Wednesday, May 29, 2013


With many things in life, you will reach a point where the word “can’t” is a wall that you hit. You will feel like you truly CAN’T keep going – that you can’t do it mentally, physically, or any other kind of –ally. It is in those moments you learn a lot about yourself. What is your reaction to that seemingly solid, impenetrable wall of what you can’t do?

On a canyoneering trip this last weekend, things didn’t exactly go as planned. We got out of the canyon and into the Narrows much later than planned, so our 3 hour hike through the water (ranging from ankle-deep to waist-deep) was done in the dark. This meant being cold, unable to see the bottom of the river and the rocks we were navigating over, and unsure of our exact location. After about two hours of this – and multiple falls into the cold water, lots of banged toes, and the mental strain of not knowing how much longer this all would last – we finally hit a landmark we recognized… and this land mark was an hour from the end.

I was crushed. I had been getting by this whole time by telling myself that the end was just around the next corner… then the next one… just a little further… we’ll be done any minute now.. and so on. So while my companions were glad to finally know where we were, I was ready to just fall down and die at the thought of doing this for another hour. My toes were bruised and bloody, I was soaked and freezing, and my headlamp was dying so my visibility was awful. Several times over the course of a few minutes I could feel tears come on, prayers of pleading escape my lips, and temper tantrums form just under the surface. I thought of helicopters rescuing us, of being carried out, of any other option than having to keep going. “I can’t” was the predominant thought. “I truly can’t keep going.”

But of course that wasn’t an option. And neither was bawling, or screaming, or dying, or anything but continuing to stumble down the river. And eventually we reached the end.

Now I didn’t have a major epiphany at the end where I was so glad that I had gone through this trial and I had such a feeling of accomplishment and I wished I could do it again. I was still cold and miserable and I will never willingly do that to myself again. But I learned a lot about what I was able to do when “can’t” wasn’t an option. And it made me think a lot about the times where I surrender to “can’t” because it IS an option… and what I could do if I stopped letting “can’t” get in my way.

I also learned a lot about the people whose company I was in – their reactions to those same circumstances really humbled me. It was inspiring to see people being so strong, to see positive attitudes emerge and hear words of encouragement being uttered. Rather than seeing people giving into the wave of negative reactions that I know I was on the brink of, I witnessed amazing strength and positivity.

What do you do when “can’t” overwhelms you? Do you let yourself stop? When you are on that long run, do you slow down and start walking? Or do you push through and deal with the pain? Chris McCormack, an amazing athlete, talks about it as managing pain – do you embrace it for what it is, or do you let it ruin you and the experience you might gain?

Which kind of person are you? And more importantly, which kind of person do you WANT to be?

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