Friday, September 16, 2011

the mountains we cross

This post is an excerpt from my journal from the day after we rode over the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. It's unedited and simple and raw and ready to be out there, after plenty of time to myself. Enjoy.


Why ride a bicycle up a mountain?
I just rode my bicycle up and down a Very Steep MOUNTAIN.

I pushed, cried, lost my shit, laughed, paused, doubted, stretched, hoped, and proved possibility out of an INSANE endeavor.

Now is not the time for rushing. Not the time for explaining. Not the time for "imparting wisdom".

Now is the time for Integration & Gratitude.

For letting it all sink in.

For getting close to my godliness.

Some part of me has expressed some part of my highest self. BIG TIME. In other words...

Some part of me... my body, mind, spirit & heart... carried me into my DEEP WELL OF POWER.

That well, in essence, is the breadth of life and love I've been given as a human being, part of the family of all living things, by whatever mystical power or pattern created me.

Tapping into that well is NO SMALL DEAL.

Tapping into and living out a version of "me" that is beyond "me", but belonging to something larger, calmer, stronger, more free & also more reckless... it felt like the biggest "accomplishment" of my life... the most fulfilling thing I'd ever done.

And what, exactly, did I do?

I let go.

And then... I kept going.

And then... I went all the way.

The story began like most, with Brian packing up three fourths of our belongings, while I did everything in my being to simply get myself dressed and psychologically prepared. Then a talker came over to us at our ghetto-fab campsite. A talker from Chicago. A talker from Chicago who--hahaha--wanted to know what--hahaha--was taking us so long to leave--hahaha--not like someone was holding us up or anything--hahaha. She was amusing, with her ripped button-down shirt and post-smoker baritone voice. I'll give her that. But now it's 10 am and we have a mountain to cross.

So we're pedaling with our daunting destiny in sight. I'm listening to Lakota flutes and drums and praying hard-core because God knows I don't think I can do this on my own. Then, POP! My front tire's flat.

Now it's 10:30 am and we still have a mountain to cross.

Tire's fixed and we're back in commission. Except I'm having physical anxiety over what I think is a metaphorical dilemma, but is, in fact, just the way it actually feels to cross a real-life mountain on a bicycle with 50 pounds of luggage.

The mind-trip is that we are still on the "outskirts" of the mountain, looking at what we're about to dive into, and our positioning is such that the road we're traveling LOOKS flat but is actually VERY FUCKING STEEP. Nevertheless, I am all why-the-hell-is-this-so-hard and I'm-always-so-god-damn-slow and Jesus-Christ-I-just-need-to-sob-because-nothing-makes-sense. And then I sob.

I feel better, emotionally, when we get into the thick of the mountain, because at least then the incline appears as hard as it is.

Still--tears, body aches, doubt, shame, fear, fighting, cursing, stopping, looking for ways out around every single bend, and did I mention shame?--are all present in overwhelming ways.

Every 10 minutes I take a 3 minute break.

I am pushed to my physical/spiritual/emotional edge. Completely. Who knows what's going through Brian's head. I assume he wants to kill me because I'm falling apart completely. You'd hope that on a trip like this, you'd learn to be more compassionate with yourself and be able to assume that others will extend the same tenderness. Not so much.

Eventually it's 3 pm and we've traveled something like 12 miles in 5 hours. We realize this 36 mile climb will not be completed in one day. Egos blown, we decide to rest, digest our troubles, endulge in renting one of the only cabins on the whole mountain, which is, of course, over priced and also cute.

We get to the place a few miles later and are instantly questioned by some know-it-all dude who gives us crap for not finishing the mountain in one day. Shame-dagger twisted, I proceed to curse the man for a total of three hours after our interaction, as Brian and I eat ramen noodles with pre-packaged Indian food.

Wake the next morning with a new sense of confidence that sounded like this: Even if I have to stop every five minutes, I will still reach the top. I Can Do It. Shamelessly.

Then I get on my bike and begin again. Things feel easier. More familiar. Less terrifying. Just as hard. Not as important. More holy.

We ride and laugh and cough and rest, and finally, four miles from the peak, with 25 mph head winds and cool air circling round, we take yet another water break. Only this time, I can see in Brian's face that he's losing momentum from stopping so much. So I let myself hear the call, let myself own my power, let myself go completely. I promise: No More Breaks.

I will not get off this bike again until we reach the top. Pinky swear. Hugs and kisses. Cross my heart.

Why? Because I know I can. Simple.

We mount our bike and 30 seconds later, POP! Flat tire number two.

Eager to maintain my promise, we fix the tire in record time and jump back in. The promise still holds, cutie! All the way to the top!

And I swear, it's like a movie. The sky turns dark grey, the winds gust faster, harder, less lovingly, the thinning pine trees sway violently, unfriendly cars pass quickly, and there's nothing left to hold onto. So I just  let go.

I climb, one heavy leg at a time, as if ascending a never-ending winding staircase that's leading me to the pinnacle of my life. My eyes tear uncontrollably, the thin air barely enters my lungs, I think, I'm definitely going to need a double-knee replacement and I don't even care. Brian passes me with strength and exhaustion in equal measure. I breathe in "everything". I breathe out "surrenders". I recognize my unflappable determination the same way a mother must as she's giving birth: with deep knowing that nothing will stop her from bringing this new life into the world, even if it means the end of her. So it goes. This will be done.

And it was. I finally see the sign, Brian waiting for me 100 yards from it so we can reach the top together. We cycle forward, cross the road, and collapse completely in our sweaty shivering bodies as vacationers in RVs sit inside their temperature-controlled mega-huts watching in wonder the way they watch buffalo in the pastures. I sob, only this time it feels like hope rather than hopelessness. I sob for a half hour, holding my new born miracle in the arms of my dying fear.

Brian whips up a tripple layer peanut butter and jelly sandwich that feeds both parts of me. Then I sob some more. We get onto the bikes to descend the mountain, and still, I cannot stop sobbing.

Something broke crossing that mountain. Something huge. Something in me, that for so long doubted so much of myself, no longer seemed valid.

Nothing's impossible, I think.

Will sweating, cursing, doubting, fearing, crying and wanting a way out all emerge when I attempt INSANE goals? Of course.

Will that stop me? Nope.

Definitely Not.

It takes a mountain to break a mountain. It takes a mountain to build a new one.

And I know mountains.


  1. found your blog from JenLemen's blog.
    i am crying and cheering.

  2. What an incredibly inspiring post. How deeply this touched my heart and soul. The journey you are on is inspiring. One I dream of doing and feel so blessed to have the opportunity to cone along on yours. Thank you for sharing your heart here with all of us.

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