Climbing Pinnacle Part II


This is what I learned on Monday:

It is good to have someone with you on the journey.

It is good to get to the top, but it is not enough.

I’ll crawl on my hands and knees to get where I’m going if necessary.

Joe Jordan agreed to go with me to climb Pinnacle.  At 8:15 in the morning, and for a 20 year old guy that is a big deal.  Joe is the Chief Instructor at LRMA, has been with me since he was 9, and is one of my favorite people in the whole world.

It was COLD again.  I had four shirts on, polar fleece jacket, gloves, and boots with two pairs of socks.  I thought about bringing some ear muffs but I thought that might be a little much.  It was 32 degrees, and windy.

We get to the park, I’m getting my iphone arranged so I can use the ear buds, and I look over at Joe and he is TAKING HIS JEANS OFF!  He is wearing a hoodie, shorts, tennis shoes.  Did I mention that it was COLD?  

He saw the look of horror on my face as I’m looking at his legs.  (Not that there is anything wrong with his legs, it’s just that it was COLD.  I asked him if he was sure he wanted to wear shorts.  His reply was that he had a layer of fur on his legs and he would be fine.  Okaaaaaaay.  Off we went.

We took a different trail than I had taken on Saturday.  I’m still confused about which one. It was easier, felt longer, but still had all those darn rocks at the top.  

Joe was like a darn mountain goat.  He is balancing, jumping, practically skipping from one rock to another going up. He had his hands in his pockets the whole time.  

Me?  I’m looking for every tree I can find to hang on to. I’m using rocks to hold on to.  I’m stopping and really thinking about how to get from rock A to rock B several times.  

Joe was kind enough to stop so that I could “enjoy the view” a couple of times.  Enjoying the view also allowed me to catch my breath and gather up my courage to keep going.  Darn I hate those rocks.  

We made it to the top. It was COLD.  Beautiful view, great sense of satisfaction.  

While I was looking forward to going down the mountain from a physical standpoint, I was dreading it from a fear factor.  There is something about seeing which way I would fall that gets my heart rate up.  Would be nice if the park rangers that built that trail would make ALL of the rocks nice and flat.  

So picture this.  We are going down the rocky part of the mountain, and Joe still has his darn hands in his pockets and he is hopping from rock to rock.  

Me?  I kept thinking of the time when my daughter Keely stepped onto a swinging bridge at a playground.  She immediately dropped to her hands and knees and crawled across the bridge.  I was doubled over in laughter watching her.  She didn’t care what I thought, or anyone else for that matter, she was going to crawl rather than walk.  Because her feet did not seem to be enough.

I also remembered the way my kids would scoot on their bottoms going down stairs when they were young.

The reason I was thinking about this was because that is exactly what I was doing. And I didn’t care how stupid I looked.  A few times I crawled.  Several times I scooted down on my butt.  Whatever I had to do to have more than just my feet in contact with something stable and solid.

I still did have a little bit of pride left.  So whenever I would see someone coming up or down the trail, I would very politely step aside and sit on a rock while they passed me.  Enjoying the view you know.  

To his credit, Joe never laughed.  I think he was smiling a lot when I couldn’t see him, but he didn’t laugh.  Which is why I love him.   

This is what I learned:

It is better to have someone on the journey with you.  I knew that Joe would help if I had a problem.  We laughed and joked, talked.  He led part of the way, I led part of the way.  I showed him my fear and he didn’t laugh.  He understood. He waited for me.  I knew he had my back, he knew I had his.  

We all need someone on the journey with us.  To laugh with, to hold our hand over some of the rough patches, to lead the way sometimes, to let us be in front sometimes.  Joe was that person for me on Pinnacle. I have so many other wonderful people in my life that do the same.  By participating in UBBT Team 6 I’m trying to be that person for others. 

It is good to get to the top, but it is not enough.  Wow, the view is awesome. We completed the journey. We accomplished our goal.  We both felt good about that.  Then we started planning the next time.  Working towards doing it faster.  Joe want’s to run up the mountain.  I want to work towards doing the climb with no hands and no stopping.  So even though we accomplished our goal, we were already working out ways to challenge ourselves the next time.  There has to be another goal, another mountain.

Some of us climb the mountain just once.  Some people never even try to climb the mountains in life, they just stay on the safe, level flat land.  But some of us recognize that the view is worth the climb.  The risk is worth the reward.  There is something in us that won’t stop trying to improve the climb.  

