But typically, we won't agree to set any goal in front of ourselves that we don't already know as being completely possible and attainable. We like to play it safe. We don't ever want to set ourselves up for failure especially in front of our peers.
BUT!!! Have you ever done anything that was impossible? Again, I ain't talkin' just hard here. The marathon in Alaska seemed impossible but I knew that if I kept up with training, I'd make it. So in my mind it wasn't impossible just reeeeeally hard.
I mean 8,000,000,000% IMPOSSIBLE?
Well, back a couple of summers ago I did something my mind told me was absolutely, unfathomably impossible... I did something so cliche half of you will roll your eyes because it won't be a big deal to you, some of you will cue Miley Cyrus... Regardless, I did something that changed my life because this day made me believe that ANYTHING was possible.
I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN.
There she is. Well, part of her anyway. (And yes, that shirtless man at the top is me).
Here's the story. I hope you read it despite the mountain cliche because it really, truly changed my life. I knew it at the time... But I didn't know how much it would mean to me now.
I've mentioned Candace Silvers a few times on this blog. I had just begun to 'study' with her and I'd yet to decide how I felt about her. She was pretty new age-y and to my born again Christian background (despite the fact I've been a bit outside the box in my faith for a while), it was way outside my comfort zone. Not to mention she was pretty obnoxious for two reasons: 1) She was human. And if you're going to study with someone that supposedly knows 'everything' you want to believe that the person who's teaching you is on a pedestal like the saints, Ghandi, Mother Theresa. Candace, on the other hand, was/is human. She's a lot of things- perfect isn't one of them. (By the way the saints, Ghandi, Mother Theresa were human, too. Just FYI...) ;) 2) She was always right. And for this Un-Ghandi- esque supposed human guru telling you you're life is crap and you're a ginormous sad sack, that can get ANNOYING.
Why do you stay in a class where someone tells you such horrific LIES about who you are? They don't KNOW you! They don't know you're STORY! (Hmph!) Because of another two reasons: 1) Desperation. You've hit rock bottom. SOMETHING'S got to give. 2) Crap. It's the truth. She's right about so much... what if FOR ONCE you stopped fighting yourself, said 'yes' and gave in to somebody's else's outside view about who you are and how the world sees you. FOR ONCE, allowing someone to tell you the excuses you make for yourself are bullsh*t. Someone saying, 'Guess what? your'e a giant sad sack. Guess what? You can CHANGE it." Maybe this would be the first truth I'd heard in a long time...
So I stayed and I stayed long enough to sign up for a retreat out in Joshua Tree. I had no idea what to expect. Would I love it? Would I hate it? Would I feel fat? Would I be made to do uncomfortable things? Would I be made to do uncomfortable things that made me look fat? Would I actually get to the bottom of Candace's ridiculously beautiful eyes? Were they so beautiful because she's made of cat parts? Or is it because she's an angel? An alien?... Sooo many questions, so limited knowledge of cat people. My money about how the weekend was going to go was on a LOT of Kool-Aid and plenty of empty dixie cups.
But for the first day it was all right. We had lunch, we meditated, Candace taught for a few hours. Minus the fear of the unknown and what other new age items were on the menu, it was kind of nice! THEN... Saturday happened. We were going to drive out to the middle of the desert in 800 degree heat and if you wanted, you could go rock climbing.
Here's my history with rockclimbing: I'd only rockclimbed once prior. It was a DISASSSSSSSSTER. It was during my freshman year of college and to earn our gym credits, every freshman had to take this class called 'Discovery' that involved a lot of trust falls and ropes courses and more ropes courses with trust falls. One weekend we went rockclimbing. I was super excited. Despite my large can, I thought I'd be a natural. Coordination-wise things come pretty easy to me. HA! Rockclimbing BLOWS. It was HORRIBLE. Maybe it's my small hands or extra large rump but I never got up-- EVER. Everytime I tried to climb I would fall and dangle at the bottom of the rope like a lump of receding worm-flesh on a hook. It was one of those 5th grade dodgeball moments most kids have. I felt like the fat kid. I felt like the most pathetic loser. Long story short, I HATED ROCKCLIMBING and I knew it.
But I went with everyone. Only because I wanted to be a team player, go with the flow, see everyone else's successes. I felt I battled that demon years ago. I gave it my best, no need to revisit an impossible situation. But hey, it'd be cool to see everyone else.
Well, once people started going, Candace would get more & more excited. Seeing how much people were learning it soon became a 'Who's next!? Who's next!?' thing. BARF. And soon EVERYONE began going. Everyone saw the 'fun' of the 'challenge' and people kept harnassing up. All of these 'everyones' kept asking me if I was going up... "Nope. No, I did it in college. I'm good." But even after four hours they continued to ask me. Water was becoming scarce and the sun was beginning to blister. Surely we'd run out of time and I wouldn't have to go. Everyone, everyone, everyone asked but now everyone, everyone, everyone had already gone...
