In earlier posts I mentioned my affinity to mountain climbing. Now, I must reiterate, I am an armchair mountain climber, preferring to read about it rather than actually attempt to climb any rock and stone mountains. I believe though that mountain climbing is a great analogy to one's life.
At least to mine.
I had the pleasure recently, of actually meeting someone who has mountain climbed and who besides other mountains has summited Everest. I was excited to meet them if only to realize that they are flesh and blood like me, not that I imagined them to be anything other, and to talk about the why's behind that kind of sport......extreme sport. Interestingly, the one comment that resonated with me the most was that "it isn't the summitting that defines who you are as much as the ability to turn away from it when the time comes".....something that I believed all along but found very few actually could do. The strength of a person is more about knowing ones limitations than pushing them to the point of possible no return. The reason we do things in our lives, or struggle through, is not so that we can die a hero, but mainly to survive the experience and perhaps know ourselves better.
We all have our own Everests.....some are not of our own making...which I believe are the hardest climbs of all. When I was il,l I found that I was drawn to this sport almost to an obsessive degree. I read everything I could get my hands on to learn more about it. I was interested in the climbing, but I was also fascinated by the people who would choose to do this even though they didn't have to. I think I was angry that someone would put themselves in danger, life threatening danger, when there was no need. Having to fight literally tooth and nail to stay alive, I couldn't understand why someone would push themselves to the edge of a self made abyss. The more I read the more I realized that it is through these experiences that we grow as human beings, physically, mentally but more importantly spiritually. We come to realize that there are forces that exist outside of ourselves that we must believe we can master in order to fulfill the potential of our spirit.
The most important lesson that one must learn when climbing is that if it is only about the final goal there is a very good chance that you will not survive the entire journey. Either you will push yourself beyond physical/mental limits before you reach it, or you will not have the energy for the descent and die on the way down. That is the case both in mountain climbing and in life. The purpose of any experience is to know that the most important part of it is the journey.....potential only exists in a living person....once dead there is no longer any potential so arriving at a goal only to die seems to me to be pointless. If we focus only on the end, we miss all the points in between that may have just as much importance as the final summit.
I climbed my Everest twice, and both times I summitted and sat there for awhile. What I have realized over the years though has been that the descent has been really the most difficult of times to adjust to. Coming down and having to find a new way of being in the world, giving up the old "normal" has often been the hardest part of this journey. You see people only remember that you achieved your goal, then they move on. For you it means that you have to figure out how to live now with all these new experiences. Life is never quiet the same, and yet in many ways those around you haven't changed at all.....only your life has changed....only your way of being is new.
So, I will continue to find mountains to climb, some by choice and some because I have to, but always I will try and focus on the journey, both the ascent and the descent, in order that I will fulfull whatever my potential in this life is possible.........What are your Everests today???