Snowboarding, a Love and Harm Story

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Snowflake

Photo Credit Gui Seiz

We were addiction personified: so euphoric, so harmful, so impossible to let go.

                                                                                                                                               
Last Friday it was raining in Los Angeles. It was raining even before I woke up. There was a sticky quality to the sound of tires going by. This made my sleep fitful, because rain here meant glorious snow up in the mountains, and that’s where I was supposed to be. But instead, I was in my own bed, upset about the rain.

I couldn’t tell if it was because I had to say goodbye to one of the most important but detrimental people in my life, or for the moment, to snowboarding. But the loss my heart bore was an uncomfortable physical pressure.

I fell in love with snowboarding and my snowboard instructor at the same time. It was seven years ago, and a couple of days after meeting him, I wrote the below passage, which was incidentally my first blog post anywhere. One explanation: You know those social media pages with pictures of a glammed up, quasi model, who is “99-years-old”? I was in favor of this 99-year-old ploy, because it preserved my age privacy through a winking evasion rather than deceit. Of course, then I was targeted with ads for dentures and retirement homes.

≈ 2006 ≈ 

What. Is wrong with me? Why don’t I want any of the things other people want, or at least other 99-year-old girls: stability, babies, maybe a wedding.That’s in order of least distasteful.

When people say free spirit, it sounds like a pretty thing – light, floating, and generally harmless.But with me, it’s more like a restless demon, and it’s got teeth.Every few years I reenact a belated teenage rebellion, or if you prefer, a premature midlife crisis, depending on whether you view my youth cup as half full, or half empty.

I thought I finally outgrew the call of “C’mon be a kid and shake things up – destroy things up – a bit.” I mean, soon I’ll be heading towards matronly in appearance, and this stunted personality thing is going to be embarrassing for all involved. But bring a matron-to-be to the mountains, where in five days something outrageous like fifteen feet of snow “dumps,” as people very unlike me tend to say, and you get me thinking, I can eek out a few more, “Ah H, so charming and kid-like, and she’s got such good skin.” But that’s only because my biology is just as unpunctual as the rest of me. (Will this come back to bite me in the as of yet gravity-resistant ass? That’s actually not true – I need to get to a gym.)

My athletic side and I don’t have much of a history. It’s only been through a fuck-you to fear that I’ve jumped out of planes or into rivers from cliffs. So at ninety-nine, being of the ski generation, it would’ve been perfectly natural for me, of more Mediterranean leanings, to live out my life without trying snowboarding. But I did try it. And as much as the board, the snow, and my own clumsiness beat the shit out of me and threw me upside down, the trip did the same to my life. I guess I let it. I could blame upstart snow boys. Or the euphoria-inducing high altitude. Or blessed powder. There was speed and white and everything a vacation is that the real world isn’t. But I know better.

The fact that I know better but I don’t care, tells me I’m the same as ever, though my age isn’t. Back home now, maturity-impaired me sits here thinking, as clumsy, unathletic, and old as I am, I just want to go live in the mountains and wake up every day to fly through the snow.

It’s been in the past year that I recognize glory won’t land on my head with me seated. Trouble is, with a shake-me-up excursion like the one to the snow, I land on my own head and begin to wonder, is working toward my glory worth sacrificing the snow, and the last drops of my youth?

≈ Today 

Over seven years have passed since that passage, and its prophetic nature and metaphor for my life are chilling. At the time, I didn’t know I was about to start a tumultuous affair with snow, which to this day, I can’t separate from the snowboard instructor. With him, I went on to have a five-year relationship. Not knowing which love came first, snowboarding or its instructor, is beyond a chicken/egg dilemma, because in this scenario, everything is mixed together. The chicken has a shell and the egg has feathers, and they’re both white like the snow I crave.

It was rough, learning to snowboard. I fell repeatedly, and I fell hard. Indeed, I landed upside down in the snow, on my head, board in the air. For a metaphor, it was all shockingly literal. And I fell for him, brutally. So began my biggest fall as a human being. If the passage from 2006 is any indication, my fall seemed like a conscious choice, which is exactly what makes the writing a self-fulfilling prophecy. That final line about not wanting to sacrifice the last drops of my youth to work toward my “glory,” is most telling.

In 2006, my life was starting to come together. I was booking a union acting gig every month and I lived in a beautiful house in the hills where the garden was blooming. Embarking on a three-hundred-mile relationship with a mountain boy effectively halted my momentum with commercial acting – I was frequently leaving town to snowboard and be with him. I turned down auditions, and I was sometimes five hours away or snowed in when notified of callbacks. I also ended up moving out of the house in the hills, and into a studio apartment in seedy Hollywood. But I wanted only to love him and be loved by him. I handed myself over to him, gave him ownership to a completely unshielded me.

