We’ve already been experiencing a glorious winter here in Tahoe! Snow from multiple storms hit the region during the first half of November, and it’s remained ever since. Then we were treated to another big storm on December 1st that yielded roughly two feet of snow! And this upcoming weekend calls for more the same. As you can imagine, I’m very excited about all of this. In fact, I’ve already logged over twenty days of cross-country skiing this season!
Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a twist to this story beginning last week. What my roommate and I initially believed to be cases of the common cold wound up being Covid. She tested negative while experiencing the worst of her symptoms, hence our belief that it was just a cold. But then I tested a few days later as a precautionary measure, and it came up positive. She tested again and it, too, yielded a very faint but positive line. So we’re both close to the end of the recovery phase at this point, but this little fiasco has definitely put a damper on my enthusiasm.
I have to be honest, though. This didn’t come as a surprise. Not because either of us have been risky during the limited social interactions we’ve had with other people. But because this seems to be par for the course as of late. While watching the test paper soak up my snot droplets and instantly light up both lines (indicating a positive result) I just thought, “Yeah, of course it’s positive because I haven’t had to deal with enough nonsense already this fall.”
Now, I’m not looking to host my own little pity party here. And I don’t want you to think that based on the nature of this conversation I’m feeling defeated or depressed. Mostly I’m just irritated because I’ve built my life so that it’s relatively streamlined and stress-free. But lately I’ve been sounding like that desperate-for-attention person standing in the grocery line dumping all of their produce and problems onto the conveyor belt for all to see. So I won’t dwell on this any longer than necessary, but all of these hiccups that we experience in life are opportunities for reflection. This one being no different.
What this experience has reminded me of is something that I’ve noticed for years, and that’s that there’s a lot less room for error in life as we get older.
When I was younger, it seemed like I always had multiple opportunities in which to pursue on any given day or in any situation. I often had a group of friends willing to jump in and participate on a moment’s notice. Even when bad luck struck or I made a poor decision, I had options and always felt like there was enough time to recover because I had my whole life ahead of me. When you’re young you believe anything’s possible, no matter the odds, and that every path is a yellow brick road that leads to the answers to all of life’s questions.
As I’ve gotten older, however, the pool of available options when making certain decisions seems to generally be smaller than in years past. Friendships dissolve for a host of reasons, most of which are just basic life things like prioritizing family responsibility, having less free time due to work commitments, or because the geographical distance between each other is prohibitive to hanging out. Mistakes that I might have made when I was younger are now far less forgivable because, well, I should know better.
I think this is a reality for many people despite it looking like it has more to do with perception. For example, as you get older you become more selective of the choices that you make and the relationships that you have based on your life experience. So even though you could still try some of those ideas or rely on some of those people that may have seemed awesome when you were younger, you’re not young anymore. And those ideas and people can start to look a little ridiculous when placed into the context of your current life. So, effectively, you do have fewer realistic options.
And then, of course, there’s just a bunch of stuff that you can’t or don’t want to do anymore because of your age. Either you’ve exceeded the posted age limit, the technology is beyond your education or comprehension (or even desire to learn), or your body or mind just won’t take the punishment that it once could. But, realistically, all of this is to be expected. Life moves on. Nobody truly believes they’re going to live forever.
But if we’re to sacrifice the blissful ignorance of youth, we have to replace it with something as equally valuable. And, cynicism and despair just won’t do. In spite of all the mishaps that I’ve experienced these past few months, I’m still very hopeful and ambitious. There’s still so much that I’m actively working to accomplish, although it’s been a bit slower going lately.
I think the trade-off really boils down to truly realizing that every decision matters and that every moment counts. And in spite of having less room for error as we get older, we all (hopefully) have a better grip on the rules to this chess game called life so that we can make the most impactful decisions moving forward.
One of the core principles that I’ve learned while training in various martial arts is to manage your distance when engaging with another person. If you’re too close, you have less time to respond and you run the risk of getting clobbered. On the other hand, when you’re too far away you have lots of time to act but you’re not really engaged with that person anymore. This might be ideal, for example, if you found yourself face-to-face with a mugger in a dark alley. But if you weren’t in a worst case scenario and, instead, were participating in some sort of business negotiations, being too far away would just be weird. It would look like you were checked out or disengaged, and your negotiations would probably fall apart as a result.
So the point isn’t to smother your partner or stay completely away from your opponent. Rather, the idea is more about maintaining the integrity of your structure (stance, posture, position) and being within a certain range so that you could meaningfully initiate, engage, and respond based on the other person’s actions. Certain circumstances will require closer contact, whereas other situations will demand a bit more space. Regardless, you want to avoid collapsing under pressure or extending yourself too far lest you create an opening on which that other person can capitalize.
This game of positioning is constant and often measured in degrees of subtly. And sometimes the pressure becomes too great and you do find yourself in a losing position. Or, the chess match becomes so refined that you’ve nearly exhausted all of your resources and anything less than an ideal maneuver will result in failure.
When you find yourself in these situations, you need to create space at all costs. That space will allow you to breathe and, in turn, give you more time in which to act. And more time generally means more options.
But you can’t just wildly thrash about, like a child throwing a tantrum, hoping that you’ll somehow break free. The moment you resort to this course of action is when that vice grip will clamp down on you even more. Just think of a Boa Constrictor at work with its slow, methodical crush.
Again, I don’t want to be a downer but this is how life can feel as you get older and you realize that your options are becoming more limited. At the same time, possessing the wisdom that comes with age means that you know how to move with purpose and make every action count.
So take a moment to compose yourself. Then start to rebuild your structure one subtle shift at a time. Know that this can be a slow and tedious process. But it’s the only thing that’s important right now because you need to breathe and, in order to do that, you need to create space. And, again, creating space can give you more time and more time can lead to more options.
Honestly, the most you can usually hope to achieve in these types of situations is some sort of an escape or a draw. I totally understand that most people would much rather win. Admittedly, I always try to win. And who doesn’t love to witness a dramatic comeback, right? But if it’s not an actual competition, I try to at least put forth my best effort because, after all, thriving in life is much more rewarding than just surviving it.
When it comes down to it, though, I think it’s always important to remember that sometimes to survive is to win.
With winter arriving relatively early here in Tahoe, I’ve shifted my focus from my Donner Party series of articles to cross-country skiing content. I’ll eventually get back on those Donner Party articles, but right now it’s in my best interest to capitalize on everyone else’s interest in winter adventure.
So, here are a couple of cross-country ski articles I wrote for Tahoe Trail Guide this past month. They’re both obviously related to xc skiing, but do have broader implications regarding following your passion. So take a look 🙂
I admit that it’s really fun connecting with people all over the world about stuff that I love to do (and talk about!). And when I reply with a meaningful response to those folks, I think it reminds them that there are still good people in the world and that social media can be used for good purposes in the right hands 🙂
As you can see, I’ve been busy since I haven’t really been working much at the cross country ski center (yet!).
Just a short selection of other winter-related articles for you to read, if you haven’t already 🙂
Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…
Tahoe Trail Guide is an online resource for hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the Lake Tahoe region. In addition to trail data, I offer backcountry “how-to” articles and information about the local and natural history of Tahoe. Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra Nevada Mountains.
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