Lessons from the mountain

A little over a year ago I committed to a year of working with a life/health coach. It was a year long plan that had an end goal of hiking a fourteen thousand foot peak mountain (14er) in Colorado. It’s a feat that has been on my bucket list for several years. I had been talking about it for quite some time but something always stopped me. But this time, I decided to set the goal and go for it. I spent the year working on myself – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I lost almost 100 pounds. I started exercising again. I did a lot of soul searching in the dark corners of my mind. There were small victories and even some bigger victories along the way. There were also dark periods and setbacks. There were moments of absolute despair. The most recent low point occurring merely 7 weeks prior to the scheduled climb. I recall standing along a river in Milwaukee Wisconsin with my coach discussing where I was at physically in terms of being prepared for the hike that awaited me in Colorado. I was full of self doubt and fear. I was angry at myself that I didn’t appear to be in the kind of shape I wanted to be in so close to the event. I was tearful. Later that day we even discussed the idea of postponing the hike. I just couldn’t let that happen though. I recommitted that day and spent the next 7 weeks working very hard – eating clean, working out – including stadium bleacher workouts in heat – and shifting my mindset from one of doubt to one of confidence. I visualized a successful climb. I prepared with everything I had to give. And I left for Colorado a week ago Saturday with the knowledge that no matter what happened on the mountain, I had redeemed myself. Had I failed, I would have been able to look at myself in the mirror and think I gave it my best shot. There is power in that. Ultimately though, I didn’t fail. Last Monday I summited Gray’s Peak in Colorado, alongside one of my best friends and my coach. Climbing the mountain was also symbolic of a year spent changing my life in other ways as well.  The culmination of a year long process of reclaiming my life was at the top of a 14 thousand foot mountain in the Rockies. 14,270 feet to be exact. It was such a tremendous feeling. The thing is – the feeling I had after getting back down from the mountain top was not what I thought it would be. It was so much more than I had ever anticipated in any visualization exercise. There was a great sense of accomplishment and pride. That was the obvious response – and the one in which I had anticipated. What I didn’t anticipate was a far more powerful and soul filling feeling than the sense of accomplishment.

I began my journey up the mountain last Monday before sunrise with one of my best friends, Misty, and my coach Jill. A trio for the ages. Misty has been my friend for 27 years and was the inspiration for me even wanting to do a 14er. She is an avid climber/hiker and has summited almost all of the 14ers in Colorado. For years I have been telling her I would do one with her. At times, she would check in and ask me how my workouts were going , to which I would reply – they aren’t. (that all changed a year ago of course…). She has been a huge support system through this from day 1 and the other day on the mountain was no exception. Jill has also been a big support system and a source of strength and inspiration. I feel so very blessed that they were both at my side along the way and of course at the top of Gray’s Peak.

My day on the mountain lasted a little over 8 hours. 4 hours 20 min up, an hour at the top, and slightly less than 3 hours down. 3000 feet up over 3.5 miles to the top. If I had to pick one moment from that 8 hours that had the most impact, it wasn’t the moment I reached the summit – nor was it the moment I reached the car at the end of the day. Nope. It was when Misty unexpectedly presented me with a very thoughtful laminated sign congratulating me for summiting my first 14er. And when Jill presented me with a small metal token with the saying “Adversity introduces a woman to herself and her power”. It was those moments that were my favorite because it really reminded me of how very lucky I am to have such support and love in my life. And after coming down from the mountain and reflecting on the experience I started thinking about all of the other people in my life that may not have been at the top of the peak

with me but that were with me in spirit thought the support and love they had shown me through the whole process. And it is THIS that makes me appreciate just how far I have come as a person over the last year – not the climb. I realized that I had been able to allow love and support in, I was able to recognize it and appreciated it – in fact felt (still do ) very grateful for it. THAT fills the soul in a way that no specific physical accomplishment could ever do.

The other lesson I brought home with me from Colorado is the idea that yes, I have it within me to do what it takes to accomplish a goal – even when things seem bleak. The 7 weeks leading up to the climb – from the day by the river in tears to the top of the mountain – were a result of commitment and focus that are living proof that I can overcome. The inner strength didn’t seem like a big deal in the moment but reflecting back, I was a rock star.

I’m not even fully recovered from my climb a few days ago and I’m already imagining the next big goal. When armed with the ability to recognize, accept and be thankful for support and love from those around me,  and the knowledge that I do indeed have the inner strength it takes to overcome obstacles,  it makes the impossible seem more possible than ever before; and I’m going for it.

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