Life is about continuous improvement. Most days I feel like the forward progress I have made on myself is nothing to be proud of, but some days, the leap forward I accomplish gives me the energy to keep trying. Last summer I made my first attempt to water ski.
I know a lot of people that can ski. Most of my Howard family in fact have been skiing since they were kids. It is really no big deal, for most people. I think we all have things that come easily to us, and some of us find that most things require a hard fight. I happen to be one of those hard fighting people. Sometimes I feel like I have the force of thousands of gallons of water pushing against me when the alarm clock goes off in the morning, or when its time to load up the car and set off on an out of the ordinary adventure. I feel that force when its time to meet new people, or visit new places. Lately, I feel that force every day.
This summer I was bound and determined to accomplish the feat of water skiing. I bought a one piece swimming suit, though I prefer a nice conservative tankini. I figured I would worry less about losing my suit while skiing if I had a one piece. I packed my contact lenses, which I never bother with, so that I could have the luxury of being able to see while I was skiing.
I have heard my mother declare herself “too fat to water ski” many times in the past, and I knew that if she was too fat, I was also. Which is probably why it took me so long to even consider attempting, that and my low self esteem and poor body image. I joined a gym at the end of last year and I have religiously (who I am I kidding, much more regularly then I actually practice religion) attended strengthening classes. I came into the summer of 2011 not having lost any weight since last years failure, but feeling stronger. I have let my weight hold me back from countless activities over my three decades. Countless. I haven’t gained anything from that, except some more weight. You know, pity pounds.
My first try I could feel the difference. I knew I could do it. Over the course of the 6 days on the lake, I want to say that I spent about 4 hours or so behind that boat, holding on as firmly as I could while I fought against the water I desperately wanted to get on top of.
At one point, as I lay back on the water, skis planted under my backside with only the top 6 inches or so present on top of the water, I remembered something from years ago. Dad had purchased Cassie and Clay a car to drive to school and back. The car was a stick shift and we were all taking turns driving it. My sister Cassie was stopped by a neighbor woman, a woman I had gone to high school with, who told her that the key was to just pretend you already know what you are doing, and do it.
I used that strategy a few times, but my body knew better than my mind, which my mind found totally infuriating.
On my second day out on the lake, with just Andrea and Dad in the boat with me, I worked and worked towards my goal. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I climbed in the boat and Andrea took her turn, and around we went. Dad gave us a pep talk. He told us about the day that he remembers sitting out at a lake for hours, all day, while my Grandpa Warren, the best 77 year old slalom skier around, worked and worked towards his goal to get up on skis. If it took Grandpa a day to learn, I knew I had my work cut out for me, but I also knew that if you are dedicated to putting in the effort, it will happen eventually.
Finally, I got up on the skis! I didn’t know what to do next and I quickly found myself with a face full of water, but as the boat turned back towards me I yelled out to my Dad, “I am not too fat to waterski!” Maybe too clumsy, but not too fat.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I watched lots of other people pop out of the water onto skis and take off. It looks so simple, so smooth. They swing themselves outside of the wake that froths up from the back of Dad’s boat and skim across the wide open, calm water. It looks effortless. Maybe it is, though I have a hard time seeing it ever being that way for myself, I do have hope. I don’t plan to give up. By the end of vacation my hands were blistered and sore from my marathon sessions of water torture. I sat across the boat from Leila as her Daddy skied behind the boat. Leila looked at me, pointed at Cory and said, “See Mom, that’s how you do it.”