I’ll crawl on my hands and knees to get where I’m going if necessary. I had to let go of my pride to get to the top, as well as to get back down that mountain.  As competitive as I am, the fear overwhelmed my pride and I scooted and crawled.  And the fact that Joe could jump from rock to rock was great, but I wasn’t  there just yet.  And yes, I have a metal hip and the other hip needs surgery, but that wasn’t the big problem.  The big problem is that I don’t trust my balance or my ability to navigate some of those stretches of rock, even though I had some one right in front of me doing it.  

How many times have I let Ego and Pride keep me from doing something?  If I have to crawl a little while others walk or even jump, at least I’m on the mountain and I’m moving forward.  

UBBT is my mountain this year.  I’ve got some great people here in Little Rock on the journey with me, our Little Rock Martial Arts UBBT Team.  More people that I’ve never met on UBBT Team 6.  

I’m visualizing the view from the top.  And already planning for the challenge after that, whatever it may be.  But I won’t stop with just one peak.

There will be some crawling and scooting in my life this year. I’m putting my ego in my pocket and asking for help.  I’m walking over rocks already that are pretty darn scary, but I’ll get there whatever it takes.  

Friday morning.  8:15.  Joe, Frank, Jennifer J and Jennifer S will be climbing Pinnacle.  That’s after our 5:30 am workout. 


Doesn’t Joe look COLD?

Joe Jordan
Joe Jordan





Climbing Pinnacle

This is what I learned Saturday:

I do not like rocks.  I do like dirt.

I’m afraid of falling..

It is good to stop to enjoy the view.

Realization hit that I am going to participate in a four day, 40 mile hike the end of July as part of my Ultimate Black Belt Test.  The flight has been booked.  I’m going.  And I’ve never spent the night outdoors in my life.  Nor am I what you would call an avid hiker.  Training for that event might be a good idea.

So I bundled up in layers, dusted off my LL Bean hiking boots, and drove over to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

As I started up the trail I was giving myself a little pep talk. Positive thinking. Telling myself that this was great, I was outside in the fresh air, beautiful views, working out, training.  I’d have a chance to think about some stuff… I was giving myself this pep talk because this was not something I was accomplished at doing.  I was getting outside of my little comfort zone/safety box.  Doing this because it was good for me, not because I really wanted to do it.  And it was COLD.  I hate being cold.

The trail is only 1 1/2 miles round trip.  The sign at the trail head says to allow two hours.  Of course I dismissed that time, the Park Rangers that wrote that were talking about the out of shape, the seniors, or the parents with kids.  I would do it in much less.  An hour, in fact, because I had to get home and meet some friends by noon.  That was the goal I had in mind, up and down in an hour.

10:20 am I started up.  Those of you that have climbed Pinnacle know that the trail at the beginning has a lot of dirt. Some rocks, but a lot of dirt.  I really like dirt. I like dirt ALOT.  Because then the trail  gets rocky.  And more steep.  I think it gets more steep, I don’t know that for a fact but it sure feels like more steep.

I don’t like rocks.  All I could think about was how much it would hurt if I fell, and how stupid I looked crawling up that path when it got a little tricky, holding on to rocks with my hands as I tried to figure out where to put my feet.  I sure wasn’t doing much soul searching change the world kind of thinking either, I was concentrating really hard on not busting my butt on those rocks.  It was scary.  Now that might sound a little melodramatic, especially for those of you that have climbed Pinnacle.  Especially for those freaks that I know that run up that sucker on a regular basis. But as I’ve gotten older, with the battle (surgical) scars to prove it, I’ve realized that I am mortal, and that just because my mind wills it, my body isn’t always capable of doing what I want it to do.  I’ve got a much healthier respect for pain.  Speaking of which, both of my hips were hurting.  The left hip, which is a metal on metal hip replacement, was reminding me that there were still some weak areas that I needed to strengthen.  My right hip, which Dr. Hefley told me four years ago was going to need to be replaced, was reminding me of that fact.  And what was up with my lower back ache?  My right knee was reminding me of the ACL surgery.  My nose kept running too.

A couple of times I stopped to enjoy the view.  That was the excuse I gave myself.  It really was so I could get my breath back.   I was so focused on where I should put my feet that I couldn’t look up from the trail in front of me.  Beauty was all around me, but I was totally focused on staying upright and moving forward.  The stops let me catch my breath, but also reminded me of how beautiful our state is, how fortunate I am to be able to drive ten minutes to get to a park and climb a mountain.  And while my body was screaming at me, at least I was able to climb.  To walk.  To see the view.  To hear the birds.  How blessed I am.

