June has arrived and the June Gloom of San Diego lifted on the day of the full moon. After what seemed like weeks of dreary grey, I was ready to be outside….and so was my family. It was time for a full moon hike and the decision was made to go to Mount Woodson’s Potato Chip Rock.
I’d done the hike before; it’s a quick ascent of 2,000 feet in 3.3 miles. I was ready to embrace the challenge once again.
After doing the Manitou Incline in January, my exercise had diminished. I hadn’t been feeling “on my game,” especially since my mother’s burial in early May. She died in December, and with the cemetery closed for winter, the bereavement process was artificially interrupted. I didn’t realize until after the services what effect that had on my psyche. The other factor was physical exhaustion–stemming from spearheading a book launch in late February, followed by a move in early March–all while teaching and maintaining my client load. Sleep was hard to come by at times as well. Not the best mix for maintaining my strength and vitality.
The lingering grief, however, was the biggest hurdle for me. The loss of my mother rekindled grief over my father’s passing–and contemplation about my own mortality. I engaged in a living, breathing life review, looking at what was in alignment with how I wanted to live my life and what I needed to change…and I could only do that by hitting the pause button–not by maintaining my current schedule. For much of the time, I just wanted to sit as I processed not only missing both of my parents, but a long list of regrets that I hadn’t come to peace with–mostly opportunities I hadn’t fully embraced based on my own lack of trust in self. I also had to forgive myself not only for these missed opportunities, but also some bad decisions I had made about a couple of men in my life and some investments with my money that hadn’t performed as I expected.
Knowing I needed space to do all of this, I scaled back on my obligations, first by withdrawing from summer teaching. I deeply desired to be focusing more on my own writing as well as create time and space to build additional support for my clients––not only for our sessions but for creating instructional guides as well. After much inner debate, I cancelled some travel, and immediately felt relief–a sign that I had made the right decision. I needed to rest, reset, step back and assess all of my obligations and my goals.
I exchanged hot and power yoga for deep stretch, took walks around the neighborhood with granddaughter Abi, and hadn’t been near the rock gym in months. I wanted slow and steady…and safe…The last time I did anything that took me to my edge physically was when I did the Manitou Incline in January.
While I needed a respite from activity, this was far too long for me–and my body which responds well to exercise, was responding equally to not being moved…and I wasn’t happy with the affect.
After about a month, I was ready to kick into gear again. I’d had enough of my physical inertia, which was also getting in the way of me setting new goals and making changes in my business. I jumped back into power and hot yoga, began running again, and signed up for indoor cycling classes. On that Friday of the full moon, I had done one-hour power yoga at 7:15 a.m., forty-five minutes of indoor cycling at 9:45 a.m., and at 7:30 p.m. or so, the family began our ascent on the trail–a trek that took about three hours.
Abi was strapped to Pete’s back, Tiffany, now six months pregnant had her walking sticks and faithful Goldie in tow. Shana led the pack with the two younger dogs, Franki and Lutte each vying for alpha position. Jon and I swapped positions walking with Jude, Max, and their friend River. I, however, must admit, most of the time, I was falling behind, trying not to mentally beat myself up for getting out of shape–again. I was ten pounds heavier than I wanted to be at my high end, fifteen if I wanted to be blatantly honest with myself. My stamina sucked and anything resembling cardio had me gasping for air. Quite frankly, I was done with not being as fit and vital as I knew I could be.
And, I made it….
There were dozens of people hanging around the summit at Potato Chip Rock, many were families, like our own with children of all ages bounding about. Some found a tarantula. Some sported glow sticks on their wrists. One of the draws of Mount Woodson is Potato Chip–a rock formation that juts out over the side of the mountain.
By the time I arrived, my family members were scrambling up a huge boulder for their photo ops. And then they asked if I wanted to join in and have my photo taken on the outcropping. I hesitated. Eight-year old Jude had already gone out on the rock with his Uncle Pete–which is what pushed me over the edge.
Jude had once been extremely afraid of heights and now climbed indoors and outdoors whenever the opportunity presented. I opted into the challenge.
Which began with, getting up the boulder.
At five foot, four inches, and a longer torso than legs, just beginning my climb presented my first obstacle. After I planted my feet about a foot off the ground, fear kicked in. I froze. I begged for my son, Pete, to help me down again.
Out of the shadows came a man sporting a headlamp who then coached me on how to get started as my son waited above to grab me when I came within reach. Apparently, I wasn’t getting out of this.
Partially under my own power, and likely a boost from the guy from the shadow and a yank on my arm by my son, I landed on top of the boulder. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and my knees were definitely knocking. It wasn’t getting any easier. I wasn’t all in.
Then came obstacle number two where my daughter, Shana, awaited. Before me lay a three-foot wide crevice spanning a drop of about eight feet. Shana described the actions I needed to take… “Pretend you’re sitting on the back of a pickup truck and launch yourself off the tail gate.” Right, the only difference is a three-foot drop versus eight.
