Updated: May 20, 2020
It’s 3:00AM, I am at the bottom of Grand Canyon and don't know if I can make it out.
Our group of five (including my friend Clay in photo) are trekking in unison through the star filled night as we push through our rim to rim to rim hike. We are all chasing the glowing dot of light strapped to our foreheads illuminating the darkness as we navigate the rocky terrain. You have to stay sharp. This thought keeps popping back into my mind as my eyelids continue to droop and feel heavy. One wrong step and it can be the end of the road, literally. Thankfully it isn’t raining or snowing or anything else that could be causing more strain on us. The weather
is actually perfect, not to hot, not to cold, not to heavy with humidity, slight breeze, it was just right. We are carrying hiking poles and camel packs so the load is light, but the hike is 20 plus hours with 20,000 feet of elevation change, so we just have to keep moving forward. There was a lot of conversation when we began the hike 14 hours ago. Life, faith, work, kids, siblings. We explored a lot of topics and actually dove past the surface into some deep and meaningful thoughts. At this time of night however, my mind isn’t so curios, nor does it have many insightful reflections. It just keeps trying to remind me that normally I would be asleep right now. We are an hour or two post descending the north rim on our way back to the south rim where we started our journey. We have about 6 hours to go before we lift our hands to the sky and celebrate our accomplishment. At the beginning of our hike, a mantra made its way in to my mind during one of our breaks in conversation. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. This was Dory’s song in the movie Finding Nemo as she and Marlin started their long journey to find Nemo. Not sure why or how it popped in my head, but like a song does, it got stuck. To keep my mind from thinking about sleep, I start this mantra. I was enduring the sleep deprivation and prolonged physical activity. Somewhat painfully, but I was able to keep moving and keep good pace. Things were moving steady.
Then out of no where it hit me. I was stopped dead in my tracks with a major sugar crash.
I have had sugar crashes enough times to know what they felt like before they hit with full force. Normally they would only last about 10 minutes before I felt a recovery. Some juice and a cookie typically did the trick. I had experienced a crash about two weeks prior to our hike after a long training session. Unlike the typical 10 minute recovery however, the crash two weeks prior was something completely different. It took about 30 minutes until full recovery. I absorbed enough food and juice to make up two full meals to recover. I had honestly never experienced a crash with this much intensity requiring so much food intake. Given the crash I experienced two weeks before our hike, when the crash hit me while on our hike, fear immediately started to rush through my mind. The crash two weeks prior was in the comfort of my own home with ample food sources to overcome it. I am at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
I have limited food and I can’t consume it all as we have 6 hours to go. I am going to need my food to finish.
I am so thankful that my group offered up some of their food and water in addition to mine. The strength in community showed up in that moment in a real way. I started taking in everything I could get my hands on. Sugar dots, beef jerky and electrolyte drink. I knew I needed this food, my stomach however didn’t like the idea at all. With each bite and drink, I had to force myself to ingest it. It’s 3:00 in the morning. I never eat at 3:00 in the morning; nor do I typically hike at 3:00 in the morning either. As I force myself to eat and drink, nausea starts to set in. With the sugar crash, nausea and extremely heavy eyelids, my thoughts began to get dark. Oh no, this isn’t good, this isn’t good at all. I may be in real trouble here. As the reality of my circumstance started to set in, or at least the perceived reality, I start to pray. Lord, this isn’t good. I really need your help. I need you to show up, like right now.
When I finished my prayer, what fired off in my heart was this statement. The only way out of this is through. You have to keep moving. Have you ever felt that way, maybe not physically like I did on my hike, but mentally, emotionally or spiritually? Like life has hit you with something that is completely out of your control. You don’t fully understand it, you don’t totally recognize it and everything that once brought you comfort isn’t available or isn’t working.
You wonder if you are going to make it through. Anxiety, worry, stress, fear, hopelessness. If you have experienced this or currently experiencing this, you are not alone. And I promise you, there is a way through. I know, I have been there. I have been hit with life wondering if I would actually make it off the bottom back to some elevation, back to a higher ground. I know what it’s like to be stuck in the middle of alcoholism wondering if I could ever quick drinking. To be stuck in the middle to financial struggles wondering how I was going to pay my bills. To be stuck in the middle of anxiety attics because I had no idea where life was going. Stuck in the middle of fear because and I had no real hope of a future. When you are stuck, scared, overwhelmed, addicted and have no idea where life is going. Doubt plagues your mind and can ware you down so much that you wonder if this life is even worth it. I know, I have been there too. If you can relate to any of this, on any level, I promise you this. God can and will help you go through. I know, I am here today. I made it off the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I am 10 years sober. I haven’t had an anxiety attack in over 20 years. I own my company and I have a beautiful wife and four wonderful kids. That doesn’t mean life is now free of challenges. It only means that with the help of my God, family, friends and a life coach, I made it through and today experience life with joy and peace.
When I was on the bottom of the Grand Canyon, real fear hit me. I don’t want to die out here I thought. And honestly I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it out of there. At least not on my own two feet. I had purchased care flight insurance in the event something major happen. But none of us even had a cell phone signal, so I don’t how we would have even contacted them. In that moment, I had a choice to make. Either I was going to keep moving or I wasn’t.
As I look back, I realize there were 3 things I had to change to get me out of that canyon. Those changes were in my focus, my beliefs (what this means to me) and my choice of action - stay in motion.
I had to choose to change the patterns fear was trying to create. We are all creatures of habit. This is not only true of our behaviors but also true of our emotions and thoughts as well. It has been estimated that we don’t know why we do anywhere from 40% to 95% of our life depending which study you read. It’s what John Barge calls automaticity. Our ability to do something without having to consciously think about it. Driving a car, riding a bike, brushing your teeth, these are examples of automaticity. This also shows up in our thoughts. You know those mental tapes that replay over and over again. Our emotions, those feelings that hit you out of no where and turn your gut inside out. Our behaviors, those things we do over and over again that we wish we didn’t but don’t know how to quit. All of these experiences repeat themselves over and over again until one day we go on full tilt. And your brain is just trying to make sense of it all and isn’t doing a very good job at solving it. The good news is this, these are just patterns. That’s all it is. You are not sabotaging yourself, you are not the fear, you are not the anxiety, you are not the hopelessness. You are just experiencing a pattern that was set in motion at some point in time based upon a meaning you created about something in life that you haven’t made sense of. The better news is this, patterns can be changed. But, if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.
Real change happens the moment we get honest with ourselves about life and make a real decision.
Life doesn’t just stop and wait for us, and it doesn’t simplify with time. With the rapid movement of life, it can feel like if we are not growing, changing and moving forward, then we are moving backwards. This is because of the belief that as our responsibilities grow, life becomes more complex. But we can’t operate from yesterdays’ focus, beliefs and choices. Too often however that is how we live in our daily lives. We live our lives from old operating systems. When I was on the bottom of the Grand Canyon, I had a choice to make. I could have stayed there and said guys go get help I can’t make it any further. I am going to have to wait for you to send someone to pick me up. Or I could get up and start moving again, even in the midst of the pain I was experiencing. We can either sit down wondering, hoping, wishing life will get better or we can get up and start moving again. As a life coach, it is my greatest pleasure, mission and calling to help people get up and start moving again. Not because I read a bunch of books or have trained with excellent coaches or thought it would be something fun to do. It’s because I have been there and I know the pain of not experiencing the life I desired and the life I believe God wanted me to have. Either by my own poor decision or by circumstances I couldn’t control. And while I may not have all the answers for what life brings, I have found this to be true, the only way out is through. By the grace of God I have walked through and came out on the other side to experience joy, freedom and fulfillment. You can too. So often we think that the fires of life are meant to burn, harm and destroy us. I believe they are exactly what God uses to ignite our passion, give us purpose and unlock our potential.
But we have to be honest and be willing to step through the fire. Are you ready to take that step?
Are you ready to make a change?