Trading Ski Boots for Cowgirl Boots ~ a story by Carol deLaski Hayes

cowgirl-bootsA recent trip to Utah presented a challenging situation when I took a spill and landed on my head while spring skiing.  Fortunately, I had on a helmet, but even so I soundly ‘rang my bell’. At first disoriented, I kept asking where my helmet was; my head hurt so badly that I thought I must have lost it in the fall. But when my alarmed sister saw that my helmet was still securely strapped to my head, she called for Ski Patrol to assist us.

As this unexpected drama unfolded, I now realize that I moved through the seven levels of energy that I teach and coach clients on.  This energetic process maintains that our thoughts create what we feel, which in turn, effects what we do. Thoughts = Emotions =Actions is the formula which allows me to look back and observe how I moved myself through this particular crisis.

First, I had level one ‘victim thoughts’ of powerlessness and embarrassment. My fall occurred in the flat area near a ski lift as I ‘caught an edge’ in the soft, mushy snow, (often called “mashed potatoes” by spring skiers) and lost my balance. Falling backwards and unable to stop the fall, I landed hard and couldn’t get up immediately afterwards. As I lay there, I could hear the ski lift come to a halt and then imagined everyone staring at me and talking about ‘that woman’ who just wiped out in the flat area beside the lift. I added to my distress with self-critical thoughts which wailed I can’t believe this happened to me….and here of all places, how embarrassing! I want to just disappear.

I moved into level two with thoughts of inner conflict as I scolded myself for falling. What a stupid fall! Get up! I have to be ok, I told myself as I collected my wits and stood. I tried to sound convincing as I kept insisting, “I’m fine. I’m fine.” My concerned family members gathered around me as the ski patrol man, Abe, asked me questions to assess how badly I had rung my bell.

Fortunately, other than my initial brief disorientation about the location of my helmet, I was able to answer all of his questions accurately. I could even quip with him. When he asked me what day it was I replied, “No fair! I’m on vacation! I’m trying to forget what day it is.” He smiled and agreed. The joking led me into level three, where I began to think about what responsibility I could take for this unfortunate situation. When we take even a small amount of responsibility, it moves us out of the negativity of powerlessness and conflict thinking and into the first level of positive energy.

Thoughts of responsibility quickly meshed with level four thoughts of concern. I saw not only Abe’s perceptive interest but I also saw the worried expressions on the faces of my siblings and cousin as they gathered around me. I wanted to alleviate their anxiety about my wellbeing. I admitted it would feel good to take a break and get some medicine for my headache. Abe advised us of two options to get to a lodge from our current location. We chose the option that required us to ride the lift and then ski an easy green run to a mid-mountain lodge.

The lift ride was a calming interlude. Taking in the beautiful Utah vistas on this clear day, I chatted with my brother and sister and breathed easier; beginning to believe that I was truly fine. As I exited the lift, and started to ski, however, I realized that I was a bit shaky. I was told to follow Abe in his bright red ski patrol jacket and he would lead the way to the lodge. We started off and Abe grew smaller and smaller in the distance as I followed slower and slower. I had lost my confidence. My legs lacked substance and felt like Jell-O under me while my head and stomach felt woozy. I stopped to ostensibly look at the view, but actually I was trying to collect myself and ‘be fine’. With encouragement from my niece who was skiing with me, I reached Abe and the others and continued to make my way to the lodge very slowly.

When I finally arrived, it felt great to take off my skis and sit down to rest. Abe soon appeared before me to continue his kind and careful assessment of my condition. I had to admit that I was feeling worse, not better.  I moved into level five as I thought what would be a ‘win-win’ for everyone. I deliberated on what was best for me, my concerned family members, Abe, and even the other skiers at the lodge. Taking the entire situation into consideration I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to ski anymore and asked Abe if I could ride a snowmobile down to the base lodge. He agreed with my decision and advised that I visit the nurse on duty there to further assess my condition. This felt like the best solution for everyone involved.

Abe informed me, however, that a snowmobile couldn’t get to this particular mid-mountain lodge. The only way to get down from this location was by sled. An image of me sitting upright, resting on comfy cushions, sipping a cup of hot tea while gently gliding downhill popped into my head. Abe burst that bubble by telling me that there were standard protocols for transporting someone off the mountain in a sled. He went on to describe how they would immobilize my neck, strap me to a board, and zip me into a bag in order for the transport patrol to ski me to a waiting snowmobile. I felt some anxiety about this endeavor, but held fast to my level five thinking that this would be best for everyone.

