Sharing an article I wrote on grief and challenges last year. I think it's important to acknowledge that many of us may be experiencing some stage of grief during these times of COVID-19. There are ways to manage it but the path through it is not linear and may not happen in order. The goal however is to not give up and to keep climbing in any direction that it may take you.
“There is freedom waiting for you, On the breezes of the sky, And you ask, “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, What if you fly?” – Erin Hanson
Last night, I re-watched the dramatic movie, Everest. It tells the story of two expedition teams enduring impossible odds as they climb one of the tallest mountains in the world.
After the movie, I found myself pondering why so many climbers make this trek knowing of its dangers and that there is a chance they may not make it off the mountain.
As a result, I read numerous interviews and biographies of those who made the climb. And while the reasons are many, they all agreed that the life they had before the mountain transformed greatly from when they came off the mountain.
In grief and in life, we will each face our own inner Everest.
And every climb is different as conditions can change in an instant causing us to change the routes we take.
But we climb knowing we must dig in deep and touch something personal within. It may take several months, years and many attempts but we will take the time needed to make it to the summit.
When I started this journey, I didn’t even know I was climbing.
I crept along pulling myself up by my stomach. And when I was exhausted, I turned onto my back and stared into nothingness.
Then I attempted to crawl. Digging my hands into the earth clawing at anything that felt physical or real. I still couldn’t see.
When my vision finally cleared, I realized I was on a mountain. And I had moved a considerable distance from its base.
When I found my footing…I attempted to run but the force of the mountain pushed me back, so all I could do was stand still.
Eventually I had the strength to slowly put one foot in front of the other and began to walk.
I moved through the terrain slowly.
I reached a crevasse set between my old life and the new chapter in the horizon. The abyss stretched far and wide. I was so scared I just laid there staring into the unknown.
I tried to crawl back down the mountain. But I didn’t have the energy to do anything but to lay down and stare at the sky. But the darkness took over my vision again.
I begged God and the Universe to carry me across the chasm.
In the darkness, I heard that I needed to fall to get back up.
So, I plunged into the chasm. And landed on a snow drift deep-within.
It took forever to be able to see in the darkness.
When I could finally see it took a long time to get up.
When I could get up, I stood frozen for an eternity unable to decide if I could get up and out.
When I decided I didn’t want life to end without trying, I started to climb.
I climbed for years.
And then one day I saw it.
I was out of the crevasse and surrounded by a new landscape. One I was not familiar with. But one that I was no longer afraid to face.
I kept climbing until I eventually made it to the summit.
I didn’t think I could make it to this place. I didn’t think I was ready for it even though I had dreamed of it.
You see when faced with challenges that seem impossible, you’ll find there will be spots where you are going up, and then need to change direction and go down to continue to the peak. All the while tapping into the strength within that you would have never discovered you had if you didn’t push on and take it one step at a time.
The classic quote that tells you “not to look at the whole mountain take it one piece at a time” is something I have come to understand.
The climb unmasked who I was; the essence of who I am.
So, what is next?
On a mountain, we forge a path and eventually we will reach the summit.
And the view is breathtakingly beautiful, vast and worth the struggle.
But then we realize the ascent is only half of the journey.
We can’t stay on the summit forever.
We need to retreat back down with increased oxygen in our lungs and excitement for the new chapter in the life we have realized.
We need to retreat to inspire others so that they may know it’s even possible to make it to the peak.
We need to retreat to move on and to tackle the next mountain in our life.
I think I am ready for the climb down. I know I am ready.
“Why would you want to climb Mount Everest?” mountaineer, George Mallory was asked in a 1924 NYT interview before he embarked on Everest. He gave the obvious answer, “Because it’s there.”
I climbed because “I’m still here.”
And when it is time to climb your Everest, I will be here for you too.
Photo credit: 84926565 © Everest – Dreamstime.com