Visibility ? Where ?
It’s December 29. Happy New Year...I hope.
What lies ahead? Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. Which path to take? The choice is even less obvious when the scene looks like two slopes diverging on a foggy, white hillside!
Are you, like Robert Frost, wondering about a next step? Do your New Year’s priorities need tweaking? Is a major decision looming ahead? These questions apply to me and I found insights from skiing in the fog.
Ironically, when skiing with lack of visibility, I feel exposed! These conditions test the quality of my technique, a.k.a. my habits. Do they provide the solid foundation I need to manage less than optimal conditions?
Challenges often reveal how often one “shoots from the hip” or “plays it by ear.” These strategies function marvelously under prime conditions, but fail miserably when tested under fire (or fog).
A friend, Janet, passed away two days ago. We have been following the end of her life journey through her husband’s regular e-mails. They have a thought-provoking faith in Jesus Christ and presented her departure as expectation for new life. In his missives, he shared how the medical staff remarked something inspiring in this family’s love and life as they faced the passing of this dear lady. In his messages, her husband often wrote “as is our custom,” “in our regular daily reading,” “as we always do as a family” before sharing how they read together from the Bible and how the passage encouraged them.
Janet’s family rely on the unseen in this time of need —first God then on the practice of turning to him daily.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going,” says Jim Ryun, former world-class athlete and politician...the last American to hold the world record in the mile run.
Life brings us sunny slopes and hazy ditches. Let’s keep going...whatever.
Seek Help: Self = Insufficiency!
“How do you keep skiing well in the fog?” I inquired of my son. “I follow someone to know the way.” Pretty impressive advice from a thirteen year old which I promptly adopted.
As per my usual pattern (!...and I thought efficient), I dropped the boys off at ski club and, spotting a ski lift without a queue, slid right onto the chairlift. Yikes! Once on top I realized, “There are no trailblazers to follow when we’re alone!” After descending a few meters very nervously, I stopped and waited for another skier to come along, for someone to follow.
Self-sufficiency has its limits...which become clear when the rest of the world seems fuzzy!
Slow Down: Less is More
A couple of skiers came along and I tagged behind. They glided down the mountain slowly, occasionally exhibiting their excellent technique with trick turns. The combination of skill and leisureliness engaged my thoughts. I often define quality in terms of speed: Internet connection, numeric photography, texting...and expecting an immediate response at work and at home (kid 2 parent: “Sent U text. No reply. Gone. C U. ?”).
But in the fog, speed got me lost. Literally, I swerved into deep snow ?! Off the slopes, my stress levels were flying high as I fumbled over a career decision.
A friend encouraged me to slow down using a six day decision-making process inspired by St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). It was designed as a prayer process. See how it what applies for you.
A miniscule extract of St Igantius’ Spiritual Exercises
The goal is to reach clarity on a specific decision. Begin the process with an open mind, ready to either accept or decline the option. Each day only concentrate on viewing the dilemma from one unique angle, i.e. 360° evaluation à la 16th century.
- Day 1: Present the pro’s and con’s
for accepting the decision
- Day 2: Present the pro’s and con’s for refusing the decision
- Day 3: Imaging a friend’s advice (+ve and –ve) regarding accepting the decision
- Day 4: Imagine a friend’s advice regarding saying, “No”
- Day 5: Looking back at the end of your life, what will be the impact of accepting the option?
- Day 6: Looking back at the end of your life, what will be the impact of refusing the decision?
The process limits the daily mind load. For six days, I put worry on a shelf and discourse with God concerning one perspective of the upcoming decision. Having less on my mind frees me to get a better grip on it.