Around the age of 14 I learned to slalom ski on Lake Mojave in California. I had been water-skiing for a number of years and I was getting increasingly comfortable and ready to put another sport in my recreational repertoire. Sometimes life offers us the choice of taking on something challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t. This is one of the times I got to choose and here is what I remember about slalom skiing: Until experiencing it, I had little understanding of just how much work it takes to stay steady and rise above the water.
I had watched other people, snugly fit in their life jackets, hop into the cool water, wrestle with an unruly ski, fitting one foot in first and then tucking the other behind it. I’d watched them struggle to keep their heads up as they waited for rope, jostled in the water at the mercy of the current and the boat wake. I’d seen them grab the rope and straighten the ski, positioning their bodies directly behind the boat. And then I’d watched them call “hit it” to the boat driver and endure the pull of the boat, rising almost effortlessly out of the water as the ski would plane out and they’d fly across the lake with exhilarating freedom.
What I learned when it was me in the water is that those few seconds that seem effortless are, to the skier, quite challenging. And that the hardest moments of skiing are the moments of endurance between “hit it” and gliding across a lake of early morning glass. No matter who you are and how strong your body is, those few seconds of extreme pull require commitment, endurance and vision. You have to tell yourself that you won’t let go until you reach your goal. You have to remind yourself that you can do it and you have to see yourself skiing on that lake. Sometimes struggle is like that and when you’re in the thick of something hard, those moments where everything seems more than you can bear, you think you can’t hang on or that you’re the only one who struggles or that you’ll never move through the stretching moments you find yourself in. It’s not. You can. You’re not. You will. Believe & hang on.
Every summer when I go to Lake Powell I like to slalom ski at least once to remind myself what it feels like. I usually have to make a few attempts because I’ve forgotten, as it’s easy to do, how to hang on to the rope when every muscle in my arms and legs screams for me to let go. I ski to practice skiing, to get some water up my nose, shake it off and try again. I ski to remind myself that I am capable of enduring the pull of the boat for as long as it takes to get me up out of the water. I ski to practice steadying myself in positions I know will move me forward as the wake of the boat and the water of the lake rock me back and forth. I ski to remind myself that it’s worth hanging on because there’s nothing quite like watching the sun rise as I slide across the lake with a smile on my face, the wind in my hair and my fingers grazing the top of the water. Like most things in life, the price we pay for experiential knowledge can be steep but it’s worth the effort.
We have a family meeting every Sunday night. A few weeks ago at one of these meetings I applied for the role of “Miller Family Healthy Habit Coordinator.” I told my family that no one will love them more than I do and no one will devote more time to caring for their well-being than I will. I lovingly explained that I’ve been ardently preparing for this work for approximately 30 years (my twin sisters were born when I was 6 so my mothering career began early) and that I would like to offer them guidance for growth, health, healing and wholeness. I earnestly explained that there are a lot of other places where my knowledge and experience are in high demand but that the most meaningful place for me to employ these skills is at home with them. And to top it all off, I would be willing to do this job for free. After some “where is this going” looks and some laughter, Jessica made a short list of people who she felt were better qualified to fill the position. Among her preferred applicants were Grandma, Grandpa and Cassie (our dog!?!) but as none of them were available or able to verbally petition for the post I was able to secure it. I explained that each week I would introduce one new habit for us to incorporate into our routine with the hope that our health and happiness would be enhanced as we seek to care for ourselves and help other people.
We started with meditation because it’s the most logical place to start. Meditation is a powerful tool for increasing resilience, navigating stress, and growing through struggle. When you’re a living being, it’s nice to have a few minutes where you just sit still, remember that you have a body and listen to your breath moving in and out of it. Each night, after Jessica puts on her pjs and brushes her teeth, we sit cross-legged in a haphazard circle and practice meditating together for 2 minutes before we say a family prayer. To increase kid-appeal, we light a little candle and use the free Insight Meditation Timer app and Jessica gets to choose the chime that signals the beginning and end of our practice. It’s fun because there are little dots that show you who else in the world is meditating with you. (We found that Friday evenings are a low point for global meditation while Sundays are pretty popular). Usually we meditate with around 800 other people and it makes it feel a little less foreign and a lot more communal.
Now before you say “we could never do that” let me reiterate that it’s a practice meaning the whole goal is to try, put forth the effort, put our bodies there, recognizing that most of the time it’s a little crazy with Cassie licking our faces or Jessica staring at the wall (sometimes I peek to see what she’s actually doing while Ritchie and I are closing our eyes). It’s me telling her to meditate the way I do instead of respecting that she’s going to have her own little 6 year old way of managing things (something you’d think I’d be used to by now…). It’s Ritchie chanting “ommmmmm” with a playful smirk on his face. I take it all in stride (probably because I meditate on my own each day so that I can handle whatever these yahoos throw at me 🙂 and I smile. Meditation is changing our life.
Today I had A LOT of errands to run so by the time I got to Walmart I was tired and ready to go home but I had a long list of groceries to pick up. As I headed towards the store, I noticed that a purse had been left in one of the carts outside. Another gal and I both saw it and we talked about how scared we’d be to realize we’d left a purse somewhere. I had to return some leaky facewash anyway so I took the purse in to Customer Service. Just after I handed it to the Walmart gal, a lady came up to the customer service desk looking a little frazzled. The Walmart gal guessed that she was looking for her purse so she returned it to her with a gesture towards me to indicate that I’d brought it back. The woman was so grateful and kept thanking me and saying “God bless you.” I told her it was no problem and I would’ve panicked if I’d been in her shoes and that I was just glad she had it back. She asked where I’d found it, shook her head, thanked me again and left. She returned about a minute later and held out a $100 bill. I told her it wasn’t necessary, it was really no problem and I was just glad she’d found her purse. She kept insisting and finally said “Please take it, I want to bless your life. ” So I took it, thanked her profusely and sat there in a stupor for a minute or two. Are you kidding me? $100 for returning a purse? I mean, we’d all be profoundly grateful but that’s grateful and extremely generous.
After a second, the guy next to me was like “Did she just give you $100??” I replied that she had and self-consciously said that anyone would’ve returned the purse. He said “No, not anyone.” To which I replied, “But most people would’ve” and he agreed. I thought a lot about those three conversations with the girl in the parking lot, the lady with the purse and the guy in customer service. It was rewarding to realize that most people are good and honest and to have it re-affirmed by three total strangers at Walmart. It was also comforting to realize that if it had been my purse, there was a good chance that someone would’ve done the same thing I did without giving it a second thought. After finishing my transaction, I wandered aimlessly around Walmart for about half an hour thinking about how lucky I was because so many things had to happen just right for me to be the one to find the purse and get the $100. What a nice lady and what a blessing!