Then, of course, I hear Candace say, "Who hasn't gone yet!?" I know if I lock eyes with her it's over. She will MAKE me go up because I'm making excuses and MY excuses are fear based. (She knows this-- I didn't know this yet, hence the reason I found her very annoying). This is how I know it will go:
Me: "I haven't gone but I did this back in college. I don't need to do it again."
Candace: "You don't need to do this again?"
Candace: "Then you're definitely going."
And then I'd go and hate it and be miserable.
I know I don't want to go up because I'm afraid to go up. This class is full of gorgeous size zero women & buff guys. They're all beautiful and smile and laugh all of the time. I didn't know this world of which they were created but my guess is that their moms never raised them on The Schwan Man. It was like going back to high school and watching the cool kids frolic about in their coolness and popularity, laughing at each other's jokes and hugging all the time with me, of course, on the outside looking in.
Not to mention, this is IMPOSSIBLE. My past history is telling me exactly what to expect.
I am the only hobbit-esque person at this retreat and I KNOW best case scenario, this 5'2 193 lb lard @$$ will dangle at the bottom of the rope for two hours. There will be blood, sweat and tears. The Johnstown Field Hockey Champion (haha) will do the best she can until her hands bleed but at the end of the day, despite having super strong legs and a lot of will power, I won't be going anywhere. Awesome. Sign me up for that.
So I just say, "I haven't gone yet" and move to the harnessing station. I'm too scared of Candace and know I'm too full of bullsh*t not to go. I'm thinking how despised I'm going to be dangling at the bottom of this rope for two hours. Everyone's lunch and cold water are waiting on me.
And it's HOT. It's so freaking hot I feel like my face is melting off my body. And have I told you this is IMPOSSIBLE to me? Absolutely, one million percent impossible. Not hard, not 'maybe I will make it this time', just all out IMPOSSIBLE. It's a big freaking mountain. Triple the size of what we did (in my case didn't) do in college.
I begin to climb. There's a little ledge at the start you can stick your foot in. So okay, I'm standing-- yippee. And here comes the embarrassment. I hope someone takes pictures of my fat @$$ so I can remember this moment FOR ALL OF ETERNITY...
I can't describe the absolute pressure I felt. Everyone was watching and I truly believe everyone else thought it was impossible. Hellooo, 193 pounds- look at that wall!!! They know I'm the fat girl! Every second was agony. My hands hurt, my ankle was twisted and I was sure it was going to break. Fears of being insurance-less in the middle of the desert flooded my mind. I could feel everyone pointing at me with their eyes, judging me and making fun of my pathetic attempts on this rock. It was horrifying.
I looked down and I was about 1/6 of the way up. Holy shit. (Exact thoughts). It was ridiculously strenuous and my breathing was hard and deep. I had just been putting one foot in front of the other, trying to do all of those things they tell you- 'stay parallel to the rock' or 'be sure to use the tips of your fingers,' all kinds of crap that makes no sense and doesn't work on a largely pear-shaped girl-- it was physically exhausting. I wanted to cry. But despite this, for three seconds I had surprised myself. I can't believe I got this far. Granted, I accomplished 1/6 of the climb in the same time it too most people to finish the whole, rock but it was something. A grain of sand's worth of redemption...
Me: "Okay, I'm done! I want to come down now!" Okay, good job, Mand. You accomplished way more than you ever thought you could. You rule. Thank God THAT'S over. Let's get to lunch!
Candace: "YOU'RE NOT COMING DOWN TIL YOU REACH THE TOP!"
Candace: YOU THINK YOU'RE SCARED!? I WAS SCARED TOO!!"
Um... you're a size negative zero and you're probably an alien. That's sooo not an argument. And OH MY GOD, I HATE YOU!!!!
Then a second later, I felt the most horrifying wave of nausea. Having stopped for a moment, the sun and dehydration mixed with physical exertion that would rival that of sprinting was taking a huge toll on my body.
Me: "I'm not scared. I'm just nauseous."
That was actually true.
Candace: "I DON'T CARE! GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND DROP INTO YOUR HEART!"
Me: "No really. I think I'm gonna vomit..."
Candace: "THEN VOMIT!"
She's precious, isn't she? ;)
Candace: "I DON'T CARE IF WE'RE HERE ALL DAY!! YOU'RE NOT COMING DOWN UNTIL YOU REACH THE TOP!"
