondering if and when I would be able to ski a real run again, and mentally ticking off my work to-do list.
Half in a daze, I looked up and startled when I realized we were at the unloading zone. I scrambled to throw up the restraint bar and gave my son a shove as I leaned forward to ski off the lift. But the bar ricocheted off the back of the chairlift and crashed back down – right on my nose. Somehow I managed to untangle myself, throw it back again and jump off the lift just before it whipped around the corner.
I felt woozy and could barely see as I skied to the side. My eyes watered, my nose ran and I broke out into a nauseous sweat from the pain. I clicked out of my bindings and leaned against a tree, willing myself not to pass out or throw up.
The wave of pain passed and I was able to keep skiing. After all, we never leave the bunny hill. But I had a nice bruise on the bridge of my swollen nose and a headache to match.
I have been skiing my entire life. Clearly I know how to unload from a chairlift. And I wondered how I could miss the glaring neon sign reminding me to raise the restraint bar at the top of the run.
The truth is, I was distracted. And the experience felt like a metaphor for all of the times I’ve been too distracted to notice something important and got smacked in the face because of it.
There’s an old saying, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” I would argue that he’ll also make you perpetually distracted. Because distraction not only robs you of truly experiencing your life, it almost always sets you up to be hurt.
How many of us live our lives like this:
– never truly breaking from work
– always thinking about what’s coming rather than what is
– not taking time to reflect
– constantly checking email or social media
– multitasking at all times
I know I do. More often than I care to admit. Until … smack! I realize I’ve missed an important detail. I’ve hurt a friend. I’ve alienated my husband or my children. I wasted an opportunity to enjoy the moment.
I don’t want to live this way. And I am oddly grateful for my smack in the nose, painful and unsightly though it was. Because it reminded me to pay attention, stay present and not fall prey to distraction.
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Proverbs 4:25-26