In San Francisco, there are so many people who struggle with basic with social interactions, it was a statistical inevitably that I would end up dating one of them. It was several years ago, at a time when knowing the facts did not prevent me from taking things personally.
The pace and rhythm of our interactions threw me. He tried to explain to me the various things that were hard for him, and to be blunt, I thought it was bullshit. I thought he should just try harder or grow up or whatever unkind things we think about people we refuse to understand.
Until I tried to learn to ski. In the thick of all that turmoil, I found myself at the top of a blue run with another, highly skilled skiiing friend who was saying, “Just turn your skis and go.”
“I can’t,” I said.
“Of course you can.”
“No, I really can’t.” And truly, I was frozen, but not from the cold. I was scared, and I couldn’t get my body to move.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Just turn your skis to the right and you’ll start to move.”
“I don’t think you understand what I feel like right now. I just literally can’t.”
“That’s not possible. It’s simple metaphysics.”
I perked up. “You don’t even know what metaphysics is!” And for some reason, this triggered whatever I needed to start moving. Although I eventually broke my freeze, I certainly didn’t get good at skiing, and I didn’t forget that bleak moment when what should have been easy was unfathomably impossible.
After a few hours of contemplating my fiasco, I finally understood what my boyfriend was telling me about his own limitations, and although it was too late to salvage that situation, “the skiing analogy” has become a staple in my life. A few months later, I shared it with a friend as a way to help her grapple with someone who had deeply disappointed her, and to this day, and we often just throw in the word “skiing” as shorthand for something more complex.
“Skiing” reminds us that other people can’t always be what you want them to be. That the things that make complete sense to us are bewildering to others. That there are some things you can’t teach. That someone can go to the top of the mountain with you and suddenly find themselves unable to find their way down. And that this type of disappointment isn’t a crime or betrayal, it’s just an inevitable truth.
“Skiing” is a reminder that life hardly ever moves at the pace we want it to, and we are not entitled to immediacy. That the most beautiful and difficult thing we can do for others is give them the space and time to find their own path. That the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is to accept that everyone has a right to choose.
I was reminded of this topic tonight, which I’ve wanted to write about for three years, when I found myself saying to someone,”I can’t.”And he said, “What do you mean can’t?” I took a long pause before I said, “Can I tell you a story about this time I went skiing?”
I think it’s somewhat appropriate that after that whole thing, and deciding to write this post, I would get home to discover that my Internet isn’t working, so I’ll technically miss the deadline for Day 12 of my non-writing challenge.
It’s hard to forgive other people’s limitations; sometimes it’s equally (if not more) grueling to forgive your own. It’s a skill that takes time, includes many lapses and is often imperfect.
But I think we can all agree that forgiving Comcast is a great way to practice.