Pick Your Star [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Mike Libecki is a mountain climber. He calls the necessary suffering of his sport pre-joy. “That way,” he explains, “I get to use the word joy in all of my sentences.” There’s joy at the summit. There’s pre-joy on the way up. It’s not a bad orientation to life, everything is relative to joy.

Skip’s meditation these days is on resilience. After a horrific car accident, he has more than a few tales of pre-joy. He has even more tales of joy. Human beings have a remarkable capacity to choose their stories, to orient to a path that is life-giving or to collapse their story into a state of no-joy. Skip chose resilience. The capacity to recover. To spring back in order to spring forward. Pick your star and sail toward it. That is Skip’s lesson to me.

Judy just wrote a book, Summoned By A Stroke. It is the blog posts she wrote to her community of support after her husband, Kim, suffered a major stroke. It is a remarkable testament to the invincibility of the human spirit when it intentionally orients to joy. It is also pays homage to the magnetic pull joy has on a community. There is  no attempt in Judy’s story to deny the pre-joy; there is a deep understanding that there would be no real joy without it.

During my Seattle years, when I was feeling blue, I would jump on the ferry to Bainbridge Island to visit Judy and Kim. This man wrecked by a stroke and, my friend, Judy, his wife, never failed to lift my spirits, to fill me up with laughter. More than once, on the return ferry, I would sit in utter amazement. I told myself that I should be bringing comfort and support to them but the opposite was, in fact, the case. What I experienced with them was beyond words. So much joy. If there is a place where pre-joy and joy blend together, Judy and Kim inhabited it. Today, this is Judy and Kim’s lesson to me:

“Kim and I are learning that happiness is not about what we do or where we go but how loving we are in relationships, how open and curious we are about where we find ourselves, and how inventive we can be with what we are given.” ~ Judy Friesem, Summoned By A Stroke

 

read Kerri’s blog post on PRE-JOY/JOY

 

 

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Climb The Rough [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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It’s an odd quirk but Kerri likes to watch mountain climbing documentaries before she goes to sleep each night. We’ve seen most of the world’s catalogue of climbing videos, Everest and K-2. I feel as if I’ve been to base camp. I sometimes shout at the screen, “NO! Don’t you know that the weather can turn on a dime!”

We’ve watched the story of the team that discovered George Mallory’s body. He fell and broke an ankle. Fatal on Everest. We’ve watched footage of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their summit bid.  We’ve watched documentaries about the Sherpa people, the dangers of the ice fall, and the emergency doctors at base camp.

I tease Kerri and tell our friends that she needs to watch someone fall off a mountain before she can get to sleep. She protests, “I don’t need to see them fall!” The life and death struggle is soothing enough, a gentle entry into slumber.

The message from the climbers is as beautiful as it is simple: if you fear failure you shouldn’t climb mountains. You will fail far more than you succeed. You will attempt. You learn. You choose to be wise and live rather than push to the summit and then lose your life. It is the ultimate reminder that a healthy process is much preferable to the achievement of the goal. They remind us that most climbers die after the summit. They die coming down because they forget that the goal is not to summit, the goal is to summit safely and come back alive. The goal is life. The summit need not happen today. Live and take your chance tomorrow. The only failure on the mountain is to die when you didn’t need to.

It’s a great metaphor. Life is like that. No one does this life without more than a few rough patches, more than a few falls. When you recognize that everyone has a mountain to climb and, regardless of the mountain, it is all about learning, all about the experiences that may someday bring you either to the summit or to the recognition that the summit was actually never the goal. It’s about the appreciation of the experiences.

There will always be another goal. Another summit. However, the experiences you remember and appreciate will be the struggles. The easy stuff is easily forgotten. The hard stuff, facing the doubt, finding a new edge, makes for a great life story and helps us understand that we are far more capable than we at first realize. Everyone is far more capable than they imagine and would never go beyond the limits of their imagination without the rough patches on the way up the mountain.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about ROUGH TIMES

 

 

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Return To Base Camp [on KS Friday]

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Among my wife’s quirks, one  of my favorite is that she is obsessed with watching films about mountain climbing. If there is a movie about scaling Everest, a documentary about climbing K-2, free climbing, extreme climbing… we’ve seen it. And, here’s where my full adoration comes in: she likes to watch them right before sleeping.

Usually, she is asleep five minutes into the film but she ALWAYS awakes at the moment the climbers summit. She is fully awake for the triumph [she also opens her eyes if there is a tragedy. I tease her that the only reason she likes watching the films is to see climbers fall off mountains. For this sentiment I get punched].

Reinhold Messner speaks about climbing as an inner journey. An expansion of spirit and self. Making it through is about grasping a greater sense of self. The accomplishment, standing on the summit, is not a goal as much as finding a personal edge and stepping over it. And, as I’ve learned in my midnight viewing of climbing films, the real challenge, the greatest danger, is in the descent. More climbers perish on the way down than on the way up. Making it through is more about the return than it is about the mountain top.

It’s the hero’s journey. It is the course we all climb in this life. There is a call to adventure. For some it is a mountain. Somewhere along the way we can all expect an abyss, a reduction to dust, the void, the belly of the whale. Whatever the variation, it is always transformational. And then comes the journey home.

In the films, there is the moment when the climbers see the base camp, a different kind of thrill than the summit. People bang pots in celebration. Exhilaration infuses exhaustion. The realization floods the transformed climber: I made it through. Kerri’s eyes, blink open for just a moment. She whispers, “See. I knew it.”

 

MADE IT THROUGH on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MADE IT THROUGH

 

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made it through/this part of the journey ©️ 2000 kerri sherwood