Letting things go is hard. Until, you do. I had a good childhood. I was never left without, and I was always surrounded by people who loved me. I had a childhood that doesn’t stand out, so much so that until recently I even haven’t had a lot of stand out memories. I used to always joke that I’ve repressed them. I had little things.. collecting caterpillars in pink rubber boots, pretty dresses I got to wear to church on Sundays, the stale, dusty smell of the old living room couch in the sun, snail shells in the river mud, frogs singing me to sleep in the spring and summer, leaves and straw bales in the fall, the red swing set.
The last year or so, I’ve begun to get more. No coincidence this comes with the house my parents built being sold. I haven’t lived there in years, with frequent visits after my parents divorced becoming less as I grew up and had my own schedule to maintain. Me and that house have always been close, but at a distance. The oppressive energy that surrounds the place was both a familiar comfort, and a luminous being. Yet, it was still the house my parents built. It is still the house parts of me grew up in, and parts of me stayed in. The house has a personality of it’s own, and I both relished being with it and held apprehension about the ghosts I danced with there.
A big part of me always envisioned living there as an adult one day, taking back the house and filling in the blanks I thought I missed from my childhood. My inner child still lives in those walls. Deep down I’ve known that that house isn’t for me, it’s a memory but not a future. The ghosts within it aren’t meant to haunt me anymore. But we hold on to what we’re familiar with, right?
I heard the frogs tonight. They were deafening. As I drove away for likely one of the last times. All of a sudden all those years came flooding in. The good, the bad, the unresolved. I felt the childish innocence of running through the trees by the river finding glass bottles washed ashore, snails, caterpillars, crunching leaves, old horse shoes from the old farm yard. I remembered the childish fear I had of the basement, the spiders, and the curiosity of the space underneath the raised deck. The terror of the bees that hung out in the gardens along the walkways. The confusion I felt when my parents told me we’d be separating as a family, confusion mostly at the sadness I was feeling- I wasn’t exactly clear on the situation but I remember knowing that it was appropriate to cry, maybe more because I was picking up on the adult’s feelings. I remembered when I tried to scream louder then my parents, and I remembered summer nights spent snuggled between them both on the deck watching thunder storms roll past.
In a span of 10minutes, with those frogs, I let all those different memories and emotions run through my body. And as a good friend told me once, I let it go. I took a recording of the frogs and took some pictures in my minds eye, and let go. I drove to my home, my new apartment that I picked for myself and have found my next story in. It was a piece of the processing I hadn’t yet done. It started after the initial shock and anger that the house was being sold, and was put on hold while I accepted that initial fact. Now, my inner child had to move out. My resentment to the hold the property had on me needed to turn into something more productive. It’s a part of me wherever I go, and fighting yourself isn’t progressive..is it?
The last three months on almost every level have been about letting go of everything except the present. Reacting only to the forecast of the day- not to the forecasts of yesterday or tomorrow. What good does it do to dress for the weather that’s already passed, or that isn’t here yet? Dressing for warmer weather ahead does us no good if it’s still cool outside. A quote by TS Eliot has stuck in my head many days lately: “We must remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”..I think that applies to ourselves just as much as it does with others, and another by Osho: “An alive person has to be unpredictable. What is going to happen in the next moment cannot be forecast.”, along side the words love and gratitude. I’ve found myself sending love and gratitude towards any negative thought, or worry, or desire my monkey mind comes up with. Whether it’s a person, a memory, a fear, or a straight up thankfulness for an experience. A funny thing has happened with this practice. I get what I wish returned. Love, and gratitude. People and experiences step in where I didn’t even know I was needing a filler or a boost- and this only perpetuates the love and gratitude.
Because of this- the flood of memories and grieving like process seem like a natural step forwards. Just a fascinating storm passing on a humid summer night sitting cozy between love, and gratitude.
About 3 years ago I started marketing my skills to a population I was familiar with.
Within a few months I was running a small, client focused business. Starting with weekly fitness classes advertised to one specific group, and then a research project based on the same group. I found my first few regular clients- who have stuck by my side to this day. Then came doing workshops and seminars- a handy asset to working with niche populations.
