My little voice
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
We all have those little voices in our heads, or at least I do. Sometimes my little voice is the encouraging, positive voice that motivates me to do more and try harder. But, more often than not, the voice is telling me to doubt myself, that I’m not strong enough or fit enough to continue in whatever climb, race or athletic endeavor I am engaged in.
The subconscious voices that fill our heads with doubtful chatter can be annoying. Why can’t my voice be positive all the time?
Even after years of studying sports psychology, I know that my inner voice is not something that is going to go away and, instead, it’s something to acknowledge and confront.
Over the past three years, my inner voice has increasingly been replaced by a real, outer voice in the form of my 3-year-old daughter Selah. In Selah’s mind, I am a champion and invincible. Hence, her outer voice is nothing but positive and I love it! It doesn’t matter what activity we are doing together; skiing, running, climbing or biking, the little voice I hear is always telling daddy to go bigger, run faster and climb higher.
On a typical Colorado bluebird Saturday morning this winter, my wife, Joy, and I loaded up the car and headed up the hill to Sunlight, as we do on many weekends. In the parking lot, it quickly became clear that Selah and 6-month-old Zeke were ready for naps. As any experienced parent can attest, one has to take advantage of those opportunities, so my plan of riding the lifts at Sunlight was postponed in favor of a climb up the mountain on skis.
Joy and I each loaded a kid onto our backs and set off up Babbish Gulch, intent on taking a long, roundabout way up the side of Sunlight, allowing for ample nap time for each snuggled kiddo. It was another one of those glorious, blessed days in the mountains, which we probably take for granted.
After more than an hour of slow, steady skiing, we finally popped out on to the Ute trail – the popular Sunlight ski run that makes a graceful arc around the west boundary of the ski area. We continued up, confident that we were close to the top.
After cresting the first roller on Ute, I realized that we were only about halfway up Ute and that we had a long way to go.
I had brought my “heavy” ski equipment that day, believing that I was going to spend my day on the comparatively plush, easy, mechanically advantaged ski lifts to ascend the mountain. The weight of my equipment and that of my 28-pound child now quickly diminished my spirits. The thought of going one more step, let alone a thousand to the warming hut at top, now seemed improbable and miserable.
Quickly, my inner voice started projecting into my outer voice.
“You know, we’ve already skied for over an hour and the kids have napped great, so we should probably just rip the skins and go down, right honey?”
Joy’s inner voice doesn’t work like mine, and she insisted we keep going.
I retaliated with a barrage of excuses.
“But the kid you’re carrying is 10 pounds lighter, my pack is heavier and my equipment is bigger. I just don’t think I can take another step!”
Then, like a voice from the heavens.
“Daddy, you can do it. If it’s hard, just keep trying. When things are hard we just keep trying harder, right daddy?”
Our mindset training with Selah had kicked in. I knew she was right. How could I back down now? So, I continued to trudge along, somewhat begrudgingly, and Selah kept up a constant stream of encouragement to combat what my inner voice was telling me.
“Don’t stop, daddy. Go faster. Just try harder. Let’s get to the top!”
I love my kid. The kind of outer voice Selah uses is the inner voice I wish I had all the time.
Recently I read a wonderful book called “The Bar Mitzvah and the Beast,” in which a family of four embarks on a cross-country bike ride in lieu of the 13-year old son’s traditional Bar Mitzvah. The Beast is the name given to the old, heavy tandem bike the author shares with his 9-year old son for their 4,000-mile journey across America.
The author’s son regales him with a constant voice for the many weeks they ride together, sometimes appreciated and sometimes annoying. Their experience reminded me of that helpful voice Selah provides, and about the power of a family being together on an adventure; how we learn together and mark the passage of time with rituals, small and large.
In the book, the bike trip is a rite of passage to mark the author’s oldest son moving into adulthood and their journey together is simultaneously transformative, educational, enlightening and humorous.
Their epic journey is filled with great joys and achievements but, as in everyday life, also filled with the mundane, doubtful moments that we all face. The family meets every challenge, often with humorous hindsight, and grows together.
The rites of passage we observe in life can take many forms and, in raising our daughter, we have tried to recognize those moments, even when they are small.
Doing things for the first time, like riding a bike, tying a knot for climbing or skiing without the leashes can be milestones, but none of us get there without some trials and tribulations.
Falls, scrapes, and frustrations are encountered before we find success. In teaching Selah to face those challenges, we have tried to instill in her a mindset that helps her be OK with difficulty and not having success immediately. And she has learned that, and she reminds us of that constantly.
I am the biggest chicken when it comes to falling while climbing. I just don’t like to fall. My daughter, on the other hand, loves climbing and seems to have no fear of falling. She knows falling is just part of trying hard and getting better.
Hence, I love that when we are climbing as a family, my daughter can tell when the climbing is getting difficult. In those moments, when my inner voice is casting doubt, Selah’s outer voice pipes up, loud and clear.
“Daddy, you can do it. If it’s hard, just try a little harder.”
It is in those moments that Selah serves as a poignant reminder of how life is filled with challenges, but it’s how we face them that matters.
Mike Schneiter is a Glenwood Springs High School teacher and coach, owner of Glenwood Climbing Guides and is a Brooks Inspire Daily athlete.
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