“First you don’t and then you can’t”. I was not the person to say these wise words but I am blessed to know their source as well as be ready to hear them. So where did those words take me? What do I mention first? The summit of Kala Patthar looking down over Everest Base Camp, Nepal, or perhaps Alaska, climbing the “Golden Staircase” into the Yukon of Canada. Just sayin…these words helped catapult me into a very adventuresome decade.
Being physically active with 3 children over the last 27 years has been a given. We have always made it a priority to be an outdoorsy family enjoying camping, snowboarding, bird watching and mountain biking on both sides of the US and Canadian border. But something got up my skort as I approached 50. I wondered if I was doing too much of the sure thing and not enough of what scares me. My overall life assessment went like this:
- Children are grown and all continuing higher education,
- My 30 year career as an engineering and management consultant is nicely topping off ,
- A successful loving husband that respects and mostly encourages my unwavering independent streak;
- I am missing one thing, some chaos!
Time to go back to my passion
The timing seemed right to get back to my passion; landing one foot in front of the other on long haul mountain treks. Yes, the closest thing to Nirvana for me happens when I trek several hours a day for several consecutive days. The demanding journey gives me a remarkable feeling of universal connection. I experience a sense of incredible closeness to the energy from people that make up my life. All people; those who are waiting for me back home, the people I meet walking the path, and those that have passed on from it, like my Father. It is so empowering to look back and way down the trail as I appreciate how far I have come using simply my own two feet and that captured energy that surrounds me. Perhaps it is a triumph on many levels for me.
We must rewind 20 years, after having my third child. A sudden illness robbed me of my mobility; I couldn’t walk let alone climb stairs, lift my newborn nor step into a bath tub. My parents had to rescue me and baby, caring after the two of us in my childhood home. My husband unconditionally stepped up to keep our home and two older children moving forward. My father would only allow him to bring the older children to me once a week for a couple of hours as he had personal experience with my illness. I needed to rest and fight it.
After a couple of months, I was able to recover from this severe reactive arthritis attack enough to return to our home but my contributions to it were limited for several months yet. After two years of aggressively managing this condition, I finally had clawed my way back to ‘me’ again.
Never forgetting how the loss of mobility, due to arthritis, devastated me in my 30’s I felt a quest build within me. But for now, life was rewarding and full as a mother, partner and Information Technology Consultant.
Fast forward to 2008. On my way to work one day, the radio spoke directly to me. The Canadian Arthritis Society announced a fund raising trek to summit Kilimanjaro. This seemed to be the perfect match of purpose and challenge that I was waiting for. I signed up immediately. My son, then 22, soon after decided to join me in the challenge. He also experienced a serious illness that threatened his mobility at the age of 9; perhaps he also had an unanswered quest. We raised $30k for CAS and became the best of tenting buddies. (As long as my face did not roll into his.)
Since that successful climb in 2008, I have set out to attempt one or two world-class treks per year. There was the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Milford/Routeburn Classic Trek in New Zealand and now the Landmannalaugar Highlands in Iceland. Family have joined me on some great treks but herding everyone to the trailhead has proven difficult. So off I go alone with their blessing, energy and envy. Actually, I do not think the plane ride from Katmandu to Lukla would have been that appealing to them. (Go see for yourself on Youtube).
Being scared and stretched in your life is a good thing
I continue to live knowing that being scared and stretched in your life is a good thing. Last year, in Belize I overcame a lifelong fear of getting my head under water and to everyone’s disbelief, (even my instructor’s), I got certified in Scuba Diving. This opened up a whole new world to visit so off I went to experience my Husband’s passion, diving down under the ‘Down Under’; the Great Barrier Reef
Trekking will always be my favorite however as I find it simple and lifelike. Imagine yourself taking a long haul trek. The gutsiest step is the first one of course. The summit is never guaranteed so make sure to celebrate that first step. Promise yourself to stay in the moment of the journey. Focus on the step you are taking right now and don’t get overwhelmed by what’s ahead. Just put one foot in front of other. The true triumph is in just that.
Bio : Graduated from UNB in Chemical Engineering. Married once in 1983 and received a Masters Degree at the University of Colorado in Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications while having my first two children. Started as an Oil and Gas Reservoir Engineer in Calgary, and continued a long career as an Information Technology Management Consultant across North America. My third Child is pure Canadian born in Fredericton, NB. Recently served as Program Chair and Professor at UNB teaching business and entrepreneurship to engineers. Currently working as a fitness instructor and a Certified Professional and Personal Change Coach. http://thebalancingbaker.weebly.com/index.html