We got there close to lunchtime and the tables were packed with people. I negotiated a few hot chocolate spills, avoided the squished french fries under foot and found a place to sit near a window and away from the ever-opening door to outside.
I felt conscious of being there as a non-skier. Sitting inside with a book, rather than working my body in the great out of doors. If I had been in an open and relaxing setting (ie. the ski lodge with the fieldstone fireplace), I may have been able to explore this thought with curiosity and compassion.
Instead, I hunched farther into my book, trying to ignore the squished french fries under the table and the constant soundtrack of clunk, clunk, swish, swish - as people walked by in their snow pants and ski boots.
A woman joined me at my table, where she already had a pile of bags and enough snow boots for a family of four. Her ski gear looked like it cost a mint and even the canvas bags she was throwing dirty boots into looked fancy. She looked quite well put together. I slunk down a bit lower.
She was gone again in a minute, and I brought my attention back to my book - an Anne Lamott book of essays that I had already read twice through. The topic of the book was capital-L-Life and touched on grace, hope, death, despair - a God book, essentially - and right up my alley.
Reading this book always helps me broaden my perspective. It helps me let go of the things I’m fearfully grasping - such as did my child put on clean socks before leaving for school? Or, as was the case at that moment - do I look like a frumpy, middle-aged mom sitting out the skiing in my down coat with a duct-taped armpit?
Anne Lamott loosens my grip on the unessential and brings me back to my heart center. She seems to have a knack for this - which is why I’ve read most of her non-fiction books three or four times.
Sitting at that banquet table, I found myself unwinding, my heart opening - people were no longer clunking their ski boots or swishing their snowpants at me. They were just people sharing the space, making the best of a crowded and wet room.
My table-mate returned with her child and husband in tow. They seemed to all be angry with one another, using terse words, blaming, kicking shins in some cases. I could sense the fatigue as well as the underlying fear and mistrust. The dad took the child to the restroom perhaps to get or give some space.
The woman went back to packing up their things, and I kept my nose in my book. I suddenly saw the vulnerability behind the fancy ski gear and put together looks. She was, I mused, a human being making her way through the messiness, just like the rest of us.
We are not our Instagram accounts. We are not our down coats w/ duct tape.
We are stardust and hope. We are miracles and majesty and maybe a little cider vinegar mixed in.
My son returned from his skiing escapades with rosy cheeks and hair sticking in all directions. His eyes shined as he smiled, and I was so, so glad to be a middle-aged mom sitting in a wet ski lodge, muddling my way through.
What are you holding tightly too? Where might it be helpful for you to loosen your grasp?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.