It wasn’t what I anticipated, what I dreamed of, what I expected. No arms thrown up in triumph, fists punching the thin air, broad smile as I perched on a ledge high in the sky. Reaching Mt. Whitney’s summit last August, I tried at first to choke back tears, to smile, to high five. Until I realized it was all fake and I found my shoulders shaking with sobs as I stumbled to find a place to sit, to just be.
My companions were ready for a group photo—evidence that we all made it to the top, we’d all triumphed. I didn’t want a photo. I motioned them away with my arm, unable to talk. I rationalized that I hadn’t eaten much in the six hour summit push, that my head was pounding with the altitude, that I was PMSing, that I was just damn tired.
I had carried so many expectations up the mountain…that my kids would survive the divorce I was in the first phases of, that my ex would be able to let go of his anger so that we could be friends again and or at least get through this without hating each other, that my 40th birthday the week before meant the beginning of a big, exciting new decade of my life, filled with all the adventure and creativity I had been craving.
Those expectations became leaden weight the higher I climbed. As I sat on the top rock of the lower 48 states and looked out, to peaks and valleys in the distance, it dawned on me that this was only the beginning of my journey, not the end. Reaching the summit would not make everything ok, but it gave me a wonderfully high vantage point from which to let weight roll off my shoulders, down my back, past my feet and sailing into deep space beyond.