A year later I began marketing my practice as a Kinesiologist and Movement specialist, and soon after that branched from my niche market into my first location in a rural gym setting as the clinician. Then, not long after that, I certified as an Athletic Therapist and continued to run my rural practice and mobile based business. Last fall I found my first city location and cut down my mobile practice to settle into a set location.
I messed up my first window decal. I was so tired a few times I napped on my table in between clients. I still spend almost as much time travelling to new rural contracts as I did when I was a purely mobile based business- just a little smarter now with my scheduling (most of the time). It took me 6 months to build a steady client base in the first location, and now at almost the same in my city spot I am building a steady base here. Within the first 6 months I was also lucky enough to take on my first associate, a fellow AT to fill the empty space while I’m bouncing between locations.
I knew early in my University career that I would be better of being self-employed. I already had a strong sense of what I wanted, and where I wanted to go (although, that has changed over and over again through the first few years already). The idea of taking my own risks and building my own successes never scared me, however I did learn much more then I thought I needed to know way back as a 2nd year.
Approaching my 3rd year working for myself, I am proud that my own business is now my main source of income. This Spring will be the first spring I am my own contractor, having phased out my part time positions and only kept the contracts that allow me to do me, and build Integrative.
The last few months I’ve been reflecting on my purpose and my visions- and with that has come some enlightening memories and lessons from the first few years in business. So, in no particular order… here’s some of the things I’ve epiphanied on..
Quadruple Check your Marketing Materials
I mentioned earlier how I messed up my first window decal. Before that, I messed up my first big order of business cards. Seriously- there is possibly no more humbling experience then excitedly opening your latest vista print order and realizing you’ve made a typo, ordered the clear backdrop instead of the white on (when your logo has a white square behind it), or put the wrong credentials in the wrong place. Check it once, sleep on it, check it 40 more times.. then press check out.
Treat people honestly and with integrity
And they’ll be your clients forever. This seems super obvious, right? Unfortunately in the health care professions I’ve seen and been hearing from clients that it’s a rarity. And I’ll admit, sometimes it’s not easy either. Health care professionals are hugely prone to burn out, and we are human. However- does this make it okay to write of a patient because of a first impression, or forget to listen to their whole story and perspective just becuase we think we’ve heard it all? Not really. I’ve had clients in the last few years that frustrate me, throw me under the bus, or give me a certain impression right off the bat. Ultimately, it’s not your job to babysit clients… and sometimes you’ll get blamed for that. But you know what? 9/10 within a few sessions of dedicating an effort to hearing them out, giving them every chance, and guiding them towards what they’re really trying to express- the whole picture changes. No matter what business you’re in, or what kind of clients you’re dealing with… often giving them a few chances to really open up to what they need from you is hugely beneficial for them and for your business. For that 1/10 clients that wasn’t happy, caused an issue, or wrote off the plan… well, they were great learning experiences.. and just a part of this thing we call humanity. Roll with them, and you never know.. they sometimes show back up at your doorstep. I’ve had clients that expressed interest years ago, and are now just making the decisions for themselves to come see what I can offer them. Something they definitely won’t do if you also wrote them off.
It’s okay to take a day off…
Adding to the above point… sometimes we DO get burnt out, or have a day where we just are not up to dealing with our day. Someone asked me not too long ago if I ever take days off. The answer was yes, but I don’t schedule them (except for Sundays.. step back from my Sundays!). Guaranteed if I schedule set days off those will be the day I get the most booking requests, or have a board meeting scheduled. I’ve noticed that days off come naturally. Either the weather makes it impossible to drive to clients, all my clients go on vacation seemingly simultaneously, or my body tells me I need a day. Listening to what is presented to you is HUGE, and nobody will blame you if you cancel on them with good reason once in a while. For someone who works generally 60hr weeks over 6 days, majority of the year… I have yet to have anyone write me off because I called off a day or two here and there unexpetedly. I love what I do, but in order to do what I do well- I HAVE to make sure I’m at my best. I am also quite blessed with great clients who make my day to day work an inspiring time. Rarely do I actually WANT to take a day off from that!
