That is what the people of beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia
call the infamous Grouse Grind (I tried to post a link but I guess you can Google it instead ; ) This is how I chose to spend my 54th birthday, climbing nearly 3000 "steps" up Grouse Mountain, a smallish mountain but still a freaking mountain
My best friend and I set out early Wednesday, July 3rd, and crossed the border into "Supernatural British Columbia" - whoever coined that term was exactly right, it is a gorgeous province and Vancouver is a stunning city. I have to disagree with the person who came up with the nickname for the Grouse Grind however. A stairmaster workout can be difficult, for sure, but the steps are evenly spaced. Not so with Grouse. It's more like a bunch of ladders and crude staircases that run between boulders and are overrun with roots and rocks. Once you start, you're basically stuck going up, up, up until you are (blessedly, mercifully) done. Going down is highly discouraged because it is a fairly narrow trail, it can get very crowded, and as dicey as the footing is going up, it is pretty treacherous coming down. On paper, I do not sound like a good candidate for this grueling workout. I have asthma, I have osteoarthritis, I have a wonky thyroid that is treatment resistant, and I am packing an extra 40 pounds around with me. I felt all of it on this grueling beast of a workout. What I have in my favor, however, is strength and stubbornness and experience with endurance. I took frequent rest breaks which, in retrospect, were mostly mental. It was harder than I wanted it to be. This was a frequent mental conversation: "do you WANT to keep going? NO! But, CAN you keep going? Of course." So, I kept going. I sent my best friend on ahead. She is younger, fitter, and taller (long legs would have REALLY helped on this endeavor). This was something I had to do on my own. As is often the case in my life, when I am going through tough emotional times, I choose a tough physical challenge to somehow offset it or at least to let my body's struggle take some of the pressure off of the emotional struggles. Granted it is not a strategy that makes sense to everyone but, as long as I can employ this strategy, it is the one I am going with.
As some of my Sparkfriends know, I have been estranged from my eldest son for 6 years, six long and painful years. I have gotten better at carrying this burden, but certain times of the year it is more difficult and this is the time of year when it feels most acute. My birthday, his birthday (yesterday - he turned 38) and, to top it off this year, a family gathering in Portland to which I was not invited and it happened to be held around my birthday. I have nine siblings and many of them were there, along with various spouses, children and grandchildren, including my son, his wife and my beautiful grandchildren. My family of origin avoids conflict like the plague, especially my mother. They are all essentially kind and decent people but they would just as soon avoid ugly emotional business, like my hurt feelings. They were sending me birthday greetings and photos of various cute kids at the gathering, including my grandkids, but no one ever picked up the phone and called me to say "I wish you were here, I wish it was different between you and your son, but this is the easiest path for everyone here so this is the one we are taking." Instead, they avoid. They know I am more forgiving than my son so they would rather appease him than invite me. I briefly told a couple family members how I felt - short, sweet, and concisely. I cannot change anyone, but I can certainly challenge them - which makes me rather annoying to those who prefer to take a wide berth around any sort of conflict rather than plow straight through it. I don't like conflict either but I have learned that it gets worse the more it is avoided. I have learned that certain things should be laid out on the table, and dealt with, because they only become bigger and more difficult when ignored.
My eldest son is not the only one causing me upset. My soon to be 21 year old son has left college, and the ROTC, and moved home which, as you can imagine, brought its own set of challenges. In keeping with my "I cannot change you but I will challenge you when I see fit", there were a number of uncomfortable conversations and confrontations culminating in me boxing up his things so he could move out, with a friend. As hard as it has been for me, it has been harder on my husband who was loathe to push our dear son, because he sensed his struggles. I don't want him to struggle either, but such is life. Life is filled with struggle and my son is at an age and stage where he is making his life much harder than it need be and he is constantly getting in his own way. Honestly, we have taught him about as much as we can. This is the place where we have to, once again, let go. His life is between he and God and we have very little power, if any. He has SO many lessons to learn but if I have not taught him by now, clearly I am not the teacher he needs. This is where friends and bosses and people in general will teach him the lessons he has thus far refused to learn. He is very fit, and he is exceptionally intelligent (which can be a hindrance because it lends itself to "know-it-all-ism" and he has been raised by good people in a decent home. He has to make his way, his own messy way. I fear it will get worse and pray that it gets better. In the meantime, I have my own life to deal with.
So, back to my slog up a mountain, burdened by my troubles and my struggles. I hit the halfway point at exactly 1.00 hour and I made it to the finish at exactly 2.00 hours. I told myself "you never have to do this again" but, once I was done, I began planning for the next time, taking less time. I was berating myself, a bit, for taking so long (lots of people do this in an hour or less - those lots of people are mostly younger and fitter so it is ridiculous for me to compare myself to anyone but myself). Then, I came to my senses and realized the fact that I even attempted it, let alone finished it, said something about me that I can feel good about. What I really felt good about was the fact that, after we reached the top, we walked around for quite awhile and I was fine. I got home and I was fine, I did not feel sore or wrecked. I even did a hard workout the next morning. That told me that even though I did not feel my fitness much, during that ascent, I do have fitness. Slow and steady won't necessarily win anything or impress anyone (winning and impressing are low on my scale, at this age) but they will get us through a difficult stretch. I am in (yet another) difficult stretch but I will slowly, steadily work my way through.