As 2016 came to a close, I found myself feeling defensive. Everyone it seemed, was lamenting how horrible the year had been and how 2016 could qualify to be named “The worst year ever”. Sure, I had my share of ups & downs during the 12 months, but by and large, it was actually a pretty great year. I felt blessed, and thankful. And it got me to thinking, is life what happens to us, or how we perceive it?
One standout event of 2016 represented to me both a high and a low simultaneously. I set out to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro at the end of September. I never reached the summit. In fact instead, I developed Severe AMS (acute mountain sickness) and had to be evacuated in the middle of the night from over 15,000 feet. Was that the outcome I had trained for and hoped for? Of course not. But in “failing” I ended up learning so much more about who I was and how strong I was, than I ever could have learned otherwise. The reactions from friends and followers was interesting - ranging from joy, compassion, support, being proud of my efforts, and my decision to descend, to sympathy, shock, disappointment and sadness. I don’t begrudge the latter emotions, but I have to say I feel fortunate that I don’t linger in that camp.
We try and teach our children that it’s not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game that counts. Certainly, as a Type A individual, I want to win every time I play, so following this adage proves challenging most of the time. But in life, as in sport, we face events on the daily that test us. From being cut off in a parking lot, to a deep betrayal by a friend, life is constantly presenting a mixed bag of tricks for us to deal with. Nowhere is it written that life is fair, that we will always be rewarded for efforts, that we get what we deserve, or even that we will deserve what we get. But I promise you one thing, the way you play the cards you are dealt, the attitude you face your day with, and the degree to which your heart is open, will determine not only your destiny, but how happy you allow yourself to be in the long run.
I don’t have one of those cool looking photos of myself from the top of Killy, in front of the signs, beaming with well-earned satisfaction and pride. But what I do have, is a wealth of memories of quiet thoughts and lessons learned over the several days being on the mountain, perhaps most poignantly those last 6 hours as I descended through the night - and an unwavering strength and resolve that I have carried with me since. To many I “lost” to the mountain; to me, it was all gains. As we march into the new year with hope, intention, goals and plans, I hope we also possess in our arsenal an attitude and openness to deal with this thing called life - which is tricky, and complicated, and messy, and beautiful. Happy New Year.