July 6, 2012 is a day that will forever be burnt into, not only my mind, but my entire being. I was beyond scared, this was not just your normal fear, I was in fear for my life.
The fear was real but it was entirely voluntary. I had been looking through some pictures from a picnic and I saw one of me that made me really take a second to reflect. This is the one.
I had reached a point where I was almost immobile and I could hardly get up from a chair much less fit in one. It just happened that the day I was looking at this picture, my good friend had gotten back from a trip to the Adirondacks to climb a High Peak and was showing me some of the photos that he had captured. After he showed me the pictures he looked at me and asked me, “do you realize how few people ever get to see these scenes with their own eyes?” For some reason that flipped a switch inside my head and sparked a flame of passion (albeit small) in my heart. As I sat looking at his pictures I noticed not only how amazing the views where but I noticed that my friend’s entire demeanor had changed. He was glowing with excitement, and I wanted that excitement too! ……but there was a small, well not so small, problem………. me. I was 400 lbs and couldn’t walk across a parking lot much less trek up a 5000 ft mountain. My joints (knees, hips, ankles )where completely destroyed, so much so that my doctors would not even do replacements because “it would be a waste of titanium.” Even if I could move my body I couldn’t even catch my breath after walking to the fridge. So, you could say I had a bit of a dilemma.
I have no idea why but I chose Big Slide Mountain to bag my first High Peak. Maybe it’s because I just liked the shape of the mountain because it looked different from the rest. Anyway, I had lost almost 100 pounds (still very overweight) but I summited the peak with my friend after the 2nd attempt and it was nothing short of amazing although I really thought I was not ever coming home, really. We covered over 9 miles and climbed to 4240 ft, it took us 11 hours and it was 90 degrees. It is one of the most memorable yet painful days of my life.
This is not a post about me climbing mountains but I had to give a little background to better understand that what happened on July 6, 2012 had nothing to do with climbing a mountain and everything to do with climbing a ladder. I guess I had never thought about the ladder thing until a friend asked me how I went from that chair to a summit in less than a year. So here’s the ladder story, like many of my “healthy thinking” posts, this is bigger than health and nutrition, it can be applied to almost any aspect of life.
I had go somewhere that was impossible to get. I guess it’s a bit like cleaning gutters. The job itself is fairly simple but you can’t do the job if you can’t get up to the gutter, so you get a ladder. I didn’t know it at the time but that’s exactly what I had done. There was absolutely no way I could have climbed a mountain much less a hill at the park BUT, I could climb a stair even though it was not comfortable. I could climb about 5 of them actually, I know because I had to in order to get into my house. Well, there were 10 but I took a break at #5 so I could get up the rest of them. So this ladder that was resting on the top of Big Slide had a bunch of rungs on it, the rungs where stairs and I knew that every rung was one step closer to the summit. I started looking at stairs differently. I used to see them as a nuisance and try to avoid them at all cost. Now I made myself a deal, every time I would climb a set of stairs I would go back down and climb them again. Yes, people thought I was on drugs and maybe losing my mind but I really didn’t care. Those stairs were just rungs, rungs that would take me to the top. The top was too far to reach, impossible to even see, but the rung, I could get to the next one because it was just a simple extra stair. Rung after rung, stair after stair, I climbed. In less than a month I was able to climb stairs like a “normal” person. The next month I was climbing 585 extra ones a night (yes, I counted them and wrote it down). As my legs became stronger I started doing some local hiking with my friend. I fell in love with the outdoors all over again. Every weekend we hiked. Half mile hikes turned into 3 milers, then 5, then 10….. Every time I added miles or elevation it was just another rung.
I started using this perspective with everything. Things that were absolutely impossible could only be accomplished by my ladder. Running .25 miles to my first half marathon needed a ladder with a ton of rungs on it. My diet, family, spiritual life, career, and anything else you can thing of all needed ladders. Now here’s the thing, when my friend asked me how I climbed the mountain this is what I said, “I don’t know man, it’s like I’m on this ladder and every time I climb a rung another rung gets added to the top.” WHAT? I don’t even know where I pulled that from but I had never thought of it that way. That’s it, if I climb a rung and then add one to the top where is the ladder going to end up? I don’t know where the top is but I really hope I never find it. The cool thing about looking at it with this perspective is that it focuses on both long and short-term goals (future post). So, are short-term goals more important than long-term or is it the other way around? In my opinion, you must have both. If your ladder isn’t propped up on something that you need multiple rungs to get to the top, well, you don’t really need a ladder do you? Maybe it’s time to focus on a higher destination. By the same token if your ladder is propped up on an unreachable destination and your missing rungs you will never get to your destination. If you decide you just don’t need a ladder at all maybe you are in a rut and it’s time to start looking up. Maybe, it’s time to take a step out of the comfort zone and sign up for a 5k. Maybe you need to jot something down on a calendar that is out of reach at the moment but maybe is possible 3 months from now.
So in the end, prop that ladder up on a huge goal, know that the reward is up there but focus on the rung that’s in front of you, then use the rungs to get the work done, and the moment you feel like your are almost at the top add a couple more feet to it. If you put the work in and you are consistently persistent ya never know where the ladder will take you.
I don’t exactly remember where I heard this line before so I don’t know who to give credit to but it went something like this: I’ve seen many people climb the ladder of success, they struggle with everything they have to get to the top and when they reach the top they realize that the ladder was on the wrong wall. That has stuck with me for over 20 years and it is a fantastic reminder to make sure my ladder is on the right wall. Before I set my foot on the first rung I need to make sure my priorities are in the right place and that my reason for climbing is one that is true and pure.
Go do something amazing, test your limits, and hopefully you never find them.
“Eat plants and move your body, all ya gotta do is a little more than yesterday.” 😉
– Fearfully and wonderfully made
Until next time,