High, High Up in the Sky
This is me, May 2018, about 5,000 ft above sea level on Mt. Batur, outside of Bali. Our group went on a sunrise hike up the mountain. It's a popular site for tourists, so I found out. We arrived at the base around 2a and began our trek. It was pitch black outside, aside from the headlamps and flashlights that danced around like giant fireflies. The air was cool, and I was filled with excitement and trepidation.
I hadn't done much physical activity for quite some time. My chronic illnesses have made exercise a challenge. I set out with seeing myself at the top in my mind's eye. The "hike" is a 5-mile loop, but the elevation gain of more than 2500 feet was what made the "hike" taxing, to say the least. At times, I was just looking at the ground, placing one foot in front of the other. That was all I focused on. That and my breath. Despite the chilly air, I was sweating, my muscles were tightening and that picture in my mind's eye? Long gone.
About half the way up, I stopped. I began sobbing. I told our guide and my two retreat mates I just couldn't possibly go any farther. They all rallied and encouraged me. I felt their energy seep into my bones and I went on.
Are we there yet?
As we reached a landing area, full of people, places to rest, and two huts serving eggs, coffee, and tea, I was overcome with the most accomplished sense of being. We had reached the Summit!!! That is until our guide turned to us and said, "We've got another 20 minutes (I can't recall how far he said it was) to the top! He pointed in an upward direction towards an even steeper trail.
Still flying high from the adrenaline rush, I was ready to keep going.
Unfortunately, one of my retreat mates couldn't go any further. I felt crushed and heartbroken. I was all set and ready to make it to the Summit. It was clear we couldn’t go further if all three of us couldn’t go. I grabbed a cup of tea and turned around to see this view. The guide kept saying to us it was the same view at the top as it was where we were.
The clouds hovered over the mountain top in the distance as the sun slowly rose, painting the sky with watercolor hues of pinks, purples, and blues. I was the most present and aware than I had ever been in my whole life in those moments.
The feeling of true bliss was better than any high from any drug.
Summits, Valleys & Abysses
I could look at this picture and feel defeated, let down, even ashamed I didn’t make it to the top. Honestly, in the past, it’s what I would have done. I’d be stuck on the things I didn’t do. I could tell myself the same old stories I've told and been told before. That’s not the case anymore.
I chose to create a new story. I recall all the steps and missteps, the elation and the fear, the strain and the joy. Today, when I look at this picture, I feel that same sense of accomplishment I felt when I thought it was the Summit. It was the epitome of a metaphor of my life.
There was so much more than just a trek up this mountain which brought me to that place. There were countless deep dark valleys and cavernous abysses. This woman whose only concern used to be how and when she was going to get high. How she was going to numb the immense pain she felt inside. How much it would take to forget the irrevocable damage she had done to herself and to her family. A shell of a woman who believed there was nothing better for her in life than the degradation of addiction. That same woman was now standing at the top of a volcanic mountain outside of Bali, Indonesia.
To say that miracles happen wouldn’t encapsulate the totality of my emotions around this photo. I mean it when I say my life is beyond anything I could have imagined, before. The life I live now is a life I continue to imagine into. A life without walls, without boundaries, just the expansive watercolor hued sky in the horizon.
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