A ski lift is a pretty simple system. There is a loading line, where the skiers wait for the oncoming chair. There is an on-deck line, where the next row of people wait until that chair has passed; if you are on that line, you scoot forward as soon as the chair goes by, so that you will be in place when yours comes. The chairs come around on a carousel.
There are a few ways to get it wrong, and they mostly involve being improperly positioned relative to the lift. Should this occur, the lifties must stop the entire mechanism and sort it out. An example of how this might happen is as follows:
Perhaps, on your prior trip up the lift, you didn’t move forward in time and so your companion ended up on a different chair. Also, maybe, this lift goes to the very top of a more difficult trail system, and so you are nervous. The conditions could be slick and slushy and challenging for loading the lift. One thing that could occur is that you might be in the on-deck line, jump the gun, realize the chair is still coming around, and discover that you are now in a no-man’s land where you cannot get on the chair or get back in line without stopping the lift. Perhaps you then jump into the operator pit and lie down so that the chair can go over you without hitting you in the head. While you deftly execute this awkward maneuver, you find that you are then stuck with one foot in the operator pit and so the lifties have to stop the lift anyway so that they can help you back into line. At that point, you could bow, wave, thank everyone and announce that you’ll be there all night.
Ask me how I know.
My elder son is a comic. His reaction to any awkward or embarrassing moment is to make a joke, charm the crowd, and then go on with his day. He doesn’t have a story where this scenario represents an existential threat to his status, and so it has no hold on him.
But while you are making up hypothetical scenarios that certainly never, ever, happened, add this one: say you grew up in a sports town. Say your parents were not athletes but believed that physical activity was imperative whether you enjoyed it or not. In the (in your case likely) event that you were both miserable AND inept in such an environment, you could build maximum character through mortification the field of competition. Within this context, perhaps you had to play basketball one winter, and, while you spent as much of Saturday morning as possible curled up under the comforter in front of cartoons, dreading the frigid trip to the community center and the terrifying climate of the arena, eventually the fateful hour would come when you would find yourself plucked from the bench and thrust onto the parquet. Sick with anxiety and numb to anything but the terror that the ball would come your way, maybe you found yourself on the receiving end of a pass you could not avoid (probably insisted upon by a well-intentioned or contractually-obligated youth coach). Rigid with panic, you did the only thing you could think of, which was to move the ball down the court towards the basket. Imagine your surprise when you reached your goal unimpeded, shot the ball, and scored the only basket of your entire career!
And then witness the discomfort and disgust of your teammates and coach, the laughter and the groans and painful tension of the crowd, and the bottomless pit where your solar plexus once was, when you discover that you drove to the wrong end of the court. Maybe you are 10 when this happens. Maybe you don’t know you to take a bow, laugh it off, and return to your center, because maybe you don’t even know what it would mean to have a center, or to get to decide for yourself how you want to spend your time, or to discover the athlete inside of you. You’ve never had a coach or a mentor who saw anything other than an awkward, gawky kid to whom they were obligated to allot some time off the bench.
Again, ask me how I know.
For years, I declined to participate in sports as much as I could, and when I did screw up my courage to try something, I was completely wooden, because I knew that I couldn’t possibly perform with any grace or flow. I believed that down to my core; it was the truth. What’s more, I believed that my conviction in this reality constituted self-awareness and humility.
I went several decades not realizing that I was choosing that story; that it didn’t represent truth at all, but a conditioned response that was more truly a lie to myself than a reflection of objective reality. I was carrying so much suppressed resentment about it that I didn’t even know I was angry, let alone that I was allowing myself to stay a victim of it. And then, when I did realize, I thought going to work on releasing it meant convincing myself I didn’t believe it.
That’s not how healing works. What has to happen is that ALL the emotions, all the stories, all the body sensations, have to move through; deny any of them, and you leave a magic magnet in your field to bring them all right back in the moments of pain.
Lying in bed two nights after the incident on the chairlift (hypothetical, of course), I felt all that past shame and self-recrimination, all that anger at the people I had trusted and been entrusted to, all that rage and disappointment at what is done to children “for their own good,” flow through my body like a torrent of snowmelt, turn to steam in the fires of my field, condense, and pour out of my eyes in hot tears.
I felt it sink into my pillow, and be gone. I felt the forgiveness, of myself, of my parents, and coaches, and peers, well up and fill the space. We are water. The salt of my blood is the salt of the sea.
A few months ago, I wrote a piece about speaking the truth, and about the truth being what asks to be spoken. Some of the responses were critical, suggesting that this constitutes a relativist viewpoint that opens the door to erroneous and damaging dogmas that declare themselves immune from challenge. I’ve been sitting with that, because it is a reasonable claim, and yet somehow I know both are correct, and reconcilable. Here I am describing to you a story that was embedded in me as true – I could have told you that story with every breath, and yet, now I am telling you it is not true at all. What does that mean?
Does it mean that there are two “truths,” one personal and one universal? That doesn’t feel satisfying; if we are bound by facts and unalterable dynamics that we are inextricably linked to by being a consequence of them, then maybe that is one level of universal truth, but there is much we can debate between the lining up of atoms in a pillar of marble and the conviction that I cannot ski confidently down the mountain. We can’t call two things “truth” or the word becomes meaningless. And yet, if we are sincere in speaking the truth as we perceive it, how can it be otherwise? Here is what I conclude:
If spoken in integrity, it is truth at that moment. But if it is revealed in the speaking to shrivel in the sun, if it keeps you in a prison of your own devising, if it fragments your soul to cleave to it, then it is no longer truth. It is a cage. You have acted in integrity in the speaking, but you move out of integrity in the repeating, and thwart your intuition.
But if in the speaking it becomes Tolkien’s “light for you in dark places,” then you must twine yourself around it. It will burn through the bars that enclose you.
If you can fully inhabit the experience of your emotions, you will find the tender places where the hooks of your delusions take hold. You can watch them pass away again like clouds.
I took the word “awkward,” and I made it “fly forth.” I chose love for myself, and only then could I finally shine that love outward as forgiveness for others. Only then was I free.
Are you living in a story you think you’ve liberated?
Fall down. You’ll find out.
There are core issues that recur in our lives, as the world offers new and creative triggers for all of the stored traumas and emotions that we carry around. I find that difficulty in loving and forgiving ourselves, and in forgiving the past, show up over and over again. Certainly, they do for me. And those cords tether me to pain that serves no one. There are four flower essences that I perceive to be relevant when this arises. Pine supports the process of freeing ourselves from the loop of self-recrimination for perceived failures of the past. Willow allows us to release the blame and resentment we direct towards others when we fall into stories of victimhood. Golden Ear Drops may be indicated when there is such deep trauma in childhood that we repress or bypass the integration and release of the past. I think of Mariposa Lily when the stories of the past are rooted in the perception that one’s mother was a major factor in one’s trauma.
In general, I don’t combine more than two or three flower essences at a time. It’s usually not necessary; the most relevant issues come forward and ask to be addressed, and others come later. In all cases, I add four drops of each essence to a dropper bottle of distilled water and a little brandy, and, from that vial, add four drops to drinking water as desired. Flower essence consultations are $60 and include the blend, shipped directly to you.
(At the end of some posts, I will offer relevant insights and suggestions about tools I use, myself or with clients, to support the transformative process that is healing.)