Never. Stop. Learning.
Yes, conferences are pricey and textbooks are boring, and there is always too much to read when it comes to articles, social media, and other professionals’ work. HOWEVER… when I start getting stale or bored with my treatment plans, or fall into a rut.. they only thing that drags me out is new material. I come back from workshops completely and utterly fascinated by what I do again, and refreshed. For a week or so I talk way too fast and regurgitate so much information into client’s ears they usually leave wide eyed and terrified.. but I have fun. It’s a great burn out prevention method… and an easy way to feed a travel addiction, with business write-offs 😉
Triple check your schedules and review your day the night before
My intern calls it the “classic Kathlyn” when I text her that I’m running late or have completely reworked my day last minute. I’ve been doing this since high school, booking myself silly and then wondering why I have days where I am running non stop and never on time for anything. I definitely still do this- I genuinely think it’s just part of my charm, apparently. I have learned that if I review my numerous schedules the night before, and remind myself what my motivations are for the next day. I also make sure I’m syncing my schedules every few days. Slowly but surely I’m less and less late for things… slowly.. but surely..
It’s okay to not have an answer, and it’s okay to not be cookie cutter.
There’s been so many times in the last few years that I’ve just not had a clear answer, or needed to go research, or had to explain something that I was still trying to understand myself. This is one things I’ve really come to appreciate from my University program.. they not only taught us thoroughly on the theory, but on having confidence in our explanation (even if we were internally freaking out). It’s okay not to know. And, it’s okay to be saying something different from what someone else has said. In the health care world, every specialist is likely going to say something different. If my decision doesn’t match theirs, it doesn’t mean that either one of us are wrong.. therapy, rehabilitation is all about trial and error sometimes. While balancing a patient’s mental state and keeping everyone involved motivated. There is absolutely no cookie cutter approach to this.. and that is perfectly fine with me. It wouldn’t be pretty blasais otherwise, no?
Learn to decipher when it’s the pain talking, and when it’s your client’s real personality.
I’ve begun working with more and more patients with chronic pain. The first few sessions with these patients is always a battle of “I’m pretty sure they hate me” running across my mind. I’ve realized that they probably don’t have a huge opinion on me as an individual. They’re coming to me in a place of frustration, exhaustion, and chronic levels of pain. They have bigger fish to fry. They’re short speaking style, closed off personality, and questioning is more then likely a defence against what they’ve already experienced within the system and through their injury or condition. My only job is to try and change they’re perception of the pain, and treat them as a fellow human being. It’s not my place to take anything personally, as a professional- only to listen to their reactions and adapt my treatment plan to best suit their state. They come around, they always do- some in less time then others. Some even without quick changes in their symptoms will appreciate your effort and care more then anything, and this usually is the key in unlocking the doors they’ve closed off against people trying to help.
It’s okay to charge for what you love to do.
This one is a constant internal battle. Probably my biggest insecurity is asking people to pay me. Or telling people pricing. I truly love what I do, seeing patients improve is usually my greatest reward (cheesy, shuddup). However, I also have aspirations and travel plans, and bills, and rent, and expenses like food and hydro to pay. Oh, and a car. And an affinity for Starbucks. I’ve also recognized that 95% of clients value my work and want to pay me for it. They don’t hesitate to pay for the service they’ve booked. If anything I’m always the one making it an awkward exchange. If you take pride in what you do- show it by pricing yourself accordingly. One thing I wish they taught us more in University was how to price our services accordingly to their value, and the standards in the province. Underpricing leads to undervalue, while over pricing gets missed in the market. It’s a fine balance.
Connect Connect Connect!
