Inspiration on the Bunny Hill

My Dad with two of his grandchildren, back on the hill!

My Dad with two of his grandchildren, back on the hill!

When I was a very little girl, age 3, my Dad, Dr. Wilson Rodger, taught me to downhill ski.   I had tiny red wooden skis and a bit of an attitude.   Lucky us: we had a wee but perfect hill for learning to ski a 10 minute ride away – the London Ski Club, affectionately known as the “Byron Bump”.  We were carrying on a tradition started by my Dad’s father who learned to ski by climbing up the hill and then skiing down, in the days before lifts were installed – in “the Olden Days”, as my children say.  My Dad made the sometimes hard work of learning to ski more fun for me by telling me stories on the way up the hill.   He would get on the T-Bar with me sandwiched safely between his legs and we would take off up the hill.   I would eagerly ask for the next instalment of the “Indian or Eskimo story” he was weaving for me.   We read a lot of  legends together and they were wonderful fodder for our imaginations as well as a welcome distraction from the cold and hard work of learning to ski.  (As an adult, I love seeing how so much aboriginal wisdom is now being validated by science and embraced by wider society; it gives me hope for the future…).  At the top of the hill, I would be just as eager to zip down to the bottom again to hear more of the story.   These are special memories I have of time with my Dad, getting outside, practicing a sport he already loved and one I would learn to love too.  Growing up, skiing was largely about precious time spent with my Dad for me.  He took me all over Ontario as a teenager to compete at races.   Ski racing was a great way for my Dad and me to ski at some far superior hills and for me to focus on technique and have fun.   It also kept me out of trouble.

Now let’s fast forward about 30 ish years to last winter’s Family Day Weekend.   I was with my Dad again on the hill, at Brimacombe, near our cottage and south of Peterborough, Ontario.  My three kids were there too, in various ski lessons.   That day, I had the privilege of witnessing my Dad’s inspiring work to get back on the hill.  The previous June he had had a hip replaced.  I had already been inspired by his disciplined approach to working away at his exercises to help him recover fully from the operation and enjoy moving around pain-free. On this sunny winter’s day on the “bunny hill”, where my five year old son was learning to ski, I watched my Dad apply the same disciplined, patient approach to getting back on skis and fulfilling his vision to ski again with his grandchildren.  I watched as he gingerly put on his skis. Step one, done.  Step two – slide skis back and forth.  Good.  Step  three, gently try to begin to “side step” up the very gentle slop.  Three side-steps or so, then stop.   He turn and made a “pizza slice” with his skis to create some controlled movement down the gentle slop. Good: success.  Then again, climbing a little higher. Repeat the pizza slice.  Good, again.  He did this work, testing and being mindful of his hip and how it was feeling as he went.  After a little while, he was doing a few turns down the hill.   I could see the gracious skier that he is reemerging moment by moment.  It was so inspiring to witness.

I am telling you this story as an example of someone’s slow patient work made up literally of small steps, toward a meaningful goal, that of skiing again.    My Dad wanted to glide down the hill again as he once did, alongside his grandchildren.  He needed to be committed, courageous, risking failure, and be of an experimental and mindful mindset.   I am also telling you this story to illustrate “inspiration”, one of the ten positive emotions as described by Barbara Fredrickson in Positivity: Top Notch Research Reveals the 3-to-1 Ratio That Will Change Your Life,  a book I have mentioned before.  Dr. Fredrickson’s stunning finding was that, to flourish and not just get by, we need to maintain a ratio of at least 3 positive emotions to 1 negative emotion.  To do this we need to actively cultivate positive emotions such as inspiration.  Dr. Fredrickson says on p. 46 of Positivity:

“Feeling inspired rivets your attention, warms your heart and draws you in.   It’s the polar opposite of feeling disgusted by human depravity….Along with gratitude and awe, inspiration is considered one of the self-transcendent emotions.  It’s a form of positivity that pulls us out of our shell of self-absorption.”

Dr. Fredrickson goes on to note that inspiration does have an evil twin: resentment or envy and, that it is a conscious choice to be inspired and not envious.   I will definitely be blogging more about this aspect of inspiration.  For now, back to the story.

As I have been composing this post I have been reflecting on why exactly this experience was so inspiring to me.  There are a few reasons why.   I think a large part of it is because of the shared love of skiing my Dad and I have, and that is a gift he offered to me starting when I was three.  So, while seeing anyone get back on the hill after an injury or a surgery would inspire me,  since it was my Dad, my skiing mentor, it was that much more inspiring.   There is also the fact that in my work I have been studying goal-setting and seeing how important it is to have a vision to work towards and small meaningful steps to achieve along the way.  My Dad was demonstrating this to me loud and clear.  Finally, I  think it is because of this further skiing connection to his father, my grandfather,  Major General Elliot Rodger, another wise and inspiring man.    Here’s one little anecdote about my grandfather to give you a flavour of him:  at 91 years of age, he was “caught” up on the roof of the family cottage sweeping off the pine needles.    Talk about spirited and determined.   In fact, he loved to say to me “That’s the spirit, Lisa! That’s the spirit!”  He died three years ago at the age of 102.   But, I think if he had been on the hill last year with us, he would have said with a twinkle in his eye: “That’s the spirit Wilson! That’s the spirit!”.

I invite you to ask yourself what you have chosen to be inspired about lately.  Share with us below as a comment and cultivate some extra inspiration for yourself and the readers here.

 

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