V IS FOR VICTORY

victory

A story of my most recent adventure and the lessons I learned

A short while ago, I went on a retreat with a few ladies whom I adore and found myself venturing all the way to the northern city of Fairbanks, Alaska. Little did I know at the time, this trip would fill me with spiritual inspirations and many lessons.

On this retreat, there was a tradition wherein the women hiked what seemed to be a mountain to me. I believe the name was Angel Rock. “Only three-and-a-half miles,” they reassured me, attaching “at a very steep angle” to the end.

Because I ran a body scan to determine where I was physically, I thought that I could definitely pull the hike off. I knew it would hurt, but three-and-a-half miles did not seem like too much. I decided I could handle the adventure, so we pressed on.

The day was sunny but had a cloudy forecast. I brought my camera and a bottle of water. As a group of seven, we headed out. The weather was gorgeous, the air smelled fresh and crisp, and we often passed other people happily smiling on the trail.

When we came to a little wooden bridge at the base of our incline, we waited for the rest of the group to catch up. We could see they were slowing down and somewhat struggling to match our pace. With a little more conversation, we uncovered that one of the ladies  hiking with us had overcome brain cancer eleven years before. The doctors had done everything they could to remove the tumor. We learned that her balance was severely impaired, but she was hell-bent on making it to the very top of the mountain. We were amazed by her confidence and determination. She had a peaceful demeanor, and we all wanted to help her achieve her goal. I myself had never been on this trail before, so I was unaware of what lay ahead.

For this story’s purpose, I will refer to this beautiful lady as Mrs. R. After the first stretch of our hike, she spent a moment resting on the bench, and from there on out, she was always careful. Mrs. R carried two small bottles of water (one in each hand) during most of the hike in order to help keep herself balanced. If she took a sip from one bottle, she would then quickly uncap the second and drink from it in order to keep both equal in weight

After we all decided that we were rested enough, we set out again. Unsure of what Mrs. R would need from us in terms of assistance, we worked with trial and error. One of our ladies stood behind her with a hand on her back in case she became unstable and started to fall backwards. I think this was an exploration of her capabilities for all of us. I could see that she was really studying what she could and could not do as much as we were. The trail was becoming more treacherous as we continued.

Mrs. R became unstable and started to fall sideways a couple times. I stepped up and held out my arm, she hooked her arm over mine, and together we made a wider and more stable base. This was one of my big spiritual lessons. As we walked, she would propel herself forward with great strength. When she did this, she was incredibly precise with her steps. She had enough energy to propel herself five or six steps forward at a time, but she would then need to stand straight and try to catch herself. This was always when she would start to lose her balance.

I began to consider balance and what it means to me. I had recently heard a friend say that she did not believe in balance, and I had been entertaining this theory for a while. As I watched the inspiration of a lady ascend the mountain, I realized that, just like when using a motorcycle or bike, the trick to balance is in the forward momentum. I started to relate this to my life experience. When I am spiritually stagnant and trying to exert control of over my journey by using sheer willpower to stay balanced, I struggle. On the other hand, when I have a purpose or a destination, I tend to remain harmonious with life. This really put balance into perspective for me. The trick is to keep moving forward and remember to value the journey.

During the hike, I walked slightly hunched over, which caused a lot of discomfort in my back. The trail became scarier as we climbed. The ladies and I took turns standing on either side of Mrs, R. Some places on the trail were only wide enough for one person, making the climb more challenging.

This was also not easy for Mrs. R. I don’t think anyone particularly wants to need that much help to complete a goal. I know how scary it is to feel like I am losing my independence. Depending on a group of people can be very humbling humbling.

As we climbed higher, many of us began to get tired. There were clouds in the distance with showering rain, roaring thunder, and flashing lightning. I found myself becoming very worried, and all kinds of fear creeped in. I could see that the pain in my body was intensifying and that I was not going to be able to help Mrs. R for much longer. We had not even completed half of the trip; we still had the entire incline. I was concerned that if we let go of Mrs. R, she would fall—not just to the ground, but off the mountain. Besides the fear of her getting hurt, I could see that we were all in danger of injury ourselves. I was afraid that the rain would come and make the trail treacherous and slippery. None of us were geared properly for a thunderstorm. I voiced my fears a couple times in hopes that she would change her mind.

I had been letting my fears discourage me from life for way too long. Here I was trying to do the same to her. She was not having any of it. So, we climbed. At each beautiful outlook, we would rest and catch our breath. We could see how far we had climbed, and it was amazing.

We reached the peak three hours after we started our climb. Mrs. R asked, “Are you sure this is the top?” We all laughed as she stood by the sign in her victory pose, her feet were hip width apart and arms in a big V in the air.  we all snapped photos in order to capture this spectacular moment. We had not brought much food because no one had planned on being up there that long. It was just a short hike anyway. What little food people did have, they shared.

Speaking for myself, I was tired and in immense pain. My back was in excruciating pain, and my hips ached and felt stiff. I could tell that Mrs. R was also becoming stiff and pained with each step. After much debate over what trail we would walk down, we started our descent. There were places where the trail was so vertical that it felt like a cliff. There were also loose rocks that we all slipped on many times. It was becoming more dangerous, and we were all tired, worn out, and pained.