Something else you should know about me: I hate throwing up as much as I hate rock climbing-- and at that moment, as much as I hated Candace! Throwing up actually scares me. I will lay in bed sick all day rather than take three seconds to throw up. When I feel sick, I want to cry. I want my mom.
She then sent one of the instructors up with a bottle of Gatorade. He didn't use a rope because he's one of 'those' guys. He was like a gorgeous, ab-ripped, sun-kissed god that could scale a wall like spiderman. I was like a very large, red-faced, sweaty, nauseous, butterball damsel in distress. Very romantic. I think there was a connection...
Candace: "YOU CAN DO THIS. NOW CLIMB!"
Surprisingly and slightly begrudgingly, the Gatorade worked. I kind of wanted to vomit & die of dehydration on the rock just to spite her but I did my best to 'get out of my head' and continue to push upward and onward.
I actually don't remember the rest of the climb. I didn't look down, I just kept going... climb, climb, climb... it took FOREVER. I had to stop occasionally when those delightful feelings of nauseous came creeping back. But eventually... again, I couldn't even tell you how...
I reached the top.
I have NO IDEA how. I turned around and looked down at the small people below me. I remember being so eternally grateful I was done. I remember still half hating Candace for being such a monster. I also half fell in love with myself for the first time. But I was so spent and tired that it didn't sink in what I had accomplished. I repelled down like a pro because hello-- big booty & gravity= success.
Once I hit the bottom, I took off my harness and I still remember everyone's faces. Were they relieved for lunch? HELLS YES. I must have been up there an hour or two or years in the mid-day sun in the middle of summer... But even more importantly, I remember everyone's wide eyes and smiles, hugs from the 'skinny girls' that never talked to me before. I heard, 'Wow, Mandi' and 'Thank you, Mandi. That was amazing." My friend Marie ran up to me, "Oh my gosh, Mandi!! That was incredible!!! That was... wow."
I get teary just thinking about it. There are so many reasons for that joy, so many lessons I learned through this experience. It has something to do with finally being accepted in the group which really had everything to do with me accepting myself. I never made an effort to reach out to anyone because I was so full of judgment and had already decided how they felt about me, how perfect their lives were, how different we were.
It's also that I accomplished something that was so utterly impossible to me, so completely out of my reach. Take what you think you're thinking I thought as impossible (feel free to re-read that a few times) and multiply it by 100. It was THAT impossible to me. And I did it.
And let me say this about Candace as well... I finally had the acceptance of my teacher for what I thought was for the first time. I began to lose all of the judgment and anger I had toward her. I realized she had to get me to a certain place to get me to move forward. She had to push me outside of my excuses in a stubborn way because my excuses are stubborn. She's as human as I am, as are the saints, Mother Theresa and Ghandi. She's as beautiful as I am, as are the saints, Mother Theresa and Ghandi. At the heart of it, she's still right! Early on in my studies with her she asked me if I thought that she & I were anything alike and I laughed with a 'hells no!' face. I felt like the loser outcast in a class of gorgeous people. She was thin & beautiful and a big fat know-it-all. She only talked to the most beautiful people in class and sometimes got people to their breaking points in ways I didn't understand or felt were obnoxious.
But long story short, she changed my life. I eventually learned we are exactly the same person. Everything she is I recognize in myself. If you're fully present with someone you're not thinking about what they're thinking about you, you're just there- being. I find when I begin to judge her for her humanness is usually when God is reminding me to truly see myself. Letting go of judgement is making room for more love and I am soooo thankful to my teacher for showing me that. :)
So let me say this... if you ever study with her, just say yes. She has reasons why she approaches people in various ways. You will hate her, despise her, focus all of your attention on her faults because she's telling you the truth and you hate it. It was my lesson and my life's journey to feel like the outcast & the sad sack. It is now so obvious I was! At the time I hated her for it and looking at my life and the adventure that I'm on, I couldn't be more thankful to her for those uncomfortable situations that stretched me and changed my thinking.
And now I see my life in Chicago after a break-up and move across country, starting completely from scratch with absolutely nothing to my name, only a couple of friends, no family, no job, no money... A situation that would have been hopeless before is filled with possibility because I KNOW what impossible feels like. This life right now feels impossible. The me a few years back, would have made this impossible. But I've BEATEN... what impossible feels like... so now the future is only full of possibility!!!
Make-a sense? Such a beautiful, beautiful gift. And a message I felt like sharing at the start of these new Chicago adventures...
I dare you to come along & see where I end up. I dare you to come along & see where YOU end up. :) It's going to be pretty exciting stuff... Stay tuned. :) :) :)
It's the cliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimb, (I had to throw some Miley in there!) ;)