It’s just shy of 7:30 here in Lakewood, Colorado, and it’s raining. Given the wind chill from the fourteen mile an hour winds, it feels like about 31 degrees outside. I’m about to head out to Red Rocks Amphitheatre to hike the stairs for an hour.
I’m not going to be “comfortable.”
That’s the whole point.
If I only trained in pleasant weather, or only prepared for my adventures during beautiful sunshine and perfect temps, that’s a guarantee that I will be wholly unprepared for sub-zero weather, blizzards, mud or whatever Mother Nature hurls at me when I do head out into her embrace.
And boy, does she.
Life Happens. So do Avalanches.
A few years back, during my Everest Base Camp climb, we had an unseasonably nasty hellion of a snowstorm in late May. Almost June. Seriously dangerous avalanche conditions. I was totally prepared for it- as were the other seasoned hikers. Others, not so much. When our sherpa porters sat down in the three-foot-deep snow and refused to continue to the summit, six of us heartily agreed. We turned back with our sherpas to the last hotel, hoping there would still be room. There was, barely. Five continued on, and several did not fare well.
By the way, that was the year that so many sherpas had died in avalanches in Nepal. To my mind, when the sherpas sit down in the snow, you pay attention. If you don’t you may die. Those of us who had trained in nasty weather did fine. Those who only ran on sunny days, not so much. No weather report for a huge mountain range is entirely dependable and that goes double for these days of climate change.
Discomfort is one of life’s ways of telling you that you’re growing. Expanding. Learning. It’s the only way we know we’re building our strength.
AWKWARD..that’s the whole point
When you and your dad (or driving instructor) were going through the process of parallel parking skills, chances are good that sweat broke out. You wanted to do it right, you screwed up. Bumped a bumper. Maybe worse.
Asking a girl out on a first date.
Sitting down for that first job interview. ANY job interview.
Being fired. Or dumped. Any kind of rejection.
Any and all situations involving conflict with a loved one. Often avoided, until the last straw. So much discomfort.
Yet in each situation, a critical boundary is being erased, a new muscle flexed. Definitions of “self” are questioned, and in many cases, redefined afterwards.
Those of us who like to push hard are constantly taking out the eraser and finding the outer edge of who we think we are, scrubbing it out and and drawing a new boundary.
It’s damned uncomfortable.
Discomfort means growth.
Comfort is the enemy of progress.
Ask any corporation that has gotten too smug. Any husband or wife who got lazy.
Dear Lord Take Away My Troubles…um, NO, Please DON’T
On Facebook I constantly see memes asking some Great Power to make one’s life easy, take away troubles, and, in effect, to let me sit around on my fat patootie, with my greasy hand in a bag of Doritos, watching Criminal Minds reruns on the Ion television channel.
That’d be comfortable, all right.
At great cost.
As humans, we were never meant to be comfortable. Our very spirits were designed to strive, to become, to evolve, to seek. That’s why we so admire the Edmund Hillarys, the Beryl Markhams, the Roger Bannisters, the Lindsay Vonns — those who break the barriers of what’s possible for the rest of us.
They weren’t comfortable doing it, either. They were frankly terrified at times, if not the entire time.
The comfort people think they want comes only of rising above fear. The only path I know to accomplish that is to face it head on. And that requires a fair degree of discomfort. We gain confidence to handle life’s vicissitudes- the tough stuff- by pushing our limits. Then, when faced with difficulty, those very things diminish.
Courage Comes at a Price
“Courage is the price life exacts for granting peace.
The Soul that knows it not,
knows no release from little things.” Courage, by Amelia Earhart.
One of my favorite movies, Secretariat, made the point about pushing yourself quite beautifully. In the last leg of the Triple Crown, Big Red was up against his nemesis, Sham. Sham’s owner Pancho Martin had decided to rest his horse prior to the race, knowing that Penny Chennery, Secretariat’s owner and her trainer, Lucien Larin, were going to continue to erase Secretariat’s boundaries. Train him even harder. Martin told his jockey on the day of the race, to force Secretariat to run full out the entire race. What happened still stands in racing history today: not only did Secretariat stick with Sham, he astounded the entire racing world. After running neck and neck with Sham at blistering speed for much of the race, Secretariat, having been pushed beyond his limits, pulled away like a magnificent engine. He opened up a 31-length distance between himself and Sham, shattering every racing record, winning the Triple Crown and forever establishing himself as the fastest Thoroughbred ever to run.
We don’t know what we can do until we try.
It’s 7:40 am. Still raining. Time to hit the steps. See you in an hour, wet, uncomfortable.
By the way, here’s the rest of the story: by the time I hit the steps, it was snowing. A lot colder. Windier. Nasty.
So I shrugged on another layer, popped in some tunes. There was one other person out there.
Old guy. About eight years older than me. Two old uncomfortable, happy, geezers pounding stairs in the wind and the snow.
Erasing a few boundaries.