The other day my friend and I went for a hike. It is my friend’s intention to train for a hike at the Grand Canyon in summer 2019 and she wants to make sure that she builds up enough stamina and endurance by then so she’s not, in her words, holding anyone back. Since recent hiking ventures caused her to huff and puff a little, she made up her mind that she is going to create and implement a daily exercise program that will help her reach her goal.
And I, being a full-of-ideas kind of friend, had suggestions for her; of course I did! 😁
I suggested that we do a three mile hike in the Coachella Valley that is a magnet to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages, shapes and stripes and of varied experience: joggers, hikers, walkers, mountain bikers, trail runners. Since it’s a popular trail, it can get quite crowded, but it has lovely panoramic views of the Coachella Valley and can offer some challenges. The biggest challenge is if the hiker takes the left side first, he/she is met with an elevation gain of around 1000 feet. I sometimes feel, as I look up at what I view as a sheer vertical, zig zaggy ascent, that it’s far beyond my capacity; but when I focus on putting one foot in front of the other and taking it a step at a time, and one deep breath at a time, I can do it.
The first time I ever gazed at the vertical ascent, I had a brace on my left knee due to a torn meniscus. My son and his family were with me and we all paused at level ground before going further; everyone gazed up and then they stared down at my knee, and asked me what I thought. I paused, too, and then said, “Lets do it, what the hell, I’m getting an operation in 10 days, so why not go all out and throw caution to the wind!” We made it but I was sore afterwards and had to regrettably skip out on a family hike the next day in Joshua Tree, and missed the excitement of a rendezvous with a rattle snake! I had to settle instead for a video of the sunbathing rattler. Perhaps it was just as well. 😉
But back to my friend. What struck me about the experience was that she kept expressing her gratitude for my company and support, and she apologized for holding me back. She hadn’t done a lot of exercise for awhile (she was busy with other things, such as dealing with not one, but two different kinds of breast cancer 🙀) so she needed to stop several times on the way to the top. When she sat down to rest, I also sat down on a rock next to her, and when her heart rate settled, we got up and began the climb again, taking one step after after another. “Don’t look at the top,” I cautioned, “You may get discouraged. Simply put one foot in front of the other, take some deep breaths through the nose, and out through the mouth, and before you know it, we will be at the top.” And to the top we got and my friend was so happy that she had set a goal and accomplished it. I half jokingly said, “How soon can we do this again?” She looked at me with piercing eyes and spoke in a deadpan manner: “Maybe in two weeks when I’ve recovered.”
It reminds me of a great story that my daughter told me. It was a story told to her and she told it to me and now I tell it to you. I shared it with my friend as we rested on rocks. There was a young San Francisco high school freshman, quite a bit over weight, but he joined the track team anyway. Each day he showed up to practice and he lagged far behind the others, but he didn’t give up. It took months, but with each effort, the pounds melted off, and soon he was running alongside his teammates . He kept putting one foot in front of the other, even when it felt like agony and he thought he might collapse. I love the moral of that story and it’s stayed with me. Set your goals one little step at a time; no need to tackle it all in one gulp!
I kept telling my friend I didn’t need to go fast, I didn’t care about speed or setting any records; I was there to give her company, support, and to enjoy the outdoors and fresh air. She had helped me earlier in the year when we were teammates in a golf match play tournament, and things fell apart so badly for me that I could barely swing a club on the third day of the tournament. I felt I was dragging her down but she encouraged and built me up; and it was her stellar play that won our flight for us. I was so embarrassed that my golf game had tumbled down into an abyss; yet, she stuck with me through the low points, and I marveled at her steadiness, loyalty and positivity. I tried to give her some of that back, on the trail.
How long have I known this woman, you might ask? Years? All my life? No, just a few months. But something clicked. She and I couldn’t be more different; she’s a math geek; I’m a word geek. She hates exercise, I love it. She plays Bridge, whereas I’m only familiar with the Golden Gate Bridge 😜. She’s a night owl and sleeps in; I go to bed early and wake up at the crack of dawn; she doesn’t like to read, and I could read all day if left to my own devices. She’s quite the craftswoman; sewing needles and I just don’t get along. We are Frick and Frack; Mutt and Jeff, Felix and Oscar, but we have in common our love of pretty, colorful golf outfits, highlighted hair, getting trivia questions right, watching our husbands play softball, and complete devotion to family. I know her hand would be there to pull me up to any summit and I would do the same for her.
I understand so much better now that I don’t always have to take the journey alone; I don’t have to do it all by myself and I can admit, “I need help, will you lend me your hand?” As we say in the rooms of Alanon, “When anyone, anywhere reaches out for help, let the hand of Alanon and Alateen always be there, AND LET IT BEGIN WITH ME.” Together we can make it.
Look at us, Ms. S.G. and Ms. D.B., such intrepid sexagenarians (ooh, I like that word! Every 60+ lady should use it! 😂). We made it up that 1000 foot cliff and we are smiling looking none the worse for wear, and what do you know, our tops are colorful! 😉
May you have a hand of friendship as often as you need it, and may your journey up the mountain be filled with love, support, and friendship. And since I submit this in November with Thanksgiving around the corner, I envision the loving clasping of hands all over the country. Isn’t that what life is about?
With a gobble-gobble, I submit this in love and gratitude,