Driven by Family

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

3/15/2012 10:12:00 AM - Jackie Gingrich Cushman

It's interesting what drives people toward their goals. For some, it is fame, fortune or celebrity. For others, it's personal achievement, parents pushing or peer pressure that has been internalized. Some seem to have no drive at all -- there is no fire in their belly, no reason to work hard and reach goals. While it's good to be driven to make progress, it's also important that what drives you does not consume you, or those around you.

This past week, my husband Jimmy was driven by love of family to reach his goal of snowboarding down the mountain. Told that it would take three days before he would be able to go down the mountain with us, Jimmy, always up for a challenge, accomplished it in one day so that we could ski down together at the end of the day.

Last week was spring break for our children. After campaigning through the first weekend of the break and Super Tuesday (celebrating a win in Georgia), we packed up and left for a few days of skiing.

Last year was our first family ski vacation. Having only skied one other time, 20 years before, and not very well, I was terribly apprehensive about going last year. The trip was relatively successful, however. I skied greens primarily (the easiest slopes) and one blue (the next level), probably by accident. I enjoyed the fresh air and, most importantly, did not get hurt.

Last year's trip reminded me of several important life lessons. Learning includes instruction, frustration, falling, persistence, patience, practice, improvement and providence. It's not easy to learn, and it requires real work. Throughout the process, it also helps to understand the role providence plays. As much as we humans (speaking for myself) would like to control the process and outcome, the reality is that not everything is under our control, and we have to let go and leave it to God.

It is a hard lesson that I have to keep learning.

As hard as skiing is, snowboarding appears to be much harder. Instead of two skis, you strap a board to your shoes and ski/surf down the mountain using your legs, core and balance. Most snowboarders are young and hip. They fly down the mountain weaving in and out of the skiers. The average age appears to be half my current age.

After committing to learn, Jimmy decided it would be best to risk life and limb the final day of our vacation. He made it through the morning lesson with a snowboard coach whose two favorite words were dude and awesome (according to Jimmy, he was an awesome coach). While Jimmy took a lesson, our children and I skied on a neighboring mountain. Connecting via phone right before lunch, we decided to meet up for lunch midway. We would have to traverse a few trails to get there, and he would have to come down a steep blue trail to reach the location.

Not surprisingly, he beat us there.

After lunch we travelled up the mountain again to come down together. Jimmy and the children went on the blues, while I travelled down the greens, intersecting them on occasion. They made it down. Jimmy assured me at the end that his thighs were on fire and likely to melt the snow from the mountain.

He accomplished what he set out to do -- snowboard down the mountain on the first day with his family. As for me, I accomplished my goal of skiing with friends and family and not getting hurt (not much of a goal, but it was mine).

At the end of our last day, right before the lifts closed for the day, our son asked me if I would go for one more run. Exhausted, and knees hurting, I said, "Dad will take you up for one last run." I hoped I was right. A few minutes later, Jimmy snowboarded down with our daughter.

When asked if he would take Robert down for one last run, he said absolutely, and off they went to the gondola, to ride up for the last run of our trip.

What a joy to see them come down the mountain together. A goal accomplished, driven by the right fuel -- family.