I didn’t reach the top.  The excuse I gave myself was that I had to get back down the mountain so I could make my noon committment.  It was 11 am, forty minutes to get to where I was, about 3/4s of the way up.  I sat on a rock for a while, then headed back down.  Hoping I could make it in 20 minutes.

Climbing up on all those rocks was tough.  Going down was easier, from a physical standpoint.  But I now could see the trajectory I would take if I lost my balance.  There were portions of the trail where the rocks were flat and I could easily step from one to another.   Other sections weren’t so easy, requiring big steps, or even a little jump.  Didn’t like those at all.  Several times I’d step and wobble a little bit, and it scared the crap out of me.  I don’t like feeling scared.

The only times I ever felt safe on those darn rocks was if I was sitting on one of them or holding on to a tree.  I love those trees. The ones that are growing right in the middle of all that rock.  The trees that have discoloration on them from all of the sweaty hands that have used them for stability.

I got to the bottom of the trail at 11:20.  An hour.  I don’t know if it would have been two hours if I went all the way to the top, but Ihave a feeling it would be pretty close to it.  So much for me being so much faster than the seniors, out of shape, and families with kids.

You know what was really humbling?  Getting passed going up by a young man carrying a baby on his back.  Seeing a woman that had to be in her 60’s gracefully jumping from one rock to another going down the mountain while I’m crawling up .  The couple that were climbing, each carrying a little dog.  The guy with a grey ponytail and a golden retriever that passed me going up AND going down.

There was a part of me, the Type A competitive Michelle, that was thoroughly disgusted with the fact that all these other people were better at this climbing stuff.  But there was the other Michelle, that was very aware of pain and fear, that was willing to slow down or even stop because it was the safe thing to do, even if it meant getting passed on the trail.  Of course, no one on that trail knew who I was, which I kept reminding myself of everytime I stopped or was passed.

I started to beat my self up for not accomplishing my goal of reaching the top.  For needing to stop.  For being afraid.

As I was driving home I realized a couple of things:

I don’t like rocks.  I do like dirt.

I don’t like rocks when I have to walk on them. It can be scary because I know I can fall and they will hurt.   However, I sure did appreciate some of those big rocks that I could sit on.  And the nice flat stable rocks that I could easily walk on.  So not all rocks are bad.  Navigating continuous rocks on the trail made me really appreciate the dirt trail. I LOVED those portion of the trail that had dirt.  I even made it a point to step in little crevices between rocks just to be on dirt.  I don’t like the rocky places in life, because I know I can fall and get hurt.  But if I don’t experience “rocks “in my life, I don’t appreciate the nice, easy “dirt”

I’m afraid of falling. Which means I’ve developed enough wisdom to understand the cause and effect of actions and consequences.  My heart skipped some beats several times on my hike.  When I was in that fearful state I was extremely focused on where I placed each foot.  I need to face that fear if I’m going to conquer it.

Stop and enjoy the view.  I couldn’t see the beauty that was all around me when I was focused just on the trail in front of me.  Stopping and enjoying the view let me get my breath too.  How many times have I missed the beauty that was right in front of my face because I had my head down?  How many opportunities to give love or receive love have I lost because I wouldn’t stop and enjoy the view, the person.  To be in the moment?

I’m going to give myself a day or two to recover, and then I’m heading up Pinnacle again.  Stay tuned.  If you don’t hear from me soon, check the side of the mountain, I may be hanging on to a tree looking for dirt!

View from Pinnacle
View from Pinnacle

Mt. Everest and courage

Last week we held a testing.  We had a great group of adults, including several women that were beginner students.

We were a little ahead of schedule, so on the spur of the moment I had the white and yellow belts get up and spar with the Black Belt instructors.  The beginners didn’t have any warning, and had never sparred before.  I wish I had a picture of the look on their faces when I told them to line up.

I received the following email from JS.   She is a nurse at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  She is also a mom, and had the courage to step out onto the mat and participate in class with her son.  She was testing for Senior Yellow Belt, and her eyes were big as saucers when she got into her ready position to spar for the very first time.

Don’t we all feel like the last one picked for the team sometimes?  I guess there are people that were always popular and smart and athletic that never felt the self conscious uncertainty that I still feel so often.  The uncertaintly that JS expressed so well.

