THE SUMMIT BY JAMES BAXTER
For July’s blog I asked my husband, James, to share a few thoughts. This wonderful piece is what he gave me. Enjoy!
What do you do when you are coasting comfortably through life and your path leads you to the base of a mountain? Do you sit down and try to find a way to avoid the mountain? Do you turn around and go back? Sometimes you have to look up, take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other and just climb.
American Middle Class Cushiness
I’m going to generalize the plight of the American middle class. We live a cushy life. We intentionally avoid discomfort at great cost. If you don’t believe me, check your power bill this month.
We complain about things like:
It sure is hot in the gym today. I wish they’d turn on the a/c!
They moved my TV show to a different time slot!
Why isn’t my wifi connecting!?!
That grandma is driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane!
Do you see the similarity? You have a gym. You have a TV. You have wifi. You have a car on a navigable road (and somebody apparently has a grandma). Before we whine too loudly, we need to realize we have it easy.
There are basically three types of mountains we face in life.
The real problems: You are diagnosed with cancer. Your spouse dies. These mountains rise up as obstacles to your happy life. You have no choice but to climb. These can be the most difficult and treacherous climbs, and nobody has a map showing you how to get to the top. Sometimes the only way is to put your head down and survive one step at a time.
The accomplishments: Some mountains involve an incentive at the top. We tackle the mountain with the desire to achieve some goal – a promotion, a degree, a trophy, etc. These can be challenging, but we tend to be motivated to keep moving because the work will return tangible rewards.
The ones that are just there: These are the ones we wimpy Americans have trained ourselves to avoid. They are there in the distance. We see them every day, and we run from them. We even warn other people why they shouldn’t approach them. Eventually we forget they’re there. There is no payoff at the top – no external reward and no perfect view. There is no reason we have to climb them.
I had an epiphany when we visited Stone Mountain recently with the kids. We climbed the mountain trail with intentions of visiting the building at the top – except it was closed when we got there! My son said, “We climbed this mountain for nothing?!” He was apparently oblivious to the amazing views, but his real-time commentary gave me a “light bulb” moment. The end isn’t always the reward, but the journey can be worth it. You learn something about the people climbing the mountain with you (even if it’s just that they’re willing to spend time putting themselves through misery with you), you learn something about yourself (you can make it to the top), and you get stronger. Sometimes you should climb a mountain just because it’s there.
I want you to challenge yourself this week. Spend time learning a language. Volunteer a day’s work to somebody who needs help. Sacrifice something cushy to give extra to your favorite charity. Dig deep and go to the well during a workout. Find your mountain and climb. When you summit, you might find, like my son, you just need to open your eyes. The view is awesome. Stop making excuses and get there.