Kaya Williams: Pump the brakes | AspenTimes.com

Kaya Williams: Pump the brakes

When momentum is a vice, outside forces can save us from ourselves

Kaya Williams, reporter for the Aspen Times and Snowmass Sun

I am not very good at saying “No.” I am not much better at grasping the concept of “slow.”

The proof is in my Outlook calendar, which most days this month has looked more like a nightmarish club sandwich of commitments than a smattering of meetings. After dark, I’m no better: between Dec. 5 and Dec. 20, I can count all of two dates in the stretch of 16 that I wasn’t booked with some sort of evening activity or other.

Outdoors, I’m even worse. Faced with a wide-open Saturday last weekend — the first I’d had in a good long while, and one when I probably should have slept in, read a book, done my laundry and gone back to bed — I set my sights on a “ski sandwich” instead: first chair at Snowmass, a midafternoon skate toward the Maroon Bells and a moonlight skin at Buttermilk.

It is so much easier keep the foot on the gas than it is to tap the brakes that I will reliably put the pedal to the metal until the car spins out.

So the car spins out. Pretty reliably, too, on an annual basis and right around this time of year. Christmas is my favorite holiday, but I have also spent more Decembers than not feeling so very whelmed that it became impossible to see any end to the onslaught of commitments I willingly and eagerly signed onto.

No matter how many times my addiction to momentum bites me in the rear end — and it almost always does — I can’t seem to kick my favorite vice unless acted upon by an outside force. That’s just basic physics.

Outside forces that have saved me from myself late this year, even and especially the ones I would normally try to push through or get frustrated with because I couldn’t push through them.

During the first two weeks of November, I came down with some sort of something unpleasant that I affectionately named “the grog.” It wasn’t COVID, according to the rapid test or the PCR test I took, but according to public health guidelines, I had to stay home until symptoms subsided and enough time had passed.

Pre-pandemic, I would have muscled it out and probably felt much worse for it. But because I am a rigid rule-follower (sometimes, though not in this case, against my best interests), I was forced to embrace sitting still for the 10 or so days that I felt like crud.

It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at a time I otherwise might have tried to pack my calendar to the gills to stave off the social comedown of a post-Halloween offseason lull and the inevitable restlessness of tapering.

I did all the things I have always loved doing — puzzles, baking, reading, noodling around on the guitar — but usually cast aside in favor of more exciting offerings in the outside world. It filled my cup with a drink I didn’t realize how much I missed until I got the first sip.

And then the grog cleared up enough, ski season started and I was back to my old habits again and digging myself back into the hole I had just blissfully emerged from.

I could feel myself starting to fishtail, but I refused to ease up my speed as I steered into the skid. I eyed a return home to Tahoe for the holiday with plans to fly in the day before Christmas Eve following a jam-packed workweek, Nordic ski every morning and spend the better part of Christmas Day on the slopes while taking all of four hours off of my normal work schedule.

Thank goodness, then, for outside forces: a kind and intuitive editor who gently reminds me that it is OK to take a day off every once in a while; a storm that promises amounts of snow I could more easily measure in units of my tallest friend than in feet or inches; more pandemic precaution of late that prompted me to skip some of the plans I had made in the days leading up to travel.

Instead, I spent the first 48 hours of my return home watching rain mix with snow to make Sierra Cement, combing through photos of my parents in their 20s and 30s and having sweet, pointless conversations at the dinner table.

With any luck, our power might go out too, and I will no longer be able to “more is more is more” my way down an internet rabbit hole in my spare time. It just might force me to play a game of gin rummy and take a nap on the couch.

Kaya Williams is a reporter for the Aspen Times and the Snowmass Sun who would like to assure law enforcement that her lead-foot tendencies in life do not directly translate to Highway 82, where she usually drives a perfectly reasonable speed with the flow of traffic. Email her at kwilliams@aspentimes.com.