Yesterday I was sitting in my office kind of fuming over some stuff that has recently happened at work and my screensaver started across my laptop screen. It is a moving montage of photos of me and Carboy, family, friends, and our furry children. The album that it draws from is called ‘happiness.’
This photo came across the screen…
And then these…
And I thought about a story that I’d like to share with you. As you might have guessed by now, Carboy and I enjoy a good adventure so several years’ back we decided to try dog sledding. Yes, you heard right, the city people who usually consider a hotel without 24-hour room service to be uncivilized decided to go dog sledding at the edge of the earth. Okay, so maybe Minnesota isn’t the edge of the earth but it sure is the edge of the United States! We went to this amazing lodge that sits on Gunflint Lake, which is the U.S. on one side and then turns into Canada in the middle of the lake. We were told NOT to try to cross it without passports on us. We hadn’t brought our passport since, you know, its Minnesota! But we trekked right out to the middle of the lake in snowshoes – it was frozen… MINNESOTA in January! and sang ‘Blame Canada’ as loud as we could and then ran back to the safety of hot chocolate and cookies in front of a roaring fire. That just gave us the insane giggles.
Actually, that’s not the story I wanted to tell you. The dog sledding thing… we learned how to harness them and take them out for a ride and then a run and then driving (which is a lot less riding and a lot more freaking running in the snow than one would imagine). Not all of our trips were scheduled together so one morning, Carboy was going out to drive a sled and we walked together to the dog run area and then I headed back to the main lodge, I was probably going to fill up on hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies but I don’t recall because what actually happened was that I tripped (big surprise) and fell over the side of the road which normally wouldn’t be a big deal but I fell into a snowdrift. Minnesota gets FREEZING COLD and they have real snow, not like the pathetic manmade stuff that we get here in California at Mammoth. Annnnyway, this was light, fluffy, powdery snow so it didn’t hurt but I sank like a little puffy coated lump of coal into this deep deep snow drift. I immediately turned over and looked up at blue sky and white snow. That’s it. White snow, white clouds, blue sky. No road, no trees, no lodge, no Minnesota. I was Alice down a snow hole. And my first thought? Okay, I’m going to die. Because that is how my mind works, go directly to the worst case scenario and play it out because I have crap luck and if something lousy can happen, it’s going to happen to me. So there I lay watching the sky and thinking that I was going to be stuck forever or at least until the spring thaw. No one would know where I was and no one would know to look for me especially at the side of the road plus I’m small so easy to miss. So I lay there for a few minutes contemplating my fate and then I stood up slowly checking for broken bones or some injury that I might have missed. No injuries, I was fine. Between the cookies and the puffy snow gear, I was well insulated. But the snow was still well above my head; if I jumped I could sort of see trees. And it should be obvious but this lodge was in the forest so… yeah. So now what? I stood there for a while longer thinking about how it was my stupid idea to come here and my rallying constantly for months about taking dog sledding lessons. I always knew that irony would be complicit in my demise! That’s the next place my brain usually goes – who is to blame (me) and how to punish myself for such crazy ideas. I should stay home and take up pickling vegetables. Then I realize that I can’t die because my husband doesn’t even know how to make grilled cheese. Yes, my brain goes tend to go the absurd. It’s a joy and a challenge. When I turned over and stood up I was still facing the direction of how I fell in so I decided to try going back up the direction I came down. After a lot of slipping, sliding, thwarted efforts, and bizarre snow swimming, I finally emerged like a slug on to the road. It wasn’t pretty but I made it out, looked at my watch and realized that I hadn’t even been “lost” for 10 minutes. Despite this fact, I announced myself triumphant and was determined that I would double fist it when I got to the lodge, hot chocolate in my left hand and hot apple cider in my right hand and I would raise them in victory, á lá Rocky style. (Don’t think that I didn’t either)
What I was thinking this morning is that somehow when bad things happen I have a tendency to lie on the ground and stare at the white snow and the blue sky and know that I am doomed. I’m not sure why I always go there first instead of seeing that things are rarely as bad as I think they are and even when they are bad, it’s rarely the end of the line for anything that truly matters to me. And even when it is the end of the line, lying on the ground in despair is not a good course.
What if instead, I said, thank you for the white snow and the blue sky. Thank you for another adventure and another challenge. What if I got up and brushed myself off and said, okay, what now? What if I raised my hands in triumph because not everyone gets to fall into a snowdrift in Minnesota and truth be told, it was kind of cool. What if I stopped blaming others, and myself what if I lived in the moment and in every moment. What if I didn’t save the hot chocolate and the hot cider until after I won, what if winning didn’t matter and I enjoyed the chocolate and the cider and shared it with everyone that I could. What if we just clinked mugs with cheers and gratitude.
Cheers. And thank you.