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Mother Nature's Stairmaster aka The Grouse Grind

Monday, July 08, 2013

That is what the people of beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia emoticon 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 emoticon 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. emoticon
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow. Hurrah for you, Carole. I realized from your comment on Cellista's page that I'd missed something...sorry I didn't see this sooner. Many wise comments. I like your way of confronting with clarity and love. Stay hopeful and truthful and all will be well. And working it out physically is a great idea - whenever I am stressed I get SO much walking and running done!
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    1763 days ago
    Wow! Great for you! I've climbed it 3 times (not recently) and each time it took longer because I knew what was coming. The first time, I thought I must be almost there & I asked someone who was passing me (there were many.) He said, "see that sign up there? That's the 1/4 mark." A group of us met at the top. My friend Paul said, "good for me!" He was right.

    I'`m so sorry to hear about the struggles in your family. Often, the ones who suppress problems the most, have the worst record for taking it out on those closest to them, those who are most defenseless. I remember a kid talking about his father - "he looks like such a good guy to the outside world." Keep getting it out & doing your part. Best of luck with this.

    1766 days ago
  • DOODIE59
    I'm sorry you're dealing with family drama -- that's the most painful thing. You are wise to "work out" your pain. Exercise does double duty -- you're not eating your pain, and you are blowing off steam and flushing out stress. Three things, then:) Big hugs. I hope your son finds his way sooner rather than later.
    1774 days ago
    Like you I often work through difficult emotional patches with a good workout or heavy chores: such as extreme gardening which sees me staggering around with bundles of pruned branches on my back three times my size!!

    Stubborn can be a good thing.

    And oh my it's difficult working through those "adult kid" situations . . .
    1775 days ago
    Woohoo! I know you could do it, but bringing your inner demons and trials with you along for the insanely tough challenge? Now THAT is even more impressive.

    So many people stick their fingers in their ears and holler loudly to ignore the real issues in their life, but never you. Nope, not ever. You seem to not only experience the trials and pain in your life, and are also able to step back outside of yourself to view things from another angle. Perhaps that helps you to be able to not only truly examine a situation, but also to allow yourself to forgive where necessary. And always love love love.
    It is that love that pushes a bird to fly, even though it seems to scary. Your younger son is gonna soar high. He just needs to know that you both love him tremendously. i am sure that soon he will have confidence in himself. Things will change.

    As for your eldest son, I am so sorry that there still seems to be no resolution there yet. I guess that's what I keep praying for in your life. You have much grace toward your other family members regarding this. I applaud that. One day, hopefully soon, this will pass.

    So you schlepped all of that with you as you climbed those 'steps'. I'm amazed.
    So proud of you!
    1776 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon Happy Belated birthday! emoticon
    I googled images for Grouse Grind, and I must tell you how impressed I am that you chose to spend your birthday that way, enjoying a healthy lifestyle adventure rather than a spa day, (which would have been my choice).

    Regarding your 21 year old son, you are definitely doing the right thing, by allowing (or forcing) him to face the consequences of his decision head on and not in the comfort of his childhood home. So many mothers unwittingly cripple their children with their love. I'm so sorry that you have to deal with so much sadness, disappointment, and loss right now. But as always you handle it with amazing grace, wisdom, and courage. emoticon
    1776 days ago
  • KACAR51
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    1776 days ago
    Happy belated birthday, Carole! And congratulations on that climb! I googled it and I have to say I am impressed and this is something I would really like to try one day.
    I really hope it managed to take away some of your emotional burden. And I wish that on your next birthday, things will be better.
    1776 days ago
    Thank you for sharing - it helps me a lot to hear that you can have an inspiring life in spite of some very dark clouds in it. And the climb...WOW!
    1776 days ago
    Happy Belated Birthday !!!!!!!!
    I think you are awesome. You did something challenging, physical and mental. There's no need to do anything better, or faster than someone else, it's just do it at your speed, the best way you can. And yes now that you have conquered the Grouse, you can do it again and I'm sure better your time. But there are other challenging places, don't limit yourself. Spread your wings , fly baby, keep on surprising yourself.
    Sorry about the family. There I was thinking I was alone with family tensions . There's no way to appease everyone. I finally put it behind me, it's their loss, I can't live my life caught up into childress games. I won't say it doesn't hurt,especially on those special occasions. I just hope and pray that the ones who feel offended, have a misunderstanding of facts will come around in the end. I just think how much they are missing out on and don't even realize it. But someday they will, hope it's not too late.
    I hope you continue to challenge yourself.
    Be strong, stay positive.
    Hugs Tisha emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1776 days ago
    awesome post! Awesome job with the Grouse Grind! Of course you know that there is only one story in the post, a mountain, that you can climb, one mostly physical, one mostly emotional.

    You are a strong person, your fitness efforts paid off, and you completed the physical mountain. I only know you through your posts and comments, but I believe that you have the strength and courage to conquer the other issue too, may take more time, but I have no doubt the time will come.

    You may not NEED to impress anyone with your accent up the hill, but you did! I think anyone that reads the post will admire the background work it took to get to the point where you could do it at all, let alone as quickly as you did it!

