Tag Archives: David Breashears

Climbing Mt. Motherhood– My Hillary Step

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A view of Mt. Everest, taken without permission from the inter webs…  didn’t look copywriten and there was no artist name…  so if this is your photo, please don’t sue.  xo!

The Hillary Step is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice at the top of Mt. Everest.  It lies in the “death zone,” the altitude above which there is not enough oxygen to sustain human life for more than a day or two.  By the time most climbers get to this point on Earth’s tallest mountain, their brains and bodies are starved for oxygen, making every step a burden.  Hypoxia can cause climbers to hallucinate, opening the door to danger, disaster, and death.

Or so I have read.

For the record, I have never been to Everest.  Nor do I climb mountains.  Ice, snow, and heights are so not my thing.  But over the past decade, I have become obsessed with stories of mountaineering, and read a dozen books on Himalayan expeditions.

What strength and hubris do climbers possess to scale a 29,000 foot mountain?  How do men and women leave their cozy homes and beloved families to put their lives into risk of dismemberment and death?  The tales of survival and rescue are grizzly, but also spellbinding and suspenseful.

I am also fascinated by the Sherpa.  This Buddhist folk has a rich and mystical culture. Without their hearty endurance for high altitude while carrying huge loads of gear and supplies, ascent of Everest would be impossible.

These stories take me out of my element to an exotic locale where I will most likely never travel.

At least not physically.

Mentally and emotionally, I think of Thursdays as my Hillary Step- my last big push before the summit of Friday, and the descent into the base camp of the weekend, where I can breathe a little easier.

Thursdays are my long day.  I kiss the kids good bye and do not see them for 11 hours.  By the time I get home, around 7:30 pm, the children are exhausted.  Both they and my husband are grumpy.  I am hungry and tired myself, but set that aside to help finish homework, nurse, read stories, and kiss good night.

I wonder what David Breashears, acclaimed mountaineer, film maker, and author of some my favorite Everest books, would say about me comparing my life as a working mom to scaling an 8,000 meter mountain?  No doubt, he would call me an “Armchair Alpinist,” or something of the like, with a haughty snort.  (Mr. Breashears, by the way, if you have googled yourself and hit on my blog, I think you are sexy as all hell and would love to shake your hand, even if you are snorting haughtily at me!)

This much I understand:  There is monumental mindfulness in mountaineering.

Climbers are totally in the present moment.  A climber puts his or her life, and the lives of anyone else on the mountain, at risk if they are not completely aware of their breath, body, and surrounding at every moment.  A misstep could trigger an avalanche or send them plummeting thousands of feet to their death.

My office is plastered with calendar pictures of Hawaii.  I have trained my brain to respond to a quick glance of these pictures of surf and palm trees with a little endorphin boost, to help me through stressful times.  Hawaii is my “happy place,” without a doubt.

But sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine myself clinging to a blue wall of ice and snow.  There is peace, silence but for the sound of my breath, raspy in my oxygen mask.  I hold on and calculate where next to plunge my axe, place my crampon.  I do so, with great deliberation, and then slide my carabiner up the fixed-rope, open my eyes, and move on to my next task.  (Yes, Mr. Breashears, in my imagination, I do climb with bottled oxygen and fixed-ropes. Mock away.)

So, no, people do not die if I happen to screw up at my job or in my home.  The only avalanche in social work is of paperwork, and at home the only thing I have resembling a crevasse is my never-ending pile of laundry.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t equally important for me to be mindful of each and every step.

From what I understand, there is euphoria at the top of the mountain, and joy in the art of climbing.  But this is not to say that every moment on the mountain is a joy. I’ve never read any climber write that they relished a bivouac at 27,000 feet with 100 mile per hour winds whipping around their tent, sleepless in minus 30 degree temps.

If that isn’t analogous to my journey as a parent, then I don’t know what is.

Originally posted on Momaste 1/21/13.  Sharing again at this time as a Throwback Thursday post because it just seems particularly applicable.  Thanks for reading, and I always love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!  xoxo.

Siri, what is the purpose of fantasy?

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How on earth did a gal get any of her existential questions answered before Siri and Google?  Not only are there a million answers out there for every question I could possibly ask, but Google knows me so well he actually finishes my search sentences for me!

I got to thinking