Everything we experienced in the following years was mutual: adventure and passion, a bit of blood and a deluge of tears, minor violence and the police, betrayal and broken bones (his, doing his sport), co-dependence and exponential love, vitriol and uncontainable joy. As a conscientious writer, I would give examples, but as a conscientious person, I won’t. Perfectly good words exist to encapsulate the relationship – turbulent, tempestuous – and it’s a common trap. The more intensely you love, the more intense your expectations from the object of your love. We were poster children for intense everything. We perceived unmet expectation, big or small, as betrayal. So broken promises, cold shoulders, or simply forgetting a grocery item, created an unchecked sense of betrayal that drove our emotions beyond the threshold we knew better than to cross. But once we crossed it, there was no uncrossing, which I suppose, is why there are notions of boundary in the first place.

I lived the best and worst times of my life in those five years. We were addiction personified: so euphoric, so harmful, so impossible to let go. Every passing moment was intensified with magical elation or wretched devastation. Fill in the blanks with your own version of ideal love, but throw in the worst hurt you’ve ever felt. And then repeat it again, and again.

One day, I did let go. I wanted to go back to being someone I approved of, a person who wasn’t accepting of the unacceptable. So two years ago, I broke off the relationship. He held it against me. He considered it the biggest betrayal of all that I chose to re-shield myself. And of course, we didn’t really let go of each other. It’s called addiction for a reason.

Breaking away from the relationship didn’t mean breaking away from him. We continued a diluted version of the relationship, calling it “friendship,” held together by the glue of snowboarding.

And so, last week arrived. Snowboarding season had begun and I had planned my vacation since August. I had spent three months rapt in various projects and knotted up with tension. I had truly earned my five-day vacation. Since my last day on the mountain in February, I had pictured myself several thousand times, strapping back into my frayed snowboard. So at the start of last week, I was a child, all pounding heart and bright eyes, in anticipation of Wednesday and driving to the mountain. Other people have flying dreams, but I have snowboarding dreams.

As usual, I was to stay and ride with him, knowing there wouldn’t be much “usual” about it, because riding is different and exciting each time. But it was also fair to expect emotional struggling on one or both of our parts, and it was impossible to know if we’d be able to diffuse it before it got out of hand. That’s just the way it was. It was the price I accepted to keep him in my life.

I should’ve known that recently, my own detachment was not at a safe level – or any level.

“Do you like your new snowboard?” He had texted, underneath the picture of a shiny, 2014 snowboard. I stared at my phone, not understanding. So finally, we got on a video chat.

“You said your old snowboard’s all beat up, so I got you this one.” A gift, from him to me, and it was then that I broke down into unexpected tears. I wept right there, on video. It was unlike me. And it was the opposite of detachment.

A day before my trip, I returned from my last audition of the week. As I walked through my lobby, I thought about how I hadn’t taken a leave from my talent agency for over a year and how I couldn’t imagine my life without snowboarding, which brought my mind back to the commercial acting career that was showing such promise years ago but never had a chance to take off. Still, my final thought was: I don’t regret it. If my choice were one or the other – having tons of money now due to commercial residuals or having snowboarding, well, you know where I was going with it. Obviously, there was no logical reason why I couldn’t have both, so to have even had the thought was symbolic, and not in a good way, because it wasn’t snowboarding that took my life in a “different” direction seven years ago.

As it is sometimes wont to happen, the inevitable Big Blow Out between my ex-boyfriend, my comrade in snowboarding, my partner in limbo, and I happened right before I was to leave and stay with him. The reason? Sense of betrayal, unmet expectations, broken promises, yada yada yada. So predictable, we’ve always been, even as we patted ourselves for being exciting.

Needless to say, I didn’t go on the trip I dreamt of for so long. Instead, I listened to the rain in Los Angeles, telling me stories of the snow I was missing up north.

The number seven is ascribed with all kinds of mystical beliefs. Bad luck cycles of broken mirrors, magical powers of the seventh son of the seventh son… Even cells used to be said to completely renew themselves in seven-year cycles.

Seven years after taking my first snowboard lesson, I’ve reposted the writing it inspired at the time. It’s a bookend. Maybe what begins a cycle, ends it. And I don’t mean snowboarding, or even him. We’ve said goodbye more times than I’ve buckled in and out of my snowboard, but it’s not the goodbye to him and whether or not it sticks that concerns me. My concern is with the girl from seven years ago. The one who wanted to be free and have fun, so she chose the freedom of a steel-jaw trap and the fun of a constantly anguished soul. She prophesied her own fall and willingly sacrificed working toward her “glory.”

My concern is with my goodbye to her.

