I’ve always been athletic and amongst my sisters was nicknamed “the Sporty One.”
I played soccer for years but found team sports to be stressful and draining. The teenaged girls on my soccer team would constantly fight, criticize each other and throw around blame (not to mention, the goalie who regularly threw hissy fits and walked off the field). I found a bit more freedom and independence on the track team, but again hated the demands of competition—the pressure to perform, the fear of disappointing teammates and the rigors of training—not only did we run stadium stairs, we ran through arroyos (sand, empty liquor bottle and homeless filled ditches in Santa Fe, NM).
So, I turned to skiing. Being of Scandinavian ancestry, skiing seemed to come naturally to me, and I learned to ski at a very early age. But what began as a sport I practiced during family vacations became an obsession. Every year, in October, I would ask my mother for a single birthday gift, a season pass to the Santa Fe ski area (and if I was lucky, someone’s old ski equipment from the Santa Fe Ski Swap). None of my friends skied, so I would most often ski by myself, and it was completely liberating. For once, I wasn’t desperate to be perfect or to win, I didn’t have to answer to bitchy teammates, and I wasn’t being critiqued or criticized (by condescending male coaches or my demanding father). I certainly wasn’t the best, but I was damn good and won a few competitions (and was capable of giving all the boys a run for their money).
Most days, I was completely alone, on a majestic mountain, with the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I felt powerful and confident and it was exhilarating. I would ski under the chairlift…just to show off. Skiing was my drug, my ultimate high. When I was skiing, I was unstoppable (until I busted my left ACL on the mogul run, Zulu Queen in Telluride…and went on to have a total of seven knee surgeries). But still, I love the sport and ski moguls whenever possible. However, I wear giant, custom made, carbon fiber knee braces under my ski pants (and look like Maggie from The Simpsons or the little brother from a Christmas Story).
As I head up to the mountains to ski, I listen to Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” the guitar riff gets my heart racing. There is nothing more uplifting than a day on the mountain—stunning vistas, sparkling snow and hopefully some fresh tracks. Other than maybe… Zumba.
During the five years I struggled with infertility, I tried yoga and meditation but frequently failed to achieve any sort of stress relief or health benefit due to my jittery, nervous energy. Five minutes in, I was already looking at the clock. After ten minutes, my back hurt; after fifteen minutes, I began to feel like I needed to pee; and after twenty minutes, I was bored out of my damn mind and starting to nibble on my fingernails.
From Spirit Baby: “For me, during the worst days of torment, when my emotional roller coaster was about to derail, nothing beat really loud bomba music and shaking my ass. Therefore, I fully credit Zumba (a workout phenomenon consisting of slightly naughty dance moves to hip-hop, reggaetón, and other popular Latin music) for keeping me sane throughout fertility treatments and the adoption process. In addition to being insanely calorie-burning, Zumba is incredibly stress-relieving. My Swedish ancestors may have given me a passion for skiing but growing up in New Mexico gave me a Latin heart. I grew up listening to Mexican pop music and sneaking out of the house to go salsa dancing.
During the dark days of infertility, there were many times when I was so depressed, I sat in the bottom of my closet in the dark for hours; but then there were days when I was so consumed with anxiety, I could have run a marathon on adrenaline alone. I was filled with way too much of the stress hormone cortisol to lie calmly in Savasana. If I wasn’t attacking moguls with a maniacal intensity during the Colorado ski season, I was releasing pint-up frustration doing Zumba. I didn’t have the patience to slowly foster a sense of well-being. I needed to work shit out!”