My husband and I have the privilege of being able to hike during the work week because he’s now retired and we’re not reliant on the weekends to do fun stuff any more. So I took my early 60s body on a hike the other day and let me tell you, it was a doozy.
Now some of you may think that an elevation gain of 1100 feet isn’t all that difficult but my body says otherwise. The incline up the mountain was a looooong one so you’re constantly climbing up, up, up, and your hamstrings are spouting off swear words you never thought you’d hear coming from such a close member of your body.
Added to that, your heart is accustomed to brisk walks through the hills of your neighborhood as well as high-resistance recumbent bike riding both of which should have prepared it for the heart-pumping action required for a mountain hike. Right?
Not so much.
We had never hiked Rattlesnake Ledge before so we had yet to memorize every twist and turn of the trail. We also weren’t intimately acquainted with the 1000s of evergreens along the way so we had no way of answering the question, “Are we there yet?”
Just about the time I spouted off that question what did I see ahead of me but a fellow hiker in his late 80s to early 90s coming down off the mountain…with a smile on his face…carrying a hefty backpack on his somewhat stooped over back. I turned to my husband and said, “Shit! If he can do it, I can do it!” We spoke briefly with the elderly hiker and then we huffed our way up the trail, eventually making it to the top for a picnic lunch.
We caught up with him on the way down the mountain – at his age he certainly takes a wee bit longer to ascend and descend the trail – and being who I am, I started a conversation with him. Come to find out, not only has Ray hiked Rattlesnake Ledge numerous times, but decades ago, he hiked Mount Rainier several times.
“That was decades ago. I certainly couldn’t do that now.” To which I responded, “Look, Ray, you’ve accomplished that feat and we haven’t. And not only have we not accomplished that feat but we have no aspirations of ever doing so.”
Because I tell just about everyone my hubby and I come in contact with that my husband is retired, I told Ray that Jerry had just retired from Boeing after 38 years of service at the company. Ray replied, “I’ve been retired for 30 years now and I’ve loved every minute of it.”
So this is what I’ve concluded: Ray knows how to enjoy life, but not only how to do that but how to really and truly occupy his life. His current life is not just a placemaker until better things come along. NO, he’s making things happen while he still can rather than waiting on the sidelines where nothing ever happens.
As my husband and I were about to continue down the trail ahead of Ray I said, “Glad to know your name Ray, that way when I see you again, I’ll know what to call you.”
“Well, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep up this pace. I may not be on this trail again.”
To which I responded, “Ray, that could be said of everyone on this mountain, myself included, but something tells me we’ll be running into each other some day soon.”
So I learned lots of stuff from my hike the other day. Just because the hike was somewhat uncomfortable – okay, a lot uncomfortable – doesn’t mean I wasn’t supposed to do it. I have to say, once I got home and showered I was astonished to hear myself thinking, “I’d be willing to do that hike again, and one even more difficult than that.”
We look back on difficulties/mountains in our life that at the time seemed insurmountable but when we consider where we’ve been and where we are now we can say not only did we get through it but we’re feeling far more competent to take on even more as a result.
We don’t have to perfect every new endeavor the first time out. Perfection isn’t our goal, is it? I tend to believe that if perfection were our goal, we’d just stay put and never venture out to discover what we’re capable of.
And a last note on this subject: as my husband and I were gleefully hiking down the mountain we came across numerous people huffing and puffing their way up the trail. One or two groups stopped us to ask how much longer it was to the top. We couldn’t lie to them, that wouldn’t be fair, so when this one group of girls in their late teens asked, “Are we there yet?” we had to inform them that they were just over a quarter way up. Oh, the groans coming from them were hilarious but we didn’t laugh at them, my husband simply said, “You can do it!”
To which I’m sure they said – out of our earshot – “If those geezers can do it, we can do it!”