Thursday, September 30, 2010

on perspective and climbing mountains.

  1. have a reason to go. it was a radiantly sunny day and the thought of staying inside any longer hurt my brain. after several days of late night and bad sleeps i was finally feeling well-rested, but a call about work had left me feeling frustrated and itchy. i find myself- often- trying to find a balance between not feeling taken advantage of and not coming across as someone with a big entitlement chip on my shoulder. this makes me grumpy. so what better way to get out of my head than to go and climb a big ol' mountain?
  2. the first 1/4 is the hardest. the trail is grueling, the view is dull, and the mountain seems to stretch above you eternally. you can't ever imagine reaching the top. your legs protest, so does your heart. you are lapping and being lapped by chattering hikers with noisy friends or ipods, who smell and spit. it takes a lifetime of suffering to reach the 1/4 mark and when you do your whole body screams what the hell? there's no way i can keep going! there's so much more to do and i can't do it! but...
  3. don't panic. after the 1/4 mark you will find a rhythm. your heart won't slow exactly, but its <thumpthump> feels steady and not as if it's going to leap out of your chest. the noisy hikers have mostly stopped talking now, saving their energy for getting to the top. the halfway and 3/4 markers will come upon you much faster than the first one did.
  4. set goals. but make 'em reasonable. i have 2 goals when i climb this mountain: climb it faster than the time before, and don't die. so far i have accomplished both those goals pretty much every time.
  5. look around. unless you're trying to set some kind of record, pause and remember why you came here in the first place. take a few moments to inhale the clean, pine-scented air (just hold your breath until after that sweaty hiker passes you). look behind you through the trees and notice how the city and the water are shining like jewels below you, getting further and further away. hear the birds singing and a waterfall splashing beside the trail. the summit is the goal, but let the journey soothe as well as challenge. otherwise, you could just be on your stairmaster, or running up a steep hill in the city.
  6. the last 1/4 is hard, too. you're pretty tired, and realizing that you won't be breaking any records this time. your legs are weak, because there are 2830 steps on this trail (no, i didn't make that number up- this is true) and you have nearly climbed them all by now. your heart is tired too, from pumping extra fast for over an hour. your clothes feel clammy. but look up. you can finally see the mountain ending, just above you, and nothing but the clear blue sky beyond.
  7. take time to celebrate at the top. let the sun and the mountain breeze cool your flushed cheeks and dry your sweaty shirt. go and buy that snack. (hey, there's an upside to climbing a ski hill, and the upside is that snacks and toilets await you at the top.) look down, way down, at the tiny city 3700 feet below you. your neighbourhood, brimming with energy and noise and problems, is hardly visible. the frustrations and annoyances that seemed so huge this morning are invisible specks. you climbed nearly 3 kilometres, straight up, and you are too tired and too happy to think about anything but your next meal.

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