Halfway down, the rain hit us. Now, it was not just any rain; it was Alaskan rain. The weather changed from hot Alaskan sun to frigid Alaskan rain. We were tense and shivering. We sent two ladies ahead to start the trucks and turn on the heat. The trail was covered in roots that became deathly slippery in the rain. Attitudes began to plummet. It was getting harder to feel positive and excited. We took turns standing on either side of Mrs. R. A couple of us took fell on the hard, cold trail. After I knew that I could no longer hold anyone up because I could barely do so for myself, one girl and I took off for the trail head. We left behind Mrs. R and the two ladies at her sides. When we got to the trail head, we sent for more women who were at our camp and had not come on the hike. I sat in my friend’s car, shivering and eating chips. A group of ladies rushed down from the camp, blankets and positive energy in hand. We sent them down the trail for the rest of our tribe.

If I had known the details of how this trip was going to unfold, I’m not sure I would have showed up. I’m glad the future is unknown, because I know I would opt out of events and miss those that are deeply profound and wonderful by accident. As I waited for us all to reunite, I realized some more powerful observations. When we work together, we can get through any storm of life, regardless of our physical condition. Not everything needs to feel good to be beneficial to life—my life, someone else’s life, or that of the world. I remembered not to let fear make my decisions. I was reminded that not everything was about me. I felt inspired by Mrs. R’s dedication, strength, inner peace, and enthusiasm.

Cold, tired, hungry, pained, and slightly irritable, we all returned to the camp. Even though I could barely move my body and would physically pay for the trip for a couple days, a real sense of satisfaction came over me. We had done it! We had all done it. Mrs. R could then cross Angel Rock off her bucket list. What an accomplishment. I can only hope that one day I will be as strong as Mrs. R.

I Show Up

IMG_2901

At times, I have thought my stress was being caused either by my medical diagnosis or my physical pain. However, I have come to realize that any stress I feel is caused solely by how I am choosing to think about a certain situation. Therefore, the stress is not caused by circumstances or by the fact that I am in pain, but it comes from how I think about my pain. What do I make my pain mean? This has been a powerful epiphany in my awareness. I have been able to closely monitor my mind and carefully separate facts from opinions concerning my medical issues. The relief has been, without a doubt, invaluable. I have definitely found this easier to do while working one-on-one with someone. Having an outside perspective has been a real game changer.

From all of this, I have found a new calling. I have gained a new level of knowledge and empathy concerning people and the world we live in.  Knowing how pain or a medical diagnosis can make a person crazy has given me new purpose. I say all of this because I have decided to start working one-on-one with people, and I am very excited to do so. I have spent many years working in this type of calling, and I have spent the last couple of years becoming certified and credentialed in wellness coaching. I have also been studying psychology as a college student, and I am excited to one day complete this degree as it lines up nicely with my coaching experiences. I am enthusiastic and equally frightened to move forward to the next level.

When I first started entertaining this idea, an old memory of me trying to run for class office in high school kept popping into my mind. This memory arises when I am scared and effectively reinforces a feeling of fear. At the time, I was feeling scared to put myself “out there.”  Let me explain…

When I was in high school, I ran for class office. I was nowhere ready for a service commitment of this magnitude. I did not have the skill set it required, and I would not have this for many years to come. Nevertheless, I presented myself as an option in front of hundreds of peers at a school assembly. After leaving the stage, I knew I had completely humiliated myself. Fast forward to just a few months ago when I recalled this memory, and the feeling of embarrassment, humility, and shame washed over me.

Here is the kicker; as I examined this memory more and related it to my knowledge today, I found something interesting. I took this memory and instead of myself, I put my daughter in my place. The circumstances stayed the same, but instead of me, it was this beautiful girl I love unconditionally doing the presenting and walking embarrassed from the stage. A completely different feeling washed over me. This new feeling was one of pride. In the new scenario, I was so proud that my daughter had showed up and tried. To fail when trying something new is not a bad thing but a show of courage. See, the universe was never going to let me have something I was not ready for, and that is a good thing. I never would have known, however, if I had not tried. That day, I learned I had more to work on: more inspiration and direction and more truth and knowledge of where I wanted to go and who I wanted to be. That one event helped shape who I am today.

It is interesting how much, unconditional self-love is necessary for success and a healthy mind. All these years, I have interpreted that experience as one of shame instead of courage, gratitude, direction, and pride. Now, when I recall that very same memory, I relate a completely different set of feelings to it. I am finding my courage to move forward in my new endeavors while drawing from that experience. Today, I remember to love myself unconditionally and without regard.

I will never know if I do not try. If my new business is not meant to be, then it will not be. I know it is time to make a difference in this world. I have designed an eight-week program that will help people facing a medical diagnosis or living with pain to increase their quality of life, reduce their pain levels, and rediscover their joy and purpose. This is my calling. Scared or not, I will show up.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings about this subject. Thank you so much for all of your continued love and support.