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It's In Those Times

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Thirteen-year-old Jordan Romero. He’s my idol. And if you don’t know his story, hold on to your pickaxe. I just finished reading an article on him in the September issue of Backpacker magazine. I somewhat recall seeing his story on a TV news magazine a while back, but there’s something more personal about reading his journey.

At nine years old, Jordan was inspired by a mural of the Seven Summits that had been painted by some fifth graders at his elementary school, and he announced to his father that he wanted to climb each of them. So far, he’s conquered five.

Without going into all of the details of the article, the writer documented Jordan’s journey to Mendoza, Argentina from the special permitting process to his ascent to the peak of 22,841 foot Aconcagua summit. There is a portion of the article I want to share with you, my sparkfriends, as it really resonated with me in relation to our individual journeys.

At this point in the trek, they are over 18,000 feet elevation. “As they plod on, Paul and Karen feed Jordan with the rhythmic regularity of an IV drip: a Werther’s candy here, string cheese, water. But after several hours, Karen notices that Jordan is slowing down and breathing hard. She calls to him, and he looks back with tears streaming down his face.

‘The trio stops abruptly. Paul sits cross-legged in the snow and draws Jordan into his lap. Jordan erupts into a flood of emotion. He’s no longer sure why he wants to climb Aconcagua; he’s sad about his grandma, who died the previous summer; he’s tired. Everything on his mind bubbles to the surface-he’s bonking. Paul holds him and hugs him and tells him it’s okay, cry, use the memory of your grandma to help you. After 10 minutes of sobbing, Jordan takes a drink, eats some M&Ms, and says he’s ready to move on. They lean into the storm for another hour and a half, finally dragging themselves, exhausted, into high camp…’

‘…Jordan’s alarm sounds at 4 a.m., but no one has slept in the battering winds. Outside, a gale blows 60 mph and the temperature is –40F below. Another six inches of show have fallen…’

‘…They ascend in near-whiteout conditions, the wind blowing unabated. Occasionally, Jordan has to anchor himself with his ax to stay upright in a sudden gust, and Karen periodically grabs the back of his jacket to keep the 99-pound boy from blowing away.

After six hours, the team sets the next saddle as its goal and a possible turnaround point…while they rest, spots of blue appear in the gray sky and they decide to continue.

Two hours later, at the edge of a huge bowl, they finally see the summit. More blue spreads through the sky and boosts morale. The peak is still an hour away, but Jordan perks up. He walks with his shoulders back. All the scary scenes from the mountaineering documentaries have slipped away. “We’re going to make it,” he says. They’re not yet at the summit, but Jordan starts planning ahead. “When we do the next one, I want to come down and have a giant plate of spaghetti.”

‘…They continue on, 10 steps at a time…As Jordan’s head pops over the summit ridge at 3:15 pm, he gets a standing ovation, hugs and high-fives from an international crowd. Later, on, a Canadian climber would write about his ascent that day, “I was working really hard not to get passed by an 11-year-old.”

Does his journey sound familiar? It sure does to me. There are definitely times when I ask (myself) why I want to continue with this process; there are times when I want to curl up in a ball with a bowl of ice cream and a bag of chips; there are times I just feel like breaking down.

It is those times, I must sit cross-legged and pull myself in and hold ME close. It is those times I must cry and let it all out. It is those times I need a hug from my sweetie. It is those times I need a little more support from my spark-axe to hold me up.

Then I see that little patch of blue sky. And my fears and struggles begin to fade away and I know I am going to make it. I can see that summit. And while I am not quite there, I begin to think about my ‘next’ goal and a sensible-sized plate of whole-wheat turkey spaghetti.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Great story, very inspirational.
    4208 days ago
    inspiration comes from without, motivation comes from within. tam, you are climbing those hills, peaks, valleys, summits, nooks, craters, crags with the best of them. yes, surely there are lessons to be learned from a wise-beyond-his-years-11-year-old. his mentors and guides were his crazy glue that held him together by restoring some hope to him, letting him know that emotions are a big part of who we are, so many things have so much to do with everything else, that the borders blur and things run together, unable to be distinguished when glossed over with fatigue, sadness, and negativity. people with greater experience helped him when he was broken, down, tired....BUT FOR his indomitable spirit, the goal would not have been met. he needed a bit of guidance to reach deeper into himself and move past the fatigue and sadness. he allowed others to help him when he was in a bad place. you are so wise, tam. i just know this program is going to fit you like a glove. you will have found a whole new outlet for yourself and new outlook on life because of your commitment to yourself and sp. now, if THAT doesn't rock my world, nothing will! emoticon emoticon
    4240 days ago
    Oh my!! I did NOT expect to CRY over this!!! Thank you for the powerful message, Tam! I definitely like the big picture analogy of the story.

    I, too, need to keep on keepin' on, lest I get passed by an 11-yr-old! emoticon
    4241 days ago
    Oh, wonderful and wise AINT....your Blogs always seen to come at the exact time alot of us feel SKEERD. Thanks for that burst of encouragement and positivity I needed!

    You rock!!!

    4242 days ago
  • LLTS01
    Beautiful, lessons from a young kid. This was so timely because I struggled with my run today and came home all frustrated and upset. And even thought it was just one bad run, it made me feel inadequate. So thanks for making me look at the big picture and stopping to take stock of my life instead of focusing on one small thing. As always, your blogs give me a lot of food for thought.

    4242 days ago
  • LAURIE5658
    This great blog entry of yours (yours are always slot on) made me think of this time around with SparkPeople for me. Because I turned 50 and my bodily systems were starting to get wonky from my sedentary lifestyle, I decided that I needed serious and permanent lifestyle changes. I am doing it with the help of my SParkBuddies and the wonderful support they give. There are days when the SparkNotion seems so daunting and I just want to go back to my fried chicken, mashed potaotes and pasty chicken gravy. Its at that time, I go to my SparkSupport system and have my cry. After that good SparkCry with my SParkPeeps all is well once again.

    YOU are a very important cog in my SparkWheel and I will be forever grateful!

    4242 days ago
    Heya Tam!

    Nice blog! You are so right that we all go through our storms to reach that peak. I'm in the middle of my own right now... A very thought provoking blog as always!

    4242 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4228914
    Does this mean we're going to see a pair of mountain boots in your future? emoticon

    This story is a great analogy to the struggles that most (if not all) face on their quest for good health.

    Although I haven't reached the number part of the goal I set with spark people on November 26, 2008, I have reached that summit. I'm standing at the top and breathing in that cool crisp air and looking down waiting for my friends to follow my footsteps to the top.

    That storm was a wicked one. One that nearly took me. I remember that blinding blizzard. Not able to move ahead and all seemed lost. There was something inside of me that kept moving me when in my mind, I wasn't moving at all. There were times in that storm when the overwhelming thought in my mind was that I could just curl up here and let it be all over.

    It was not to be. I know you're close. If you need a rope, call out...I'll be more than happy to toss you one.

    4242 days ago
    Thank you Tam. I just had me a good cry and got (I hope!) all the fears and worries and emotions about tomorrow out of my system. I think I'll hold off on that plate of spaghetti until later today....6 a.m. is a bit early so I think I'll start with these... emoticon
    4242 days ago
    This reminded me of my blue water excursion... and a few other excursions I've had in my life. It's true... when you take the time to fall apart... sometimes you get back up and keep going.
    Stay centered. You are doing this!
    Thanks for sharing.
    emoticon Get good climbing shoes!
    4243 days ago
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