I climbed a mountain last Saturday. Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire. 3166 feet to the summit. Went all the way.
Mountain climbing isn’t really my thing. Feats of physical prowess aren’t in general. They say mountain climbing is just as much mental as it is physical and I figure I do enough mental mountain climbing why drag my body through it as well? Still, I can appreciate the rush of endorphins that comes from pushing my physical limits and am competitive enough to take on a challenge.
I had fewer meltdowns on the climb than I expected. I stopped often, whined, asked Beloved if the top was over the next crest, and wanted to know when it would be over but I only cried twice and got a little snippy once .
When we did make it over the crest that finally put the summit in sight I had a very clear sense that I was done. I could see the top and see people up there but I had no desire to go any further. I would have been completely satisfied turning around and going back down.
We carried on because I am driven by social pressure and the desire to inspire… that’s all really, I truly didn’t want to be at the top. I just wanted to be able to say I did it and have people I admired admire me for my pursuit.
At the top I took a classicly posed victory shot not feeling attached to my accomplishment, complained about my nausea, and we got on our way.
The way down was just as grueling, if not more, as the way up and when staying in the present moment wasn’t getting me through the burning of my arches or trembling of my knees I allowed my mind to wander.
I started to remember what it felt like to see the summit and not want to reach it and I started to judge myself for not feeling the way I “should.” Gently dismissing the judgement I asked myself, why didn’t I want to go up there. The conversation went a little something like this:
It’s just not in my value system. The peak isn’t what I’m aiming for.
What are you aiming for? What is the goal if it’s not the peak? Why climb at all?
To get out of the Valley
And where does that come from?
A long time of feeling stuck in the valley… And not knowing that the peak was within reach, or that I was worthy of seeking it…
Ah, another fissure in the self worth revealed.
I spent a lot of time in the “Valley: (and I ain’t referring to the San Fernando Valley for you LA locals). My “Valley” was living a life that appeared satisfactory but wasn’t attached to what I truly desired. It was the “should” plan that matched what I wanted. I wanted to have a happy family so I got a husband and had a baby. I wanted my work to be meaningful so I gave every ounce of myself to it.
There’s no value judgement in this, by the way. The way my valley looked on paper may be someone else’s mountain. And I don’t even mean to suggest that we’re all meant to live at different elevations (figuratively, literally we probably are). Rather that the mountain or valley or midlands in between is simply a symbol for how authentically we are living our desires. Someone else’s path to happy family might be the husband and kid(s) or the great job. I think we’ve learned by now that my way tends to be a little less mainstream than what I’d been force feeding myself.
I’ve only recently climbed out of the valley. I’ve been up in the midlands for a little over a year and despite pressure on myself to keep going I had a clear sense that I needed to hang out around here for a while to see what it had to offer. So far, a lot. I found a partner here, I’ve even found more of myself, I thought I would be content here for some time. But maybe I’m ready to start aiming for the peak.
Maybe I’m ready to climb mountains.
Maybe the ascent has already begun. For this climb I don’t need sturdy shoes and a liter of water, I need to remain attached to my own worth. I need to believe I’m worth the trouble.
Part Four is coming your way…