Wednesday, April 23, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough...

Each year, I teach a lesson on Effort. I begin by showing students a photo of myself at the top of Mt. St. Helens. I explain that reaching the summit was the climax of a five-and-a-half hour hike that began in the woods, involved an hour and a half of bouldering, and ended in a final, heart-pumping test of endurance. I was not in the ideal physical shape, I carried about 20 extra pounds and rarely exercised. In contrast, my hiking partner, Molly, was an athlete. Even though we embarked on the final stretch together, she reached the summit about 45 minutes ahead of me; I could see her already at the top, and it made me crazy seeing her up there, so far ahead. The last 1/2 mile was brutal; a 45-degree ascent in gritty, powdery ash. It felt like I was getting nowhere.
I was struggling so hard to make the final distance, but it was extrememly difficult for me; I had to take two steps and rest, another two steps and rest (you get the picture). I was cursing the mountain, my friend, and myself (luckily, no one could hear me.) I really, truly wanted to give up. I just didn't care if I made it or not, no matter what view lay at the top.
(That's me down there, saying things I'm not proud of.)

It helped to look at the snowfields off to my left; I could clearly see the paths of of previous hikers who had descended this route on sleds or in garbage bags. In fact, every now and again, I would see an actual sledder go by! It looked like so much fun. I had my own industrial-strength Hefty bag and was determined to use it.
Somehow, after grumbling, whining, and even screaming into the wind didn't help, I sucked it up and just did it; I managed to get to the top, and the payoff was incredible. It was definitely worth the work.And sliding down the snowfields in my garbage bag for an hour and a half was the icing on the cake (not to mention my rear end!) My point is that life is like climbing a mountain; it's just plain hard sometimes. You can give up, or you can work hard and reach your goals. You'll never regret giving it your all.

Going to Seattle is truly something that fills my spirit. I absolutely love hiking there. I really hope to take my family there one day, to share the beauty of Washington State. It's incredible. (And, as I told Molly when I finally reached the top, it's the only place I know that you can get six month's worth of exercise in ONE DAY!)

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