Monday, October 11, 2004

"Once you know the terrain, it never seems quite so overwhelming."

You would have to see it to believe it. Heading west out of a small town, Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley, the road seems to go on forever as it stretches downward toward the Panamint Mountains... or so I thought. Here's a tip for you: If you can see the highway stretch out ahead of you for as far as the eye can see, it's either (1) that you are high enough in elevation to see the highway stretch out below or (2) you are low enough in elevation to see the highway increase ahead in elevation. In this case, the highway was increasing in elevation by 5000 ft. in twelve miles. Again, for those that may not know, that is a serious 6+ % grade to have to bike on.

So it was the second day of the "bike-n-hike" adventure I found myself recently on with two other colleagues. We had driven the same highway the day before in a van, so you would think that I'd remember what I had in store for me the following day when I returned on the same highway with my road cycle. But for some reasons, it never really sunk in that well... until I reached 1ooo ft. elevation and the pain was now present in my calves and thighs.

Ask me today and I will tell you that I could successfully climb this mountain range highway again... but ask me on the morning of Friday, September 24, 2oo4, when I reached 1000 ft. elevation and it might have been a different story.

It's always fun to return to some place you've already vacationed because you already have the previous mindset and experience that you bring with you. And it's always helpful to have prior skills and experience when tackling a challenge in your life. Whatever the task or journey is, it never seems as daunting when either you've been there before or have addressed something of a similar nature. The "first time" for anything can often seem insurmountable or at the very least, very challenging.

Throughout my journey last week in Death Valley and up Mount Whitney, the conversation of my one-year-old triplets kept coming up. [Truth be known, it was a very proud daddy that kept bringing it up.] And as I spoke with my colleagues, Chuck and Keith, I told them - looking forward to year two of the triplets' lives - that "everything would be just fine." That wasn't the case the first time that my wife Di started back to work after maternity leave and started traveling. I don't think I ever shared with her that the first few nights of her absence, I sat awake in my bed most of the night surrounded by cribs - worried that something would go awry. But now, over one year later, I am typing these words in the same bedroom with the triplets sleeping peacefully in their cribs, my six-year-old son Leo dozing in our bed (due to a bad dream) and me, very relaxed.

It's the nature of Life. Once you know the terrain, it never seems quite so overwhelming. Job interviews, clogged sinks, flat tires, strained friendships, alan wrenches, jammed jar lids, balancing finances - they are all manageable. Does it mean that Life just gets easier for each of us? Or that Life loses all of its zest because we've either "been there, done that" or we can more readily extrapolate our experiences? No, for me, it just makes life that much more exciting. Trust me, although each backpacking journey is different from every other, it is always nice to be carrying the right equipment in your backpack to apply (if you need it) to any new adventure.

Take a moment to look at your day and all of its issues and events. You most likely will find that the majority of what you are experiencing is not new terrain. You've been here several times; obviously, in different contexts, but the terrain seems very familiar. And even though the terrain may seem familiar, there is a certain air and flavor of uniqueness to this particular day. That is the grandeur of Life: the delicate balance of familiarity and uniqueness.

Will we ever have any more children after these triplets? Will you ever experience a shortage in monthly funds ever again? Are there other clogged sinks and flat tires in our future? It's hard to tell. But rest assured, when it occurs we'll smile a little easier and say to ourselves, "It seems like I've been here before. Yes, I know this terrain and it really doesn't seem so overwhelming."

hoedl's haven
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