Life Lessons from the Hill – In Praise of Coasting

Our kids love to go coasting (we usually call it sliding or sledding). Living in Eastern Canada it’s one of the few perks of winter. We bundle up and grab our gear and head to the hill. Over and over and over again.

The kids have learned (as they get older and heavier – such that I can/will no longer help cart them or their sleds to the top of the hill) that to enjoy the downhill part of the adventure, there’s a lot of hard work that has to happen first.

I can’t believe we emerged from this hill with all body parts intact. So steep, so icy, and a blind crest so when you’re sliding you can’t see people walking up from below. Yet, this particular hill is always packed in the winter. I’m surprised they don’t hire a paramedic to stay on site. Never again!

Even on the tallest hill, the coasting element of the experience will last a minute at best. But the climbing? Oh, the climbing can go on for a looonnnggg time.

In addition to the elevation, you have to contend with the ice – slipping and losing ground is a frustrating, but common, occurrence. Then there is the burden of transporting the necessary tools. To slide down a hill, you need to bring something on which to slide with you to the top.

A few weeks ago my husband and I were walking home from school drop-off and were slogging up a particularly steep hill. Where we live, hills are unavoidable on the return trip.

I hate the hills.

It’s not because my fitness level isn’t sufficient, hills just take more work. I have to concentrate. I can’t ease into the conversation with my walking partner or get lost in my own thoughts. I start sweating (I loathe sweating).

But I set my sights on the prize – namely level ground at the top. Ultimately, my goal is to get home, so I do it. Sometimes the only way through is through.

On this particular walk I was wrestling with various life and work events and was feeling overwhelmed by it all. Ruminating over all these thoughts and then coming face-to-face with the inevitable climb – well, the hill suddenly felt like a metaphor for life.

Starting a new job can feel like climbing up a hill. So many processes with which to become familiar; lots of icy patches that send me careening back to the bottom of the hill.

Parenting always comes with new challenges. And sometimes it can start feeling like one continuous slog up the hill, one step forward before sliding ten back.

But, also, some of the hard work from before means I’m ready to coast in a lot of other areas. I’m easing back on Christmas this year – buying fewer gifts and starting later so I don’t keep seeing new things to buy (adding to the total bill and time commitment). I’m coasting with meals; I’ve gone from dedicating swaths of time to meal-planning to being someone who throws together last-minute one-pot wonders from whatever is hanging out in the crisper drawer or using up freezer leftovers I’ve been hoarding. No one has starved yet.

See, sometimes I force myself to keep climbing in areas when I’ve earned the right to jump on my sled and coast for a while. Scrambled eggs and bacon twice in a week is fine. (It’s actually great since eggs and bacon are two of the most delicious food items known to man). I don’t have to prove I can cook and I’m not competing for Best Domestic Housewife in the East. I’ll make the long, elaborate meals again. But it doesn’t have to be this week.

I know that coasting is short-lived. The downhill ends eventually and requires another climb back up to the top.

But, maybe, after I’ve coasted to the bottom, this time I’ll take a moment to sit and enjoy the view…from the bottom of the hill.

There will always be new hills to climb, but there are also opportunities for coasting, too.

And hurtling down the hill can be a pretty fun way to view the world.

Where are you currently climbing? Any areas where you’re coasting?

12 thoughts on “Life Lessons from the Hill – In Praise of Coasting”

  1. We were just talking about sledding this morning! We do not have snow yet, but it is coming. Having kids has helped us appreciate the snow more. We grumble less because we know Paul will have a blast sledding. There is a great hill about a block from our house so it’s an easy afternoon activity. Also, we live on a pretty steep hill so hills are just part of our daily life. You can walk up a less steep hill to get home but you have to go out of your way to do that so I usually just deal with the hill.

    Having young children = being in a state of constantly climbing a hill which explains why I am so tired and depleted lately. Especially when someone is sick! Or as is often the case, multiple people are sick. One area where I am coasting right now is pumping. I dropped to 1 pump/day about a month ago or so, and my supply has really tanked. The last 2 days I’ve pumped 4 measly oz. But I’m kind of like – meh. Will is growing well and eating lots of solids at school. And I had emailed his pediatrician when my supply dropped. I was getting 8 oz at that time and worried it wasn’t enough but she said it sounds like he’s naturally getting down to a max of 8-16 oz/day from milk that they need at a year. So between night and morning nursing + what I pump, he’s getting plenty. So I told daycare to give him whole milk and water with meals, even though he’s not a year yet so technically doesn’t need to start whole milk. But I’m rounding up. With Paul, I exclusively pumped and had enough milk pumped at 10 months to last until 13 months! But EP’ing is so different from nursing as your supply doesn’t necessarily adjust to their needs/what they are drinking. I think i would have panicked if I was down to 4 oz/day at 50 weeks. But mom-of-2-kids-Lisa can look at the situation and say “we are close enough to a year/it’s fine/I don’t need to pump more often to give him more.”

