As someone who hates exercise and the outdoors, agreeing to go off to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro seems like a kind of crazy thing to do. I’ve always said that grief is some crazy sh*t, and there is no denying that. There is no way I would have agreed to do something quite so crazy if I hadn’t just been through a really rough time, which ended with my father passing away from brain cancer. In my darkest moments, I felt that doing something amazing to raise money for the Hospice who had looked after him would make me feel better, maybe even make everything seem ok again. I was wrong – but that adventure has shaped a lot of my life going forward.
On a miserable February day, I left London Heathrow for an adventure of a lifetime. Whilst the “climb” itself wasn’t so bad (a lot of it was just walking) the mental part of it was by far harder. I was the slowest and least fit in my group – even though I had gotten as fit as I am likely ever to be, and spent a vast amount of the time walking on my own. Every step was a case of mind over matter. When the group leader and doctor came to me and said they were considering now allowing me to summit, I was distraught. I had come all that way and raised all that money, I couldn’t let my supporters, and most of all my dad, down. It was agreed that I would go on ahead, with my own personal guide, so I could summit and not risk delaying the group on the hardest section of the climb.
In the end, I summitted faster than the group, although this was quite probably because I was there with just my guide so we could go at my speed and we didn’t have to wait for others. That really doesn’t matter though – what did matter most to me in that moment was that I did it. It was hard. It was emotional, but I wasn’t going to give in. That’s taught me a lot about life and I remember it going forwards. It was a mind over matter. Don’t get me wrong, if I’d gotten altitude sickness and they ordered me off the mountain I would have listened to them, but my head and my body being tired was never going to stop me.
Now, when I have an anxious day or I’m worried about something, I can look back and see that I overcame the mountain, and therefore I can overcome anything. It doesn’t necessarily take the anxiety away totally, but it does help me put things in perspective and try to change my mindset.
Do you have an event in your life that you can reflect on in such a way? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!