We live in an age of word of mouth. Whether it’s shares on social medial, tagging, or regular face to face meetings.. other people’s opinion of what we do business wise is uber important to success (yes I said uber). This isn’t something that’s taught very often. I think it should be. About 15% of my current client base found me over social medial, another 30% or so found me through events and educational workshops.. the rest found me from word of mouth referencing. Every percent counts when you’re building, so don’t take for granted the power of a good social media presence, a solid networking plan, and impressing every client in some way. Being able to network comes from a place of having a sense of your purpose. Having drive and having a deep seated passion for what you do, and where what you do can take you. Big or small. People love people like that. People you want to network with, anyway. Learn how to sell yourself, and exude confidence in what you have to offer on any front- while remaining humble. Tough at first, especially for someone more prone to the intervertebral side of the spectrum- but once you learn it it’s like riding a bike.
Stay professional, especially when people surprise you
As with anything there will be haters. There will be those mimicking and those trying to intimidate. There will be personal things coming into business ordeals. Humans will be humans. I’ve learned to take a neutral approach to everything. Rarely is something directed at you actually about you…. so why be effected by it? We’re all a reflection off the people we interact with, after all, so how they react or act is generally them expressing their own issues- not attacking yours. Beware of these people, but don’t engage. Engaging feeds a fire that is better left to simmer on it’s own. You do you, boo.
I think the biggest lesson that’s come out of all these little ones is that staying true to myself, and what I value as my purpose, has to come above all other things. Doing my job when I’m not in top form doesn’t do anyone good. Not only do I lack energy and intuition with my clients, they don’t draw the same value from my side of the deal. It’s okay to step back and rejuvenate once in a while, and it’s even more important to do regular maintenance on yourself to prevent burn out on ongoing fatigue. Self care is a huge enhancement to your business!
Living and learning, everyday. I’m still completely enamoured by my career and excited to see what’s coming in the next few years. Every year comes with new exciting developments (every week, sometimes!).
“The tranquility that comes when you stop caring what they say. Or think, or do. Only what you do. (Is this fair? Is this the right thing to do?)…. Not to be distracted by their darkness. To run straight for the finish line, unswerving.” -Marcus Aurelius.
I had one of those moments the other day. Those existential crisis moments, laying in my bathtub, mostly submerged- escaping the clanking of my pipes and finding the questions deep in my mind.
I’d just read my tuition bill. For one online course, they wanted $750. It made me ask the hard stuff- like: why didn’t I just take this class in high school? Surely there’s another option… Do I need to pursue this? I’d probably be content without this pursuit, wouldn’t I? And this lead to the deeper questions of: What is my purpose? What am I doing with my life? And, Does any of this really matter?
We all need those moments every once in a while, right?
2016 came to a close and 2017 came in. My past year has been a year full of soul searching and following my gut instinct.
Someone pointed out to me at one point this year that it seemed like I was running constantly away from home. I didn’t disagree- and for quite a while I definitely viewed it as trying desperately to get away from the familiar pattern here, the inescapables and the constants. Now, as 2016 ended, I have realized that there’s comfort and security in the same olds. The connections that don’t change, but grow with whatever distance or variances put into them. Evolution happens with adaptability, everything is a constant ebb and flow. You can’t control it, so let your soul ride the waves. Yes- I realize I sound like a hippy.
Everywhere I followed my gut, I found some new revelation, a release and a epiphany and a development. My “second brain” as science now calls it took me first to a new apartment, on my own for the first time, all of 11 blocks from where I had been living. It lead me out of the cocoon I’d kept myself in all winter, and helped me to break free first of the comfort zone I’d gotten stuck in.
Then my gut and I fought a little as I had to go to Calgary for my second national exam, but we came back to an agreement when I flew to Virginia for the remainder of June. Virginia brought me tough conversations (over wine, of course), and new bonds. While basking in the humidity of the south I took my first breath free from the restrictions I was finally starting to see in my home life. I lived with the chronic pain of another and saw life from different eyes- I did yoga on the beach and I visited haunted houses. I searched for a MSc. that fit what I wanted, and then realized I had no idea what I really wanted academically. I hiked, and I visited some of the oldest places in America. I walked for 12hrs around DC and had a staring contest with Lincoln.
Then, I flew home. I came back a little more centered. I came home, feeling like I’d also left home. I came home, feeling like I needed to leave again.
