Do you believe in destiny, in fate? Some do, some don’t, and mostly the argument seems to be about free will versus determinism, but I have often thought this is too black and white. Does it have to be one way or another? Can’t it be somewhere in between or a little bit of both? What if fate is simply what you decide it is, and if you live with conviction and faith in your desired destiny then perhaps the universe begins to align your experiences with what you believe. Maybe fate is malleable. In any case, that is what I tend to think, and I certainly have seen it at work in my own life, when all the parts and players seem to fall into place before I even arrive. I believe I am arriving at such a place in my life now.
Much of what I am now experiencing has come about by one factor alone: The surprising removal of severe chronic pain from my everyday life. In the fall, my pain had progressed to the point that I was seriously contemplating giving up climbing and outdoor adventures permanently, but after a few weeks of tortured soul-searching, I realized that I was not ready to give it up so easily, and decided that I would still pursue whatever level of climbing was available to me. Maybe I would never climb 5.12, but I could still do moderate routes, and I certainly could still climb easier mountains, and that would be enough for me. At least I would still be climbing.
Then, about two months ago, I discovered Tramadol, or as it is known by its brand name, Ultram. I had been experimenting with different medications, and had had little success in pain relief, but then I tried Tramadol, and to my utter astonishment, found that it removed 98% of my pain, and with little or no narcotic effect on my brain. It is hard to explain to anyone who has not closely experienced the unending agony I had been subjected to for something like 17 years, but anyone who knows me well has also been astonished by the results of taking this medication.
When I realized that this stuff was really working consistently, I knew what I had to do next: Climb. A lot. Make up for lost time. Allow my dreams to flourish. Start training (that is a big one for me since the most severe time of pain for me is the off season when I should be conditioning for climbing, and I was rarely able to get myself in shape.) I began to make plans, and I began to dream big. I might be 41, but I knew that if I could get the resources together, I could still climb the biggest mountains on the planet, and I could still climb 5.12 with some training (okay – a lot of training). That is where I am now.
Climbing partners began making themselves available to me. Even people whom I didn’t suspect being interested in climbing started asking me to take them on climbs. A fund-raising project – The Pain Project – has begun to take shape. I am now planning on making an attempt on my first really ‘big’ mountain – Aconcagua – in the winter of 2012-13. The plan for now is to climb more mountains this year than I ever have before, mostly regional peaks in Oregon, California and Washington with further forays into Idaho, Wyoming and British Columbia. I may be going on as many as three different extended trips, to the Grand Canyon in early June (not really a climbing trip), The Bugaboos at the end of August and the Wind River range somewhere in between or possibly in the fall. Thank God I have a supportive family.
I have always wanted to have a season where I just climb a ton of peaks, and this year is looking really promising. I believe in manifestation, and I feel the universe recognizes my passion for the ascent, and is rewarding me by sending plans and partners in large amounts. Plus, I have signaled to the Universe in turn that I am ready to take this seriously and commit to my calling. Taking action like getting in shape, giving up medications that were really slowing me down (while not really relieving my pain a whole lot) buying the necessary gear required for these ventures, budgeting my limited income to not only have the money and gear I need, but also by being responsible and getting bills paid first. Plus, I am praying more. I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual and really believe in the power of prayer as a means of manifestation. So, if you read this and feel the passion I feel for mountains, say a little prayer for me, would you? Ask the universe to grant me this heartfelt wish. Let me become the alpinist I know I can be. All I lack is the money and a few items of gear. I honestly believe that if I was given the chance, I could climb any mountain in the world. Yes, even Everest, yes, even K2. Time, however, is of the essence. I am not getting any younger.
I have entered a stage of life where many things are coming together in a sort of spiritual convergence. The ineffective pain medication has been left behind, I have been conditioning, I am focused like I haven’t been in…well, ever. The Universe has been speaking to me, giving me ideas, hunches and intuitions, and I have listened and paid attention. I don’t want a lot out of the world, I don’t have outrageous material wants, I don’t crave fame, I don’t need adulation, all I really want is health, a loving & happy family, a comfortable financial situation and the means to climb the mountains of my dreams. I cannot climb all the mountains I want to, there simply isn’t enough time in ten lifetimes to do so, but if given the chance and the resources, I will climb absolutely as many of them as I can. This is my prayer, this is my plea.