    Thanks for the great read!
    1776 days ago
    I tried to just post and it didn't so trying again, but it might show up twice! Happy belated birthday, sorry about all the ^%$@ with your family, but congratulations on the climb....I am impressed!
    1776 days ago
    First of all, happy belated birthday. Secondly, I am sorry that you are dealing with all that family @#$%, and thirdly, congratulations on that climb! I am impressed!
    1776 days ago
    And here I thought I was the only one with a wonky family lol... Hope things will work out for you and the family is able to mend fences. My thought on attending family events is EVERYONE gets invited and if someone chooses not to attend because someone else is there it is THEIR problem. They chose not to come and so be it!
    1776 days ago
    I can't even imagine doing the climb!! I'm so proud of you!!!!!!!!

    Eh, the kid stuff, that is harder. So hard to let go! I know you knownthat I k now how it feels. But it is good. And you're doing all the right things... love ya!
    1776 days ago
    Your fitness is absolutely awesome! Your perseverance is awesome! Just the idea that you even consider doing these challenging physical activities is unbelievably awesome!

    The family stuff -- is painful. Including your estranged son and his family but not you and your family is cruel and unfair. You know all the rules for not implicating yourself in other people's mess, but it is still very sad and unfair. You know all the rules for letting other people live their own lives, so your other son will have to grow up and learn what he needs to learn, as you say. It's all very difficult, yet you seem to know how to focus on yourself and what you must do TODAY. I admire you, I really do. And send you lots of love.
    1776 days ago
    First off hugs for all your son issues. That has to be so very very hard, I would like to think that the rest of your family wwould have invited you and told your son to suck it up for one day, but I don't know the curcumstances I did know you were estranged but not all the rest.
    and KUDOS to the walk well climb!!!! Yes isn't BC beautiful. I lived there for 6 years but am no on the east coast of Canada as beautiful but diff. I am a mountain person so miss ALberta and BC.
    Hope you had a good birthday and enjoy your year! you are an awesome mum and person!
    1776 days ago
  • SWIM53055
    Thank you for sharing from your heart. Peace to you!
    1777 days ago
  • OOLALA53
    You can't know how much it meant to hear of your family problems. I, too, am considered the difficult one because I will bring things up. I had a blowout when visiting my sister just two days ago. We both said some rough things. Am I crazy for feeling better about doing that? I know I've got to be able to weather other people's disapproval of me, but can they take on the same burden? But it would be such a relief if we could express our differences without getting so huffy, myself included. My mother used to always want to hide problems from my dad, and my sister was saying the same thing to me regarding her husband. I wonder if she heard herself say it. We're still talking, though. It's nice to think she has a desire to keep me in her life, and might even be a little worried that I would reject her! Others have been content to let me go.

    I can hardly imagine what it must be like to have your son feel so entrenched against you, you who sound so reasonable and honest online! You know down deep that that is a sign of his own disapproval of himself on some level. I still don't speak to my brother after some terrible insults from him, including a death threat, but I find as I get more forgiving of myself, I feel softer towards him. Not ready to initiate a conversation, but that's not necessary for us. Who knows when and if your son will unknot this? You are SO right to know your children are on their own trajectory. I went through some times of not being much in touch with my parents (though it was more neglect than anything) and it pains me a bit at times how hard that must have been for them. But I can only hope they found a way not to take it personally, however paradoxical that must sound.

    Thanks for sharing your uphill climbs! emoticon
    1777 days ago
    You are very smart to send your son out in the world to learn his own lessons. I think that's the hardest thing for a mother to do. I see so many who have spoiled their kids and then complain endlessly about their terrible behavior. We DO have our own lives to lead after we've done our best parenting before adulthood. Wishing you the best.
    1777 days ago
    OMG, I am sooooo proud of you for doing that climb. Hang the time it took, you DID it! You FINISHED IT! What a fabulous way to celebrate your 54 yrs. young!!!! birthday (coming from one who is 59, I can say that! emoticon )

    I also want to pass on huge hugs to you. It is so very difficult to deal with non-confrontational people . . . and my DH is one of 'em. BUT in my world, NOTHING gets solved unless you talk about it! I DOES hurt more that I can possibly imagine, I am SURE, to be excluded from your son's life, your families life, your grandchildrens' lives. **SIGH** Wish there were something I could say or do that would ease that pain. there just isn't. I know. I just understand the pain of dealing with non-confrontational people who need to learn to confront!

    HUGE HUGE hugs to you, too, for having to be strong enough to let your 21 yr. old son go. I know how wrenching that is. My DS left @ the age of 18 thinking he could handle everything. Well, he COULDN'T and made huge mistakes. His way to handle it? He joined the Army. OMG, I just will never, ever forget the day we dropped him off for Basics It's seared in my memory. BUT in retrospect, it was a real growth experience for him and I feel it was a blessing in disguise.

    You always want to protect your kids but just can't! It is going to be one year on the 81th of August since he was badly injured in Afghanistan. Believe me, that is a memory no Mom EVER forgets, right!?! BUT again, a very painful growing experience for him. Made him realize maybe he needs those around him more than he wants to admit! Believe me, if I could go back in time and change things, protect him, I'd give my life to do that. But, obviously, that's not possible. So, we have to do that painful letting go. It stinks the big bug!

    Know you're thought of daily and wishing you peace and blessings, my dear friend.

    1777 days ago
    Great job on the climb!

    I'm sorry you're having problems with your children. They can make life so difficult for us sometimes.
    1777 days ago
    I'm so sorry to hear of your difficult times. Our children can just tear our heart apart but you are handling things with such grace. Blessings to you! (And GREAT job on the sounds awful and wonderful at the same time!)
    1777 days ago
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