Shortly after Virginia, after a few hustled weeks of work at home, I few to California, to a conference that was screaming my name. My gut pushed for this, and I listened (my credit card and my gut are not the best of friends…..yet……). I filled my brain with new ideas and inspiration, I walked on the beach, and I did yoga on the coast with my Airbnb host. I took myself on the subway to Hollywood, did a 8hr hike in the desert (without enough electrolytes), stood on top of the Hollywood Sign, got mad heat stroke, wandered around hollywood very sweaty and dehydrated, went to a wax museum and found a ride home with a Winnipeg producer who was on the same bus tour as me (yes, I took a ride from a stranger.. no, I did not get kidnapped or murdered). I flew home full of inspiration, but with more questions sitting on the surface. The linear lifestyle and social constructs I’d been raised were breaking down, the more I listened to my gut instincts, the more choices and textbook philosophies started to not line up. Things took on different perspectives, emotions different light, and relationships different tunes. Everything was both beginning to not make sense, but make perfect sense. And so I came home and waited. I came home feeling like I needed to wait and see what was next, for the first time in a long time, instead of making something happen. I came home with patience. I came home to my exam results- I was officially a certified Athletic Therapist.
Shortly after returning from California I was presented with an opportunity that fit exactly what I was waiting for.
Nepal. Trekking through the Himalayas. Everest.
With 3weeks notice I took off to Nepal. There I found new appreciation for being with what is. It was what many may call an unintended spirit quest. I reached points of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that only opened and broke down barriers in my sub-conscious. I had necessary conversations with parts of my soul in my dreams every night. I delved so deep within that when I came home again I was serene. Tranquil. I had reached a point where this reality didn’t effect me anymore. It didn’t cause stress, nor did it influence my emotions. I had found my centre and it held strong. The mountain reflected what I needed to see and feel within myself. It flushed my whole being and left me raw, renewed. I came home solidified in my own being, and thus lost the need to be influenced by anything other then my own intuition.
The serenity and the tranquility that I found after wandering through the Himalayas, literally breathless, has never really left. Although it’s faded, it is there when I need it and I know exactly how to find it. The day to day ins and outs of being a twenty something, running a couple businesses, and figuring out life and what I want out of it and need to take from this reality are still there. However, the sense of meditative perception has taken over. The small things that can turn into big stressors have ceased to exist. There is, and there isn’t. People come and people go, as do emotions. The ability to sit and observe all these things, without judgement of whatever comes up inside me- that is the biggest lesson taken from 2016. I followed my soul wherever it wandered, and because of that I am so much closer, and comfortable within it.
A few months after Nepal I took a brief trip to Toronto for some meetings and had a spotlight put on a new path. Another mountain, perhaps, to reflect a new lesson to be learned. This new possibility has influenced many decisions made near the end of 2016, and lead to many of these existential moments where I float and let myself sink back to my soul centre. What is this life for, who do I want to be, and how do I want to accomplish that.
Purpose is something a lot of us struggle with. I’ve come to realize that finding your purpose can’t be forced. It’s not a series of actions you can complete to eventually come to a conclusion of “yes, this is what I’m meant to be doing”. It’s more of learning to trust your curiosities and your questions. It’s following your gut when it tells you yes or no or maybe. It’s biding your time and taking opportunities. It’s having patience and insane drive all at once. It’s not something you need to find, it’s something you have to let find you- and then not be afraid to let it take you someplace else. This life, this reality, is not linear- so why try and find a straight line?
The chapter of 2016 was absolutely riveting. As always, I do not know what’s in store for 2017- but I am greatly anticipating writing it!
‘Tis the season for joint pain- especially low back pain. With all the business of the holidays we inherently spend more time rushing to and fro, sitting and visiting, and taking less care of ourselves.
It’s the time of year where I start to get more complaints from my clients and patients about nagging back pain, and/or “throwing” their backs out.