                                   
Cathartic Monkeyism

  • Sometimes you’re too emotionally frayed to care about catharsis.

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11 comments

  1. mike · · Reply

    A very powerful post. You can still work toward your glory, you are young and lots of years ahead of you to meet your goals.

    1. Most definitely. And thank you.

  2. bgbowers · · Reply

    Reading this was like having a chat and sharing a wine with a girlfriend. If you were closer, I would kiss you on the cheek, top up your wine glass, and offer you some words of wisdom. The end of a cycle is always rough, whether it’s related to a relationship or self, but it also means regeneration and new beginnings. Don’t be so hard on yourself, or the girl from 7 years ago. You never know what’s around the corner. xoxo

    1. Thanks for your sweetness. It’s interesting that it seems as though I’m too hard on myself. I’ll have to think about that.

  3. Marvelous. Thank you!

    1. Thanks very much for reading.

  4. P.J. · · Reply

    I always enjoy reading your posts and your words flow so well. I love the story, the flashback and everything else. But I’m left wondering at the end. I couldn’t tell if the trip happened? There was a fight before? Is “this girl” moving on? I kinda dig it that way though. A little mystery goes a long way in blogging.

    On another note, there’s great snowboarding near me. Never have done it though. Same with skiing. I love the photography aspect of both, but the actual doing? Not so much.

    1. Nice to see you. It might be that I’ll have to add in a sentence to clarify the trip didn’t happen. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve improved on a post thanks to you! The rest of the “mystery” is intentional.

  5. Paul · · Reply

    Couple of comments. First, I’m amazed by how consistent your “voice” is over the years. Without the time labels you put in, I would not be able to separate the words you wrote 6 years ago from today. That implies a rock solid emotional base that you can safely jump up and down on and build on without fear. That is rare for a young-un like yourself (keep in mind that current brain research seems to indicate that our brains don’t even mature until our 30’s and then that is just the start – once you’re firing on all cylinders).

    Second, remember, growth is difficult to see because we are growing as our environment continuously changes around us. I would suggest that you have, in fact, in a few decades, experienced more emotions, more life, more growth than the vast majority of us experience in a lifetime. And you are very intelligent and will examine and build on that. Remember that I once mentioned that my early life was a physically turbulent place to grow? Well, that applies emotionally as well. It’s not that you will experience less now, simply that you will be able to control and use and focus that power to build more. Everything you have ever experienced, done, learned, is all still inside you and available for addition (The tree analogy of life).

    In closing, my career specialty is business and one of the most illuminating consolidations of growth effects and change I’ve ever come across is called the Greiner curve (http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_87.htm ). I have employed it successfully many times – especially for teaching (myself as well as others). It gives an overview framework that is unparalleled in eloquence. I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I believe in a higher intelligence is the repetition of concepts in very different applications, across applications and in both macro and micro effects (in math these are called fractals). I think, if you take a look at this curve, and give it a bit of thought, you will easily see how it applies to the development of an individual as well as an organization – I suspect this is because business is created by humans, run by humans and for humans. Therefore it has the characteristics of humans and when well done, vice versa. To put it succinctly, you will find that you are a long way up the growth curve (read “mountain”) Gunmetal Geisha in your learning and have accomplished an enormous amount to date – with even greater stuff to come. When I match what you have shared with us to the chart, it becomes quite evident what direction you are pursuing and what lies ahead. Honestly, I think this chart is only partial and more will be added to the top end (I have some ideas about that but that’s another conversation). At the rate you’re learning, quite possibly by you Gunmetal Geisha. And I look forward to reading about it here when you do.

    1. I’m a bit tongue-tied by the girth and content of your writing — I would love to see you post essays and articles.

      First, as usual, you seem to have an understanding of the deepest layer I tried to convey, and that is quite rewarding to me, thank you. Second, I don’t disagree with you that I’ve experienced, let’s say, a decent amount of growth. But I’m not deserving of the other credit (my position on the curve). I’m a person who believes growth is one’s first and foremost purpose, and therefore, I’ve been rapt and analytical in that regard all my life, even as a child. Also, I have no idea how old you think I am, but I’m certainly not a “young-un.” As such, I guess I feel I should be a little further along than I am.

      The voice is interesting — seven years ago I thought I had chosen the voice and settled on it, but in reality, I had finally found the voice that was most like me. It has a combination of profundity and frivolity that is true to life. I believe I have the skill to make it all high-brow, but it would lose it’s honesty.

      Please write an essay on the following, it’s endlessly (like fractals!) fascinating: “…the repetition of concepts in very different applications, across applications and in both macro and micro effects (in math these are called fractals).”

  6. lrconsiderer · · Reply

    Iseeya bo…now moving onto the cure…

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