Last month my boyfriend and I took a trip to West Texas.
I was so excited by our itinerary! First of all, after being born and raised here, I had only just learned Texas has MOUNTAINS.
I couldn’t wait to see them.
I also had my heart set on climbing one of them, and not just any mountain, either. I wanted to climb the highest mountain – Guadalupe Peak.
According to the brochure, standing at 8,751 feet tall, Guadalupe Peak is the “highest point in Texas.” The views are said to be spectacular.
Of course I wouldn’t be able to verify that, since approximately 10 minutes into our straight vertical trek up the mountainside, I developed a severe case of heat exhaustion/altitude sickness.
Coughing turned to hacking, which turned to wheezing and then vomiting. Sweat was streaming down my face and body. My boyfriend called it and I hobbled after him back towards the air conditioned sanctuary of our rental car.
To say I was mortified would be an understatement of Peak-level proportions (approximately 8,751 feet’s worth, if you happen to be interested).
I was sure my boyfriend was going to break up with me. Heck, I was contemplating breaking up with myself. I wanted to squeeze myself into a teensy invisible ball and activate my cloaking device until….well, no sense putting any time limitations on it.
My boyfriend, meanwhile, was great. He swiftly regrouped (politely ignoring the ongoing hacking and wheezing emanating from the passenger side) and proffered an impromptu visit to Carlsbad Caverns as an alternative. Off we went, with him issuing a variety of instructions on what I should eat and drink to rehydrate along the way.
We arrived at Carlsbad around closing time for the cave tours, but got directions to a camping-friendly hiking trail on the New Mexico side before the park closed. Suiting up once again, we headed off into “Yucca Canyon,” which we quickly deduced was named for the many well-formed and surprisingly confrontational cacti that lined the teensy unmarked trail path.
Two and a half miles into our hike, at about the point where the Ranger had assured us that camping-ready land would begin to appear, we saw only large white rocks and more large white rocks. We were also seeing increasingly less sun, so we decided to turn back around and head for our car.
It was also at about this point when I took my eyes off my feet for just an instant and went flying into the air, then down onto my back, twisting my left knee and ankle as I went. When my boyfriend reached me, I was lying on my big backpack with my legs sticking up in the air, my other pack still strapped to the front of my chest.
Oh yes. Yet again my hiking eyes were bigger than my stomach. And my coordination. Not to mention my overall general body strength and physical fitness.
He took all my gear as well as his gear and I limped along behind him towards the parking lot, which was empty save for our car. If it was possible to feel even smaller and more mortified than I had felt earlier, then that is how I was feeling.
As my boyfriend performed evasive maneuvers to avoid the incredible numbers of cottontail bunnies and jack rabbits that persisted in leaping in front of our car as we left the canyon, I reviewed my many ignominious moments in that fast-fading day and concluded the following:
- I had failed – spectacularly and twice – to stick to our detailed and meticulously planned itinerary (which we had planned for 3 months and then driven nearly 11 hours to carry out).
- I had had to ask for help a nearly uncountable number of times (for me at least).
- Each time I asked, help was provided.
- There was no shaming, no blaming, no snarking, no pouring salt in the many and various gaping wounds I was now sporting.
- We had had fun, somehow, anyway, despite my glaring limitations.
This last part was, well, simply marvelous. I may not have gotten to see the view from Guadalupe Peak, and I’m not certain I ever will. But I got to see the view from another even higher and more glorious peak – one I’ve never reached before and will never ever forget.
The peak I reached that day was called Self Respect Peak. In order to climb it, I had to refuse to belittle and shame myself (or permit or encourage others to do likewise) when I failed at something. When the trail got really tough, I had to do my breathing and affirmations and literally take it one second at a time to keep going.
Self Respect Peak was breath-taking and totally worth all the work involved to get there. I will never forget the view. And I plan to visit that particular peak many, many more times in days, months and years to come.
Today’s Takeaway: We just don’t live in a “failure friendly” culture. In fact, our insistence on categorizing our life in terms like “success” or “failure” makes it all just that much harder when we order perfection and progress shows up instead. Have you ever had to reframe what looked and felt like a failure into something more positive while you were still in the midst of all those conflicting feelings and thoughts? What was that like and how did you pull it off?