It’s a common complaint no matter what time of the year, but in the cold, slippery months that accompany the beginning of winter- it becomes more and more frequent. Whether it’s from slipping on ice, lifting heavy boxes, spending too many hours driving or standing, sleeping in different places, or just stress and tension. The last thing we want during the holidays is to be laid up with pain.
So- what do you do when you experience that pain, or that incident that causes the back complaints?
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A client messaged me today. A training client turned therapy client who had begun training telling me a long history of his shoulder pain/injury. Initially I offered that I was also a therapist and we could do some specific work for the shoulder- but they dismissed that as they had already “tried more then 6 therapists and nothing had worked”. I left it at that and focused our training sessions to “shoulder friendly” and preventative upper body work alongside the total body workouts.
Weeks passed, and finally I got fed up with the complaining around the plateaued shoulder pain. I informed them we’d be doing therapy that day instead of a training session. Just to see.
And so, today I receive a message. This is a week after I treated him. Once. For shoulder tendonitis.
The message expressed shock at how his shoulder no longer hurt. Shock because they’d tried so many…
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I jolted awake at 2am,at 5200masl, and noticed I had drooled blood all over my sweater (lululemon took a beating on this trek). Had my lip split? Was I coughing up blood in my sleep? Did I have a pulmonary edema as a result of altitude sickness?
With no other symptoms, my hypochondriac brain was mildly too tired to overreact and frankly well past caring- I let myself drift back off to the oxygen deprived sleep I’d come from. Living in the alternate reality of the Diamox dreams. What was I going to do about it anyway?
The rest of my group trekked to Kalapathar that day, starting at 4:30am. I was too sick and too tired to bother- knowing that the point of the hike was to see a panoramic sunrise view of the Everest range, and it was dead cloudy anyway. By the time they got back around 9am, I had only been awake for an hour, but seen the Everest range from the bathroom window. My body said no, and my mind followed suit. The stories of hallucination from my trekking mates were entertaining, but I was happy I continued hallucinating within my dreams that morning instead!
After breakfast that day we began our descent. Our head guide was very anxious to get us down to lower altitudes, as every single one of us was starting to suffer- including himself. I only remember pieces of this day, but I do recall this being where I really started feeling extremes of emotion and pain. Also where I began using the “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra in my head. Compassion for inner and outer struggles, compassion for the journey- “the jewel within the lotus”, the light in the dark, the blessing from the curse. Moving slowly down from over 5000 back to around 4000 was physically challenging in a whole new way. Descending was always difficult in that it’s hard impact on all your joints- but now, after 10 days of trekking, every joint was a little bit louder. And, descending we were- but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any hills to climb. We stopped briefly in Lombouche for lunch (4500), but most of us had lost all appetite. I think I fell asleep at the table for a while. Then we carried on down to a small tea house a few hours down. I am currently calling this place “Yak House” because A) I can’t remember most of this day, B) I misdated my journal and skipped this day, and C) it was where we saw our first yak on the way up.
We spent the night here, and it was here where we experienced the first bathrooms we refused to use (we being Lisa and I), and instead used one of the many surrounding boulders. I believe it was this day that I began listening to music for the first time while trekking. The first day I did this on the descent I couldn’t stop smiling. This was likely a combination of increased oxygen to my brain and a good playlist.
The next morning we carried on towards Tengboche. The hardest part of this day was the incline up to the monastery which was about 30-45min. Again, more oxygen and music kept me pumping all the way up. Before we joined a worship with the resident monks, we had a few hours off in which we got to each lunch and I TOOK MY FIRST SHOWER IN 7 DAYS!!!!!! Finally, I started to feel human again. I also had my first “steak” here- which was basically ground meat in the shape of a steak.. Regardless.. protein and iron.. two things I was definitely craving.
That afternoon we joined in on a worship in the monastery. Since it was a Saturday, they did a 2hr long meditation. This was very different from any meditation or worship I’ve experienced. Complete with chanting, horns, drums, and silences (usually ended with startling blares from the numerous horns). During the periods I was able to meditate I transitioned between flashbacks to a conflict I’d had a year or so prior to this, moments of pure calmness, and moments of unsettledness. Flashing back to memories of feeling isolated, alone, scared- but also calm. A conflict that had never really been resolved within myself or the other person within it. Then during periods of the loud music I saw colours.. red, yellow flashes. Warm, but chaotic. It was a very cyclical process, and I can’t say that I came out of it feeling peaceful or settled- rather quite the opposite.