This is what she wrote:

By the way… thank you for everything. My skeletons are coming out of the closet sooner than expected. I am terrified to spar. Funny, I know I function in the flight mode when it comes to physical contact. It is very hard to imagine myself striking right now much less being good at it. Seeing the strength and confidence of the others brought me back to elementary school. I confess Friday I felt like the kid that was the last one picked on the kickball team again, trying to hide (major performance anxiety) I used to get so upset on field day I wanted to throw up….. do you have any suggestions on how to get me past this hurdle? Knowing your challenges is one thing… overcoming them can sometimes be overwhelming… of course this is why I am at your school..working on improving myself. Its hard to tell children to do something they are scared of if you cannot do it yourself… I say this because I talk a lot about your class to my patients… I tell them I am in class with much younger people than myself…I am the least trained of the grownups, scared, sometimes embarrassed..etc. to demonstrate that everything they are feeling is OK. Perhaps I can learn the art of how to say the right thing to someone facing huge fears. I know one  cannot master something unless they practice. And every time I actively choose to deal with conflict it does get easier. Except this sparring thing. I laugh at myself because logically speaking it does not make sense for me to be scared.

I think of my heart transplant patients going to surgery, not sure if they will survive. The night before my testing with you I hugged my patient before she went to surgery (a 16 year old going for her 2nd heart.. she was rejecting the 1st) I can’t explain why but I was compelled to be with her. I put on booties and a cap to peek though our OR window. The surgeon motioned for me to put on a mask and go to the bedside. At that moment they had taken out her heart and I saw this person I had hugged with an empty chest. I had walked in at the exact moment the new heart was arriving to be placed in her. It was one of the most beautiful events I had ever witnessed. She trusted her life to these people…wow….. and I freak out because I can’t throw a punch. She humbled me. My mountain is more like a mole hill in comparison.. but it feels like Mount Everest.

But do you see what happened during the course of her writing down her feelings and her fears?  She started off asking for some guidance, and ended up giving wisdom to me as well as herself.  Just reinforces to me how important writing in a journal or blog can be.

Of course there are times when there is a big event that requires big courage. Diving into an icy river to save a drowning person, running into a burning house.  Most of us don’t ever experience those big moments.

Many choose not to test their courage in the small ways.  They choose to live their life in comfort and safety.  We all have our little safety boxes that we like to live in.  I know I do.

Sparring might seem like Mt. Everest to JS.  But she is already half way up the mountain, she just doesn’t realize it.  She had the courage to step out on the mats for the first time  so that she could share the experience with her son.

The Broken Woman

When she walked into the room I could tell. She looked broken. The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes. Her shoulders were slumped, she didn’t socialize with the other women that were loading their plates with food.

We were in a business conference room. I’d been hired to conduct a self defense seminar. The other women laughed and talked as they took a seat. “Denise” sat at the end of a table, two spaces between her and the next woman.

I started the class, I only had an hour and a lot of material to cover. As I talked about the personality traits of a rapist, or an abuser, I saw her flinch. She looked like she was trying to make herself invisible. She kept her head down. Made a lot of notes.

When the seminar was over and the other women were leaving the room, she approached me. The words tumbled out. “My ex-fiance is stalking me. He fits so many of the personality traits you talked about. I’m thinking about moving. I’ve already changed my phone number. He has his friends watching me. I’m trying to ease out of the relationship but I’m scared. He only hit me once on the arm. He was great for over a year and then he changed. No one here knows what is going on.”

So many thoughts raced through my brain.
He only hit you once? You are trying to ease out of the relationship? He is stalking you? What can I say to you?

A few weeks earlier one of the women in management for the same corporation asked me for a copy of the “personality traits”. She told me she thought she might be in an abusive relationship. He hadn’t hit her yet but she was seeing some disturbing patterns. She asked that I talk about Domestic Violence in the next session.

I did. Four women approached me afterwards and asked for a copy of “The Traits” as I was now starting to call the personality traits of a rapist or an abuser. Well dressed, seemingly strong and confident women. Wow. I had no idea.

A week later, back at the same corporation. I’m reading “The Traits”. I got to the one where I’m describing the guy that has an explosive temper. He hits things like walls or doors. The warning is that it is a short step between hitting a wall and hitting a person.

I stopped reading. Took a couple of deep breaths as the realization hit me. And I told the ladies that were in the room.

“I just realized that I was in an abusive relationship many years ago. One weekend when I told him I was going on a business trip, he got so mad he put his fist through the apartment wall. The next weekend when I told him I had another trip he hit me.

That was it. He had to hold me down for over an hour. I was so angry I was going to try to kill him. I’ve never known such rage.When he let go of me, and I had calmed down, I told him to leave. I remember feeling so dead inside. But also a very focused cold certainty. Hitting me was wrong. And the love that I had for him had gone. Just like that. A line was crossed. Thirty minutes later he was out the door on the way to his mothers house. He never came back to the apartment. ”

I could have been The Broken Women.