Es-ski-pades: falling over and picking yourself back up

DSCF1961Hi blog pals. Happy New Year and all of that meaningless guff. Sorry I’ve been off the radar for a wee while. Christmas and New Year is the worst, most energy sapping, soul destroying time of the year for me, and then I disappeared off to ski for a week. Skiing was wonderful. A week away from rainy undisclosed city in Scotland, a week where I knew that there was nothing I could do about my academic situation, or my leaky roof, or what I’m going to do with my life, so there was no point in worrying. Fresh air and up to 8 hours on the slope per day was a fantastic tonic and I felt better than I had in ages, as evidenced by the fact that I only had one very small melt down over the course of the week, a 600% decrease in meltdowns from the previous festive fortnight (approx). In fact, I had such a lovely time that my new goal in life is to move to Slovenia and open a vegetarian restaurant! Dobro!

So it turns out that, as you fly elegantly down the slopes (haha), you get quite a lot of time to think about things. I have always envied those people who get great ideas in the shower or tease out intellectual tangles on long runs. I spend 90% of my thinking time imagining what it would be like if I was a spy, or an assassin, or a duck, or the grandaughter of a mobster but I did manage to have some deep philosophical thoughts about how skiing is a metaphor for life. I could bore you all day on how skiing and life are related (wide pisted slopes, smooth snow, unexpected icy patches, bumps and plateaus, bits that look steeper than they are, bits that are sleeper that then look, those times where a small Croatian child slams into your lower half and sends you flying etc etc) but there is one particular story that I would like to share with you.

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This story introduces a new blog character, my lovely husband. This is him right here. He has requested that his pseudonym be Skier A. No, I’m not sure why. And yes, I did ask his permission to post this story, lest ye panic. Before last week, Skier A had only skied two or three times in his life. Despite this, he launched himself into a week’s skiing with great enthusiasm and he did really really well. (I was lucky enough to learn to ski as a teenager and I’m actually pretty competent. It’s the only sporting activity that I’ll ever be better than Skier A at.  Just let me have this.) Skier A progressed from a giant snowplough of panic at the start of the week (pretty hilarious) to some lovely parallel turns. As any new skier will tell you, to progress to that level, you’re going to have to take some falls. A lot of falls. Particularly if you have you happen to have the unsympathetic sort of wife who says “ooh let’s go down this red run, darling! You won’t die… much.”

This specific fall took place on a tricky patch of piste in the Slovenian resort of Krvavec. The slope was lumpy in places, icy in places and pretty steep. Skier A bravely took on the challenge but came a-cropper in a head-on collision with a mount of snow. A quick check behind me afforded me the sight of Skier A lying in the snow, one ski still attached, the other lying about 10 metres back up the slope. Skier A picked himself up, brushed off the snow and side-stepped back up the hill to collect his errant ski. He carefully arranged  himself perpendicular to the slope with his intact ski lower on the hill and attempted to clip his other ski back on. What he hasn’t realised was that, while skis are designed to come off when you deck it so that you don’t break your legs, you need to open up the binding to put it back on. So there he was, Skier A, stuck in the middle of the piste, trying unsuccessfully to cram his boot back into his ski, unable to continue his journey down the slope, as other skiers and snowboarders whizzed past him with ease. I was too far down the slope for him to hear my telling him to open his binding. Eventually, when Skier A worked out what had gone wrong and re-affixed his ski, he skied down to join me, commenting in his characteristic understated style, “well…that was humbling.”

As the day went on, I thought more and more about this experience and how it relates to my life right now. Because that’s where I am with my PhD. I’ve completely wiped out and I’m standing on that slope, desperately trying to right myself. Other people are whizzing past me with ease, but my binding is closed and I can’t get back on track and Skier A is completely right. It is humbling. It’s humbling to fall, to fail, to get stuck. It’s humiliating. I don’t know whether to battle on or whether I’m DWTS and I should just walk away. The place I’m in now, neither up nor down, is not good for my health. I’m getting worse instead of better. I need to get past this and find some sort of resolution, or something worthwhile to do with my time. I feel like I should only go back to this PhD if I’m definitely sure that it’s what I want to do with my life but you know what? Right now I don’t care what happens to my life. I’m not even that bothered whether I live or die. What difference would it make? How do I motivate myself to get back to some sort of work, academic or otherwise? How do I make myself believe that anything matters? Answers on a postcard please. Until then, I’ll continue to dream about my life as an assassin/duck/Slovenian restaurant owner.

Well, that turned out to be a bit more honest than I expected. Sorry guys. Normal service of less personal ranting will be resumed forthwith. Until then, I’m wishing smooth slopes and sunny days for you all. 

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