We were now sitting at just over 3200masl, a much nicer altitude then what we’d become accustomed to. That night I dreamt I was being circled and chased by a darkness. It was always watching, always waiting to attack- completely out of my control. I woke up periodically shivering, even though it wasn’t cold.
Over the next few days I would learn that I was not the only one to experience that dream at that monastery.
The next morning I woke up with an anger I hadn’t ever experienced. I couldn’t spend any time in the guest house, and as soon as breakfast had ended I took myself outside to pace. I felt suffocated and a deep need to get away from everyone and the monastery.
As soon as the group started our descent to Namche that day, I had my ear phones in and didn’t talk to anyone for the next 3 hr trek. As much as some parts of this trek are hazy, the pure rage I felt this day is still clear as day. I don’t know where it came from, but I do understand it was something I probably needed to let go of. Since my return home there’s been some interesting revelations and emotional adjustments that I can only explain with the rage I felt on this day, and the calm I felt after letting it out.
We spent a few hours back in Namche, shopping and what not, before continuing our way down to our final tea house on the long trek. It was here I tried some Nepal home brew- which tasted like watered down Kool-Aid and Antifreeze (really, still confused about that). At this point everyone was a strong mix of unbelievably fatigued, but also so excited to be pretty much done. We had a celebration that night, complete with dancing.
The next day, the last trekking day, we returned to Lukla. This was our first day of constant rain, and our “waterproof” gear failed every test. So did the zippers on my backpack a few days prior. So, completely soaked and entirely empty- we landed at the tea house where we started it all. When my football coaches saw the picture of me below- they stated “holy sh** we’ve never seen you look that exhausted before…”. They knew me in University as an AT student. Everest you win!
And so we left Pheriche and headed to Lombouche.
I woke up with a worsening chest cold. While the views that morning were unbelievably, the air beautifully crisp- I felt like I was walking into quicksand with every step. The first hour or so of today’s short trek were on the flats- through small fresh glacial creeks, and on winding trails full of mountain shrubs and flowers. With the mist above and some sun peaking through. Even on these flats I was struggling to get enough air into my wheezing lungs.
We hiked through the flats, up and across a rushing glacial river (probably the sketchiest crossing yet), and then up and up to Lombouche which sits around 4900m. At about the 4700m mark I began experiencing the throbbing altitude headache many had already experienced on the trek. When I sat down in the lodge in Lombouche and had my vitals taken, my starting O2 levels sat at 56%. Luckily they rose to a comfortable 76% within the hour. That probably explained the headache.
While the rest of the group did a 100m+ acclimatization hike that afternoon, I sat it out and fell asleep with my legs resting up a wall. I had finished the morning’s hike with a very sore chest, very swollen legs (besides the compression socks I was wearing), and numb feet. It was all I could do to stay somewhat lucid at this point. You think you’ve experienced full physical, and mental exhaustion- until you reach this point. Then you find a whole new level.
Reading through my journal entries at this point some of them don’t even form complete thought processes or sentences. I don’t remember much of anything above 5000masl. I remember exhaustion, I remember coughing, I remember everything being completely depleted, I remember losing all interest in the menu items available (white starch after white starch after white starch) and at one point realizing I hadn’t had any protein in days- ordering eggs- and immediately never wanting to see another fried egg ever again.
From Lombouche we continued up to Gorakschep (5180masl). Positive memories at this point are few and far between. I didn’t want to talk to anyone in my group, I came into the village about half hour behind the rest- back to my 5 steps at a time mentality but completely void of emotions. Somewhere around the 5000masl mark while trekking I started crying, and it felt like all emotions and cycling thought processes left me. Poured out of my heart like the glacial rivers we’d been following the whole 10 days. I cried behind my sunglasses as I became empty- and then I cried because I realized how badly I wanted to quit. The scenery, the mountains, THE mountain, the sherpas, the tourists, the monuments- I didn’t want to be in it anymore. I wanted to be done. The diamox dreams filled me with sadness and anger the night before- and I’d woken up sobbing two mornings in a row. Those altitude laden dreams were all related, all lucid, and all too real. They helped me resolve many things, and let go of emotional baggage- but boy could they be harsh.
