Monday, September 26, 2011

Life at the Top

As I prepared to spend six days in Cape Town, South Africa, I had the fabulous idea to hike Lion’s Head Mountain. I thought it would be a fun way for me to spend an evening and see an incredible sunset. Having absolutely zero hiking experience, I was right about the sunset, but naïve regarding how much fun it would be. I won’t bore you with the details of how my calf muscles and lungs burned not far into my 900-foot trek up the mountain. I will, however, share that what was only supposed to be a fabulous photo opportunity taught me a valuable lesson on experiencing a peak lifestyle. 
The initial part of our ascent was simple because all I had to do was walk. Even still, the steep incline wore me out. What kept me going was the fear of being left behind on a mountain with the name of a ferocious cat in its title. I was relieved when the end of the dirt path signified the end of the horrendous incline. It wasn't long, though, before my relief dissolved. I looked up and saw how far the mountain’s peak loomed over me. I didn’t understand how I could possibly get up that high. There was no path. No flight of stairs. No elevator. No Black Hawk to rescue me. All I saw was rock. Rock stacked on top of more rock.
Part of me wanted to flop down, throw a fit, and refuse to go any further. I didn’t know how to reach the peak of the mountain when there was no trail. I couldn’t fathom a route because the route wasn't paved. There was a path to the top, but I couldn’t visualize it. The path required more creativity than I was willing to give. Instead of going up a clearly marked walkway or flight of stairs, I needed to tap into more. Those in front of me used the rocks—what I viewed as impassable obstacles—to further their climb. My barrier was part of the solution. By themselves they were rocks, but combined with physical exertion, the rocks were the answer. Using the rocks to stretch, pull, and physically work was the only way to get to the top.
Once I exerted energy that extended beyond my normal activity I was able to reach the top of that mountain. As exhausted as I was that night, I will never forget the feeling that came over me when I made it to the top. Even in the days that followed, as I looked at Lion’s Head Mountain—now known as my nemesis—from the valley, I felt great knowing that I stood on its peak. The beauty I experienced outlasted the sensation of breathlessness. The satisfaction I felt as I looked over the bay overshadowed the pain of the bruises on my legs. The pride I feel each time I think of the day I hiked up 900 feet will significantly outlast the time it takes for my muscles to stop aching.
Some of us are on a journey that hasn’t exactly been paved. It’s a journey that requires more energy and vision than we may think we have. Yet those who are determined to experience life on the peak of the mountain must continue climbing, mastering obstacles, and maintaining a level of vision that can only be found in those brave enough to live a life blazing their own trails.

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