I think I can. I always think that I can do something before I find out how hard it can be. Has this ever happened to you?
I couldn’t take it anymore! Sitting at my computer day after day doing tax work or counseling people. It was draining me; add to this a recent break-up and the COVID-19 pandemic and I felt angry, frustrated, and chained to my computer. So, I did what I always do, I opened my mind to some great adventure. I like to walk and some friends had told me about this beautiful hiking trail that had given them great spiritual re-connection. They said that they had each gotten something different from their hike. They couldn’t explain it to me, but I thought- I am up for change. I’ll go. So, with little thought and minimal investigation, I planned to go on this great hike. I had to go now before the heat of the Arizona desert made the trip impossible.
My friends told me it was about a 12-mile hike. I Googled it and it said that everyone who had gone on this hike had loved it and really benefited from it. Everyone highly recommended it. The then next morning I drove to the trailhead at dawn.
I had a two-and-a-half-gallon water backpack on my back as I started out. The water weighed close to 21 lbs. It was heavy and I was already heavy. The reason for this was that I did not want to be one of those people who got lost and had to be rescued and hospitalized because I had only brought one or two small water bottles, which can be the spell of death in the Sonoran Desert. But you know what people say- “no pain-no gain.” I had my hat, my sunscreen, and food. I was all ready for my pilgrimage back to earth. I was going to be forever transformed by this walk, I thought. In fact, I always think crazy shit like that. That doing something that other people take for granted will somehow change me forever. I believe great things can happen- even to a person like me. I usually go off and do dumb stuff that usually turns out great- despite all odds. Like the part of my brain that should be telling me “NO don’t do that”- is one I never listen to.
I went on the hike alone. I like to be alone. In fact, it never even occurred to me to ask someone to join me. I did not want to be with someone that I had to lead or had to follow. I have found few people in my life who I could walk shoulder to shoulder with, so alone was usually my first choice.
No one else was at the trailhead when I got there. I felt so lucky, I did not need to be bored with some inveterate hikers in their high-priced gear telling me how amazing they were and how awesome the trail would be. I was not looking for people with perfect figures to help me start my day.
I was ready for my hike. I was always ready. I am an Eagle Scout and our motto is to: “Be Prepared.” I thought I was.
My biggest worry was the back pain that I had from this damn 21 lb. backpack. Off I went on my walk. Where I could commune with nature and get away from the real world. I called out to the desert something that I had learned from a Hopi Medicine Man. He showed me that it was smart to say to the air- “Brother Snake- I wish you no harm- I will be passing through your land today. I wish you peace.” Over the years I have said this and walked within two feet of poisonous rattlesnakes and they don’t even notice me. So that being said I started off.
All the cares of the world were out of my mind, so I could concentrate on important stuff like wondering why water weighed so much and why I had not bought a new pair of hiking shoes in three years.
Then the light suddenly started to come up from behind the mountains that surrounded me. It was still chilly on the desert; thank God I had brought a jacket that I would now have to carry for the rest of the day. I mean I had to, right? I could not be like recent immigrants who abandon their possessions along the way all over the Arizona desert.
The light gave way to the first rays of the sun as a purple and pink haze crept up over Mount Lemon, the tallest mountain in Tucson, Arizona. Then I started to feel warmer and happier and I had my rhythm going. Music started playing in my head- no earbuds- I just have a lot of songs in my head. I was feeling great. The trail was like walking on a zipper with its two edges. I was going back and forth the goofy trail had no straight line. It was all over the place. It zigged and it zagged. I thought, at this rate I could cover the 12 miles just walking around in circles.
It was spring and the Sonoran Desert was in full bloom, the rabbits with their puffy white tails jumped around the gophers and lizards and pack rats. All creatures out seeing what had changed overnight. I saw three well-fed coyotes a few hundred feet away. I heard the birds singing and saw many species of hummingbirds- buzzing around from flower to flower getting their “sugar high” for the day. I was distracted by the beauty of the place and the movement of nature. This let me shut my mind and ego down for a little while and just be physically and emotionally present in that place and in that space.