When we arrived at Gorakshep we had a lunch break and then continued to Base Camp. The goal. Before setting off, in our two hour break, I honestly contemplated throwing in the towel. It was 10:30am where I was, and 2am home in MB. I’d been connectionless for about 7 days, and decided to use some cell service to source out some motivation. Texting a few close friends and my mom- hoping someone would bring my mental game back into focus. Thankfully I received one text right away (“HOLY S***- You have to keep going!!!”) from a friend I knew would be awake. And some reverse psychology from my mother (“If you’re sick, you should stop- you can always go back again and finish later”) That was enough to get me going for another few hours (my brain knew enough at this point to know that I didn’t want to have to start this whole journey over again out of principle).
We trudged along towards EBC (5350masl). Over the frozen, sandy lake bed and then over rock trails (literally- the actual trail had been washed out by that year’s monsoon and no longer really existed. In the picture above you can see one of our guides pointing at where we should place our feet on certain rocks. We got to the rocky plain that was base camp- took pictures- and I sat on a large boulder overlooking the glacier for a while. Literally with no thoughts. I just sat. I was empty. I’d made it- but at this point, I didn’t care. I was just happy to be sitting still and breathing.
Next post I’ll begin reliving the descent- because believe me, this trek only was starting to get interesting!
Namche to Pheriche (3500m-4220m). I thought getting to Namche was hard on the second day. Then I became accustomed to a rhythm of swear words for the next few days as we climbed up to Pheriche, our next acclimatization stop. Within this few days we stopped in Phortse, a farming village nestled into the side of a “hill”. It was here we saw our first glimpses of the mountains at about 5am.
Hiking to Pheriche we had our first mostly clear day, and since Dingboche (our original planned stop) was still closed for the monsoon season we took a detour to Pheriche where we witnessed the whole village collecting and drying grass for the winter season. I think this is where I started getting my first bouts of homesickness. At this point I’d been having vivid, enlightening dreams every single night (maybe due to the altitude and the diamox), and every morning was awaking to a new variation of an old emotion.
Pheriche was about 2 days away from base camp for us. We spent two nights in that village, and while I’d tried to maintain a solid regimen of my garlic soup daily- I began to absolutely never want to see garlic soup ever again here. So I switched to veggie soup with noodles, a brilliant, refreshing change…. and woke up to a chest infection the day we set out again towards the mountain. However at this point, I found myself recognizing some of the homesickness and straight up wifi withdrawal, with a dash of having to let emotions go one by one. I would discover this in the next couple days as the trek continued to absolutely kick my ass.
On our first morning in Pheriche we did an acclimatization hike to 4600masl. Well, I did 4600masl, the rest of my group went up to 4800masl. The guide decided I should just hang out around 4600masl and I wasn’t about to argue that. So we sat for about 40min overlooking a valley, Dingboche, and a monastery across the valley on an opposite “hill” while the group trekked up and then back to where we were. From here moving forwards I was heavily dosing myself with electrolytes, extra strength ibuprofen, and diamox to manage the altitude and the seven day mark of trekking 8-10hrs/day on minimal nutrition (#firstworldproblem). On average during the walking hours my heart rate was hovering between 160-190bpm.
On our last night in Pheriche, the Sherpa woman who ran the teahouse stood in the centre of the room by the fireplace while we chatted and finished dinner, counting and saying prayers of gratitude over her mala beads. I couldn’t help but notice what a calm energy filled the room after she finished.
Just as I was getting comfortable at 4200masl, onwards and upwards we went. The hike from Pheriche to our next stop in Lombouche broke down a few more mental and emotional barriers for me.. but more on that later…