Lesson 104 Going Beyond The Comfort Zone

Lesson 104 on Learning by failing


I don’t know why I ever thought I would be able to ski. Everything was against it.

I was not fit.

I had no aptitude for any kind of sport.

I have no head for heights.

I am very, very cowardly.

But when I was about thirty and quite old enough to know better, I was persuaded it would be a good idea.

It was only the second time I had flown and I was extremely apprehensive. We were flying Danair. For those of you who are too young to remember, this was something of a joke airline – think of a sort of amateur Ryanair.


When we got out to the plane, it was a Comet. It must have been one of the last ones still in service. You could still see the RAF markings under the paintwork on the wings. This was a small bit of comfort to me. At least it would have been well serviced.  All I could remember about the Comet was that it was the first commercial jet aircraft and the early models crashed.

We got there nevertheless and were soon kitted out in cumbersome heavy old skis and boots.  It was all I could do to even make it to the bottom of the nursery slopes. Once there I couldn’t decide what was worse, learning to clamber up the baby slope on skis, or the sheer terror of the beginners’ drag lift and the shame of falling off. 

But on day three my absolute beginners’ class trudged laboriously to a wonderful little hidden valley full of fresh snow and easy slopes. All of a sudden it was fun.  The sun shone, the sky was blue, the pine trees looked like Narnia, glittering with their new covering of spotless snow.

I thought that in future this was how it would be.

But then I encountered ice.  One day I found myself on a much steeper slope with a scary lift.  I managed to make it to the top, but when I got off, I was terrified. The mountain dropped away frighteningly (at least it did to somebody with absolutely no head for heights)! The snow was hard and glassy.  I panicked. There was no way I would ever be able to stop!

“What do I do?” I cried pitifully to the kind instructor.

“When we meet a patch of ice there is only one thing we can do,” he explained patiently. “We must ski through it!”

But I was paralysed with fear.  All I could see was the impossible steepness to the bottom.  The instructor grinned.

“You must not worry about all the mountain! You must just think about the part under your feet!” And in the end that was how I made it down. When you are stuck half way up a mountain, you don’t really have much choice. 

I never made a competent skier, but the lesson I learnt from failing to ski was one I called to mind on many different occasions.

Whenever I came up against a frighteningly difficult situation, I knew what to do. 

The only thing you can.

You ski through it.

Lesson 97 Perfect Day – Sort Of

Lesson 97 on Facing up to fears (or not! )


Wheelchair Boy soon got very fed up of being pushed around. We trailed along behind the rest of the group struggling over stony paths, grassy banks and pebbles. On the second day we were halfway to the picnic spot at Carisbrooke Castle, battling our way across a longish lawned area, when he decided it would be easier and quicker to hop. It was!

After lunch it was time for the Castle itself.  Wheelchair Boy could be manouvred around most parts, but of course everybody wanted to go on the walls.  He agreed without complaint that it was beyond him, but if I accompanied some of the others, then there would be enough adults to let everybody else go on the ramparts.

I have no head for heights, but when we climbed up the first set of stairs it didn’t look too bad, though the ramparts were very narrow. I hadn’t expected that. You could see over both sides.  They also went dramatically up and down. To me they seemed alarmingly exposed.


My group leapt on ahead like mountain goats, as I noted with alarm that the drop on the outer side of the wall was getting greater and greater. I was definitely well out of my comfort zone. And I was trapped. There was no way I could chicken out. I was duty bound to stick with my mountain goats and there was no way they were giving up until they had gone all the way round! 

By the time I made it round, trembling and clutching the frighteningly open safety railings, I was the one needing the wheelchair!

Next day it was Alum Bay. Wheelchair Boy was happy, because not much wheeling or hopping was required. There was a chairlift down to the beach, then a boat trip. Nightmare on two counts for me!


But I was saved from both terrors.  Sergeant CoachDriver got lost again and so many people felt sick by the time we arrived, that Mrs FirstAider and I had our very own Walking Wounded group who couldn’t be trusted not to throw up on the chairlift. We walked down the many, many stairs to the beach.

By the time we got there, most of them had perked up and, unbelievably, were looking forward to a boat trip. To my relief, one little person was still rather green about the gills.  She and I sat comfortably on the sand in the sun, admiring the multicoloured cliffs, gratefully watching everybody else bobbing off over the choppy waves.

Sometimes life can feel really good.