    1. Oh nursing. One of my very first blog posts tackled this topic. To say I have a fraught history with it is an understatement. But I will say my challenges the second time around were so much easier to tolerate having the gift of perspective.
      Ironically, I think the ability to accept (and even enjoy) the coasting process does require a certain amount of energy. It’s easy to get so depleted and stuck in tunnel vision that it’s hard to stop climbing. That’s when I try to write everything down and see if all my “must” do’s are actually must do’s. Usually they’re not. And once I see everything in black-and-white I can take a step back and start assigning areas where I can coast (temporarily at least).

      On another note – we had flurries here yesterday, so the literal coasting isn’t too far off now. Eeks.

  2. I love this post in so many ways. this is part of my life motto, to slide down and enjoy the fun/easy part, you have to work hard. that’s in studying, work, running, anything really. I don’t believe in things falling to me, so getting to the top part has been I told myself to endure the hard parts. so many examples, like when I was in grad school and studying subjects that I hated… I told myself this is part of the process, you can forget it once you get your degree. or in running, those last 2 miles of a 15 miles run are so hard but I know that it prepares me well for the marathon. recently, I’m on the downhill, doing little to nothing mentally for the work because I’ve proven myself over the last 4 years and I’m cruising. But I know that I’ll have to climb up again with the new job… and start the again. while I am not super excited about that part, I know it’s needed and maybe I learn a thing or two during the process.
    and so true also that we don’t need to b climbing again to many tops like cooking… once we know we can do it, we have the freedom to cook whatever and nobody can judge us that we’re not skilled. And as we age, we realize we don’t need to be the expert in all hills.

    1. And as we age, we realize we don’t need to be the expert in all hills.

      I think this is such a good point!! Some people are really good are climbing certain hills. Nobody’s good at everything…but everyone’s good at something. Interesting too that what might feel like a hill to one person, could be coasting to another?

      We do also definitely learn the process and that can be motivating. Through experience we understand that new challenges can feel like a slog, but the reward is almost always worth the effort. I do think so many life lessons just can’t be understood until we’ve lived them. It’s easier to recognize the truth is some of these things now than when I was, for example, graduating high school.

  3. What a wonderful way to look at it. Life is indeed always up and down and the fun and the joy but also the sweat and the exhaustion.. I love the pictured you drew here. I feel like this whole pandemic is one slow rising mountain. Up and up and a bit more up we struggle. Looking like we are not getting anywhere but our body can feel the miles its been walking.

    I wish we had so much snow for real here in Berlin. The last years weren’t too snowy. But for this winter I hear they expect a cold one. I look forward to it. I hate sweating too. .

  4. At first I thought wow, you have so much snow already! Then I figured out these were probably not taken this week! I have no good answer to your question – I feel like I’m always kind of climbing and coasting, every day. Life with teens! I was just speaking with someone today about the hardest part of parenting is recognizing that the kids are on their own journey and path, and they just have to walk the path while you watch. IT IS HARD. So I guess that’s the climb. As for coasting…with the pandemic, nothing really is new around here so day-to-day life is coasting.

    1. Ha – thankfully, no accumulated snow yet, but we did have enough for my daughter to make a huge snowball this morning before the temperature increased such that the precipitation turned to snow.
      Teenagers – I can’t believe we’re barreling straight toward that stage. I definitely don’t feel ready, but one day at a time and I know there will be great aspects to that stage of life too!
      I can’t remember when I was musing about this (somewhere recently on the blog, I think), but it’s so interesting that so many life lessons only become clear after you experience them for yourself. I try to impart all sorts of “wisdom” to the kids, but I think it’s hard to process the advice until you live it.

  5. I wish I had a job where I found myself coasting at any time – I just feel so incompetent and unsure all the time. I’m always climbing that hill and never having the fun of the swoosh down on the sled. Ha!
    However, I feel like most of my personal life is under control, so I guess there are trade-offs in life!

    1. Honestly – I think most people feel this way about work?! We tend to keep this feeling close to our chest, but think that shame/vulnerability/and imposter syndrome are an everpresent reality for most people (at least in one area of their life, be it in a professional or personal capacity).

      Hope you get to coast, at least a little, at some point soon at work. Sounds like a tough slog right now.

  6. Yes, it’s a relief when you realize you can coast on certain things. When my kids were little I felt like I did everything the hardest way possible. Then I had the stunning realization that it’s okay to actually choose the easiest options sometimes! I’m currently also coasting with meals (among other things!)
    Love the sledding pictures. When I was a kid we would go sledding- my own poor kids are sadly deprived, living in Florida. Thanks for a great post!

  7. I used to go sledding as a kid (we had cold winters with lots of snow, not so much in Germany anymore these days)…. but I love that you used it as a metaphor for life, because it’s so, so true.
    Often, the more you’ve climbed a hill, the more familiar it becomes and the longer the coasting lasts… and I think it’s more than fair to get some coasting while you’re tackling new hills!

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