With Shana perched on my left side, propped up inside the crevice, and Pete to my right, spanning the abyss with his long legs, I sat on the edge, took a deep breath, and launched. I’m fairly certain my children supported my flight; however, I honestly can’t remember anything other than thinking Now I have to get back!
It was time to stand on the Potato Chip. My head spun, my heart was now doing triple time, and as I looked back in the direction of which I came, I saw my grandson, Jude, waiting on the other side of the crevice. I certainly wasn’t displaying much confidence. So much for being a role model in that arena.
My son-in-law, Jon, was poised to take photos, on firm ground at the trail head. “Put your hands up, Mom,” Pete said. Easier said than done. I had a death grip on both Shana and Pete. I was definitely on my edge, and I was white knuckling it…not dancing as I encourage my clients to do in situations such as writing and relationships–and in this case, standing on a thin outcrop over a drop that would likely end my life, painfully, if I went over the edge.
Photo taken–it was time to go back. I was done with this experience and wanted to get back on solid ground quickly.
Again, another choice presented itself…I could inch down the eight-foot drop and then walk around the boulder up to the area where Tiffany, Abi, Jon, Max, River, and the dogs awaited. Or I could go back the way I came, where Jude eagerly waited with his outstretched arm.
“Mio, grab my hand!” My heart melted…I wanted to accept yet, I was afraid I was going to pull him over if I slipped. I declined as graciously as I could and asked that he move a little back so I could hurl myself across the abyss.
Once again Pete and Shana boosted me across the three-foot wide crevice. My hip slammed against the rock as I dug my fingers into the hard surface. I stood up next to Jude and had just one more challenge…getting off the boulder. Jude led the way and showed me the easiest route to safe ground.
By the time I put my feet back on the solid ground of the trail, the place was deserted except for my family. On the way home, Tiffany said some people were so distressed by my distress that they opted to leave, likely convinced they’d be reading about me in the morning headlines.
Needless to say, they didn’t.
With the Strawberry Moon lighting the way, Max and I ventured back down the hill in the middle of our family pack. I was focused on our conversation and put my experience behind me, until waking the following morning.
My dance with the edge on Potato Chip Rock was messy, to say the least. I had let my fear ride roughshod over me––and that’s not the place I desire to be. My mother’s life was often ruled by fear…fear of interstates bringing bad people into her small town, fear of people taking things from her, and eventually fear of leaving her house. She pushed beyond some of those fears; yet many stuck to her and she seemed unwilling to shake them off.
After too many years of fear ruling my own life, I became willing to dance with fear on the edges of that which was too comfortable and safe. This was likely a source of some of the contention between my mother and me. I hopped on planes and flew to Bali. I divorced husbands when my needs weren’t being met. I thought nothing of moving, settling into new areas and meeting new friends. Mom lived within a five-mile radius of where she was raised for her entire life. While that may not be a bad thing, it just wasn’t mine.
And because I always look at metaphor, it wasn’t long before I realized that what had occurred the night on Potato Chip Rock was showing up in other areas of my life as well.
My children and grandchildren believed in me and my capabilities more than I did on that rock––so did the stranger from the shadows.
As I assessed other areas of my life, I saw evidence of that playing out. And just as I know I embarrassed my children with my display of fear in climbing on that edge….it’s embarrassing to admit that I’m writing my book, Women, Money, and the Inner Male Connection slower than I like because fear of stepping out with a theory about why so many women have issues with men and money is going to raise a few eyebrows and put me in a place of even greater transparency––yep another edge. I’m also not doing the videos that my assistant has been begging me to do for months, and I have a team of mentors who have been encouraging me to step up my game in a couple of different ways.
I’ve been letting a lot of fear get in my way…fear of saying things in blogs and books that might rattle some folks; fear of really creating that geographically mobile business because that means I might not spend every week in San Diego near my family; fear of dating again because disappointment and betrayal sucks the wind out of my sails; and perhaps the biggest fear of all…the fear of disappointing my kids and grandkids once again.
And now I’m changing my tune, and telling fear to stay in it’s place. Watch out for real danger, like crazy drivers, black widow spiders, and toys in the living room.
The first step to any changes I’ve ever made in my life has always been precipitated by committing to rebuilding my health and vitality. Without my energy and stamina, the long list of to dos just don’t get done…and thanks to my friend and mentor, Pete Winiarski, I’m revisiting that list to determine “what’s mine to do.”
My mornings are mine…to meditate, write, and exercise…and then I see my clients and work on client projects.
I’m writing…not always on my book…but I’m writing…and that’s always been mine to do…and always will be mine to do. It’s what makes me happy and content.
As long as I’m writing, moving my body, and loving my family and friends…life is good and as Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, fear can sit in the back seat.