I acquiesced to their procedures and soon found myself surrounded by four members of the ski patrol who worked as one to prepare me for this unexpected ride. As they fitted me with a neck brace collar I noticed something unusual in the sky. It was a clear day, with just a few wispy clouds, and no recent precipitation. Despite the relative clarity of the day, I saw a thin rainbow casting a large arch across the sky. Shifting my focus back to the ground, my anxiety grew as the team cinched my legs, waist, and chest securely to the board with thick straps and I experienced complete immobility. I searched for my sister’s face in amongst the ski patrol team for reassurance and motioned her close. “I think I’m seeing things,” I whispered.  “Do you see a rainbow?” I asked and jutted my chin towards the sky. She glanced at the sky and said, “No” with a look that conveyed, you’re seeing things, sister! I thought, oh geez, I’m worse off than I thought, and didn’t mention it to anyone else.

As they zipped the bright red bag around me, Abe explained that its stiff flaps would come beside my head and face to keep snow from spraying on me as we descended. He carefully positioned the flaps some distance from my head so that I had plenty of airflow and could hold an oxygen mask to my face. As he did so, my peripheral vision became filled with the red color of this surrounding protective barrier, and my binocular vision was restricted to the piece of blue sky directly above me. Even though the red bag limited my view, it also provided a frame for the arching rainbow. I moved into levels six and seven as I chose to interpret that rainbow as a reminder of God’s presence. Despite my anxiety about the condition of my head, and this unusual ride that was about to take place, I looked at the rainbow and felt reassured of God’s promise to be with me always. I latched my eyes onto that arch of color and chose faith over fear to see me through this ordeal.

The sled began to move forward and my initial idea of a smooth ride was instantly replaced by the reality of a bumpy traverse over what felt like very rough ground. To calm my fears, I focused on the rainbow and prayed for the ski patrol members in whose hands I had placed myself, for my family who was making decisions how to handle this turn of events, and for myself as I struggled to trust this unexpected journey and not freak out. By choosing to focus on level six and seven thoughts about God’s promise I avoided dropping back to the powerless thoughts of level one.

The initial leg of the trip ended as the ski patrol brought me to a location where a snowmobile could take over. The team quickly attached my sled to a snowmobile, which continued my journey down the mountain. I arrived at the base lodge sometime later and was met by the resort nurse and my sister, who had skied there to join us. Surrounded by concerned faces, one ski patrol woman asked how I was doing and I decided to confide in her about the rainbow. I tentatively asked, “Do you see a rainbow?” and she glanced up in the sky above us. She turned back to me and smiled, saying, “Yes, I do.” Seeing my quizzical expression she went on to explain, “That happens sometimes in the mountains; like light going through a prism.” I breathed a sigh of relief, reassured that I wasn’t crazy. I said a silent prayer thanking God for putting it in my view and gratefully received the comforting grace it provided me through this ordeal.

A subsequent trip by ambulance to the local clinic for a CT scan of my head yielded the diagnosis that I had suffered a concussion. My ski trip had taken a turn for the worse, but I chose to make lemonade from these lemons.

After resting for a few days I indulged in retail therapy and traded in my ski boots for a fun pair of Western cowgirl boots. Now whenever I wear those cowgirl boots I not only smile for the pure fun of it, but I also remember why I got them. I remember the rainbow promise of God to be with me and to provide for me; whether it’s a helmet, a loving family, concerned and skillful experts such as Abe and the ski patrol staff, or the rest of the medical team that cared for me.

I remember that I can choose my thoughts and move myself to a higher level of energy. I can exchange my powerlessness for a powerful connection to a Source greater than me simply by changing my thoughts. When I wear my cowgirl boots I feel grateful and I am reminded that I can connect to God everyday to navigate my way through challenging circumstances, and so can you. 



Carol deLaski Hayes is a Certified Energy Leadership Coach, author, and speaker. You may contact her at: [email protected] to comment on this blog or engage her services as speaker or coach.