Since moving to Los Angeles, I’ve found little as post-hectic-week-medicinal as hiking in the mountains. The mighty peaks surrounding the 12 million-plus people can make the endless traffic, big-city sounds and life’s stress seem insignificant. While I enjoy gazing at them from afar, there’s nothing like venturing up into them. And that’s exactly what I was hoping for a couple of weeks ago—a hefty dose of respite, peace and escape.
Unlike my husband, I’m no climber. So when he suggested we venture up Mount Baldy, the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, I made sure to ask the necessary question: “Can I handle it?”
“Sure,” he said. “It’s more like a long walk than a climb. But it’ll probably be cold and snowy.” I could handle cold, I reminded him; I spent the first 18 years of my life in Minne-snow-da. So we loaded two packs up with winter gear and headed out. Cool, I thought. A pack! I’m going to look like a real climber! Little did I know what that “look” entailed.
Within minutes of donning the pack, I questioned the identity of the 12-year-old child clinging to me piggyback-style, resisting my every move. My heart thudded wildly and my upper-body begged to go back in time and master pull-ups. I can do this, I told myself. Focus. Maybe I’d adjust in time. But every step felt more brutal. Rather than escape stressors, I had new ones. I fought the urge to chuck my pack down the mountain as my inner-pep talk grew silent.
“How are you doing?” Hubby asked as we neared a small clearing.
“Okay,” I said, as in still breathing. In gasps. “This pack is heavier than I thought it would be. Makes things…” *gasp* “rather…” *gasp* “…difficult.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Mountain Man Willy told me once that he can take professional athletes out here and they’re fine. But put packs on them and they fall over.” (Did he seriously just say… ) “Your pack is only like 10 pounds, though.”
He turned to look at me, camera phone at the ready. Me? Not so camera ready.
Grrr… “One person’s 10 pounds is another’s 10,000,” I said.
“Is it really that bad?”
“Do the words ‘are we there yet’ mean anything to you?” I dropped the pack on ground in weary surrender.
We locked eyes and burst out laughing. Then he did what any chivalrous mountaineer would do:
Free of the zillion ton—okay, ten pound—cling-on, I felt as light as air. I could’ve run the rest of the way, singing! We took turns with the pack from there on out, laughing repeatedly over my debacle. To my husband’s credit, he had no idea the pack would affect me as it did, and I was honored by his faith in my abilities.
It struck me as we hiked on how easily we can feel paralyzed by the emotional loads we carry—toxic relationships, difficult-to-break habits, jobs we loathe, insecurities we’ve yet to overcome. If we never release these burdens, we’ll never learn what we’re truly capable of. How can we thrive if we’re too busy surviving? This has definitely been the case for me. The only time I felt purposeless and creatively-blocked, I was at my lowest point emotionally. Once I made the difficult decision to face and set free the burdens I carried, the whole world seemed to open up. I don’t know about you, but a wide-open world full of possibilities—intimidating risks and all—seems far better than trudging through murky waters when in our hearts, we know there’s more. We may not learn these lessons as soon as we’d like, but what matters is that we learn them.
What burdens have you carried? Are any holding you back now?