I like it when I get to a place like that, it lets me forget about the worries and troubles of my day and lets me receive messages, thoughts, and ideas from the energy out there. Actually, the energy out there is also connecting with the energy inside me. So, I feel like I am receiving this “God energy.” It gives me revelations and fast solutions to my problems.
The desert was alive with color- pinks, purples, yellows, oranges, reds and blues. All the chakra colors in a pallet before my eyes. The Sonoran Desert is often called a “green desert,” because it is green overall. Hummingbirds and bees busy attending to each plant. There was so much activity everywhere that I looked. Hawks flying overhead, flycatchers, woodpeckers and a red-breasted bird that I can’t recall what they are called. Cactus wrens going into the small holes in the sides of the soaring Sonoran saguaro cactuses. All was right with this part of the world at least.
It is refreshing to know that this life activity goes on day after day. Even while I am stuck behind a telephone or computer screen working. What a waste that I am so focused on what seems so inconsequential in the larger scheme of things.
With each step I was getting clearer and clear in my head. I had nothing to think about, so then what always happens is that my mind became a blank canvas and I saw many ideas, plans, and situations large and small from a higher perspective. That is good since I am a “big picture” kind of guy anyway.
That is why I cannot believe I started a business doing tax returns. That is all about fine details and I know that I suffer in that. I wish that I had “people,” to do that work for me. I like to dive into financial numbers and recreate a new reality for my clients. I don’t want to be the bookkeeper person. I tend to get bored quickly.
Then another goofy song started playing in my head- “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day- I’ve got a wonderful feeling -everything’s going my way.” I know that is corny- but I have some cheerful, optimistic person trapped inside of me and I could fully relate to that song right at that moment.
I also still cry when I watch the Disney movie “Pollyanna.”
I live my life in the valley of the shadow of death but I do not let it depress or consume me, because I can always find something to be glad about. Yesterday I was glad because I had four cookies after dinner. Small rewards can bring me great pleasure.
I had been walking for 2 1/2 hours at this point so I took a water and food break. I think I had gone about five miles; it was midmorning. I sat next to a large boulder and sought shelter from the sun- it was crazy bright and almost blinding. I ate some food and drank a lot of water. Then I kind of passed out. A short nap- we can call it. I woke up an hour later, I felt like I had been truly communing with nature and only woke up when a lizard crawled over my pants leg. It seems like he wanted a shady stop to rest in also.
I continued walking on the path and then it had an end- it went to the right or to the left. I did not remember seeing this on the Google trail information. So, I turned left- because I once read that in similar decisions most people would turn right. I don’t like to be like other people, like I said I get bored quickly.
Turning left was the right decision. At every step I saw amazing things to see and felt a glow within my heart. I almost felt like I was on the Arizona version of the Yellow Brick Road. I felt passionate and playful and open to this great adventure. This trail was so mind-bogglingly beautiful I slowed down the pace and was able to walk more slowly despite the increasing heat. It was well after 2pm and the trail while beautiful did not seem to be taking me towards anything. This messed with my head, where the hell was I going?
Suddenly I found myself right back at the part of the trail that had me go left or right. Life sometimes feels like an endless walk around a large circle not leading to any specific place.
This time I went right. Again, I felt more and more amazing with every step that I took. Everything was going to be alright in my life, in my businesses, and in the United States of America. I was super pumped up!
So this time I turned right and kept walking this trail which seemed to go on forever. It was now 3:30 p.m. and my rumbly tummy was crying out- so more food and more water and I was “walking along singing a song- wishing that I had someone at my side.” Where do all these songs come from? I don’t even know.
Suddenly I was in a valley moving towards this mountain. Not a huge mountain, but still a mountain for me. I figured it must have a pass around it. Then the trail ended.
This mountain was 220 feet tall- I know that because it had a sign in front of it. I was moving closer and closer and there seemed to be no way around it. I could go back where I came from, but it was getting close to sunset and I did not want to walk in the desert in the dark. Oops, I forgot my official Boy Scout flashlight- so much for the “Be Prepared,” Boy Scout stuff.
I looked at this mountain that was in the way of my path. I thought I could just do the “command the mountain to move” thing just like Jesus did in the Bible. So, I tried that and the damn mountain did not move an inch. Then I realized that Jesus might have put this mountain right there just to teach me some lessons. The only thing that I knew was that I was not going up this mountain.
Now let me be clear- I am terrified of heights. I hated standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I remember being in the Sears Tower in Chicago, 1,353 feet above the street and it was a windy day- and who would have guessed that it would be windy in the “The Windy City?” So, I was holding on to the wall, just terrified. I started to hyperventilate but apparently the guards are used to that and gave me a paper bag to breathe into. It took about 12 minutes to get me on the next down elevator and it was traumatic.
But there seemed to be no other way around it. Then I saw these metal stakes that were pounded into the side of the mountain. It was like a real-life climbing mountain. I was far away from the place where I had begun my hike. I looked at the well-worn spikes and thought no way in hell can I climb this. No Way!!! In recent years I sometimes get dizziness. Not to mention the extra pounds I had put on since college. So all of me was voting “NO” to climbing up the face of the mountain. I had a feeling it would be an easy path back to my car- just my gut feeling. If I did get to the top of the mountain. But I was just so scared.
The sweat which was already dripping from my whole body suddenly turned to “sheer terror sweat.” A far more deadly thing to happen.
My ego kicked in and starting berating me- telling me this stupid hike as just another dumb decision that I had not fully thought out. That I was old and fat and could not possibly make it up those spikes and that I was all alone- and I deserved to be. My ego was calling out for the bobcats, mountain lions, or maybe ever the Mexican Jaguar to just come and eat me- because I somehow deserved it. I felt so alone and so stupid and I wanted to go home, to die even just to get out of this predicament that was so avoidable.
I felt like I was so screwed. I had no idea what to do, I felt trapped in that corner of the valley and did not like what I saw. I had a life review right before my eyes and I was not even dead yet- I can be so fatalistic and dramatic sometimes.
Then I felt this warmth growing in my chest, it was a reassurance that I could do anything and that I was not alone. I was never alone; it was always just me but I knew that God had my back. One of my mottos in life is “fuck fear!” It is crude, but it captured the way I felt. I had had enough fear in my life. I was done with that.
So, I decided to climb up the sheer face of this mountain. But then ego tried to take over again- should I take the water backpack or leave it? Would my arms and legs be strong enough to lift my bloated figure up this mountain? I could not decide. So I drank what was left of the water and left the backpack. I know that just made me heavier- but it would be inside of me- not some counterbalance hanging on my back. So, all this reasoning got my ego off my back.
People have told me that I should not let fear have a place in my life, but I think it is too closely connected to my survival desire. So fear and panic and terror can also be positive motivators that can protect me from people, animals, and wicked storms that could kill me.
So, I put my left foot on the first spike and then my right hand on one above it and started the climb I got about halfway up and my ego- was telling me- “don’t look down.” So, I did not pick up that reverse suggestion and I kept looking at the sky above the mountain. I felt like the children’s story- “The Little Railroad Engine That Could.” So, I sang that in my head- “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Step by step. And then I was at the top, I was so happy! I could see the parking lot about 3 miles away on flat land. Then I sang the rest of the song out loud- “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.”
Then another song birthed out from me- an old Christian tune- “Victory is Mine; Victory is Mine, Victory Today is Mine- I told old Satan to get thee behind- Victory today is Mine!!!
And today Satan was FEAR! Sometimes Satan comes from within you like my ego and the fear did. That’s OK- I know that I can handle it. Ego guides me, but is not me.
I did it! I was at the top! I was so happy.
Do not be afraid because of the darkness or the light. Be afraid of not doing anything not doing something.
Then my alarm clock went off. It was 7 a.m. It was all a dream. Wow- crazy! But usually the dream that I have right before I wake up is the dream that shows me what the future will bring. So I get it now!
Each of us has our own path- specially created for them. Mine had confidence and height challenges. It was also about trusting myself it was about breaking free from the boredom of daily life. I am so excited to see what life will bring me in the future.
Call Rich Schickel today at 520-668-3243 and see how you too can climb your own mountain in life.