Gratitude for a Near Stranger

Updated: May 29, 2019

I’m going to share with you part of my relationship story. A big part. A key happening that allowed me to get here, to guide others in their relationships. The origin story for me becoming a relationship coach.

In September of 2016 I climbed the Grand Teton, in celebration of my thirty birthday. In the year leading up to the climb I had gotten engaged, even though in my heart of hearts it didn’t feel right. We had been having problems, he was struggling with depression and alcohol. We were both trying our best to work it out; I was growing more and more exhausted.

Through this relationship I was pinpointing what I knew I wanted in a partner, and in doing

so was coming to realize that my current partner may not be the one I wanted for life. As I started preparing for my climb of the Grand, my fiancé wanted to attempt it with me. I started training months in advance, coming from sea level I knew acclimating to the elevation at the valley floor would be hard let alone summiting a near 14,000 foot mountain.

And so I trained, and he didn’t. I asked over and over when he would start training, if he wanted to join me at the gym. Always to be put off, always to be told he’d get going, he’d gotten in shape fast before. I tried to explain how this isn’t just “I look good” shape, it’s “I’m going to be pushing my body to a limit it hasn’t been before” shape.

The joke of me climbing the mountain without him started becoming more of a statement of fact. Yet we arrived, completed a couple strenuous day hikes to get used to the elevation change and completed climbing school through the guide service we hired. All was going well.

It was the end of the season so they were scrambling for guides and a man who helps out as an independent guide, running his own service but filling spots as a guide here and there, jumped on board to guide us up the Grand. It’s only a two day trip, the first day you reach The Saddle, where you camp over night and prepare to summit, and complete the technical part of the climb the next morning before hiking back out to the trail head.

The first day went well, we made decent time and I was feeling good. Tired, a bit sore but good. My fiancé was dragged out. He looked really tired, I could feel the nervousness coming off him as we settled in to sleep in the yurt with the handful of others that were climbing with their guides. As we awoke the next morning I was over come with the usual feelings of adventure I get. A mix of nerves, excitement and wonder as to what exactly was in store.

We got ready and started hiking up to the point where you rope in and the technical part of the climb starts. We weren’t far from camp when my fiancé started falling behind. I encouraged him but realized that I would be climbing this on my own. The feeling that accompanied that realization was relief. Not long after we started hiking our guide asked what I wanted to do. If we roped up and needed to turn around we were all turning back. I looked at him and said “I’m climbing this mountain.” It was more than just an epic idea for a thirty birthday, this mountain was in my blood. My grandfather had climbed it, my uncles, and now it was my turn. It symbolized everything about the valley that I love, the valley where I discovered myself over and over through out life. The place that means more to me than anything in life had to date.

After a bit more hiking our guide looks at me and says “I’m going to be the bad guy, if you want.” I said “Yes.” He informed my fiancé that he would need to turn around and head back to basecamp if he didn’t think he’d be able to get through the technical part.

There were tears on his part, my fiancé immediately asking if we were ok. If I as going to break up with him, so many questions. I told him I didn’t know, and we weren’t talking about it here. I hugged him, turned around and did the hardest physical thing I had done up to that point in my life. I saw the place that means the most to me from a totally different vantage point. As I sit in its shadow writing this I realize how much that moment still means to me. To be above the place that is your cradle. Seeing how small it all is, how impermanent it is. It was in that moment that I came back to myself. I realized who I am supposed to be in this life. I’m someone who plays big, who dares to change, who wants to help others connect to their truest self. I had come back to my home and myself in that moment.

And I knew then my partner is someone who could meet me here. My partner is someone who wants to push me to be this greatest version of myself, who wants to honor that person. My person is someone I can honor, someone I can push to be their best selves. It was not someone who I had to drag to get to do things, who would later say to me they didn’t know what the summit and this place meant to me.

In those moments I realized what I had to do. Coming back down the mountain to “reality” was hard. My fiancé was full of questions, of half apologies and whole excuses. He couldn’t give me time to revel in my accomplishment. He went from asking me dozens of questions about where we stood to telling me our guide wasn’t doing a good job. Which was completely false. There was so much deflection in what was going on.

And so nearly three years later, I want to thank my guide for what he was able to do for me. Hold space, and show me the way up a mountain and back to myself. He handled everything so beautifully that day, from keeping me motivated and in a good head space on the way to the top to giving my ex-fiancé and I space to argue and start the act of working through things while still on the trail. I wish I was able to celebrate that day differently, to have thanked him better.

I like to think everything that’s transpired since is in a way a thank you. My guide being present for my re-awakening was key. His support even in the time after, when we were filling out paperwork. He encouraged me to keep climbing, and to let him know if I ever wanted to climb any other mountains - anywhere, he’d be down. It was that climb with him, that lead to the ending of my engagement and the beginning of this new life.

Where I now live, right in the valley that he calls home too, in the shadow of The Grand. Doing what I was always meant to do. None of this would have happened without that experience.

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So thank you, for guiding me back to myself. Thank you to a near perfect stranger for holding space for me to grow back and connect to my truest self.

And I hope this empowers you to see what a difference small actions can make with people you may never see again. We have the power to act in grace and love and in doing so guide people along their journey, maybe even back to themselves.

#coaching #gratitude #lifeexperience #relationships

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