The first time I went skiing in high school was terrifying. I took a total of one run, which concluded in me sliding down the entire mountain on my backside. Bruised, humiliated and frost-bitten, I refused to return to the slopes until meeting Michael over a decade later. He insisted it would be fun, but I was reluctant. Unlike me, he grew up on skis: annual family outings to Lake Tahoe gave him endless skill and confidence to careen down expert runs at high speeds. On the contrary, my family outings revolved around music – R&B, gospel, hip-hop and jazz. No significant event in our lives transpired without all of us hitting the dance floor. Needless to say, we were all great dancers.
But hit the slopes, we did not.
It may sound racist, but I assumed it was a black thing. Just the thought of being cold made me shudder – not to mention spending hours intentionally practicing a sport in the cold, just for fun.
After our wedding, I soon discovered how much Michael loved skiing, and how much I detested it. I also discovered how hard it was for him to stay on the beat whenever we went salsa dancing. Alas, the tale of two cities. So we struck a deal: for every hour I endured snowboarding lessons, he in turn endured one hour of salsa lessons with me.
These were grueling and embarrassing experiences for both of us. But they made us each better companions. Though it didn’t turn me into a master snowboarder (green runs rock!) or help Michael stay on the beat (he still dances to his own “rhythm”), it helped us both grow in becoming more loving, grateful and selfless partners.
Relationships can be powerful mirrors for our greatest challenges and triumphs. This is strong medicine even on a good day. Having a solid spiritual foundation – one based on vulnerability, compromise and the joy that comes from sharing – makes the medicine go down a bit sweeter.
Even if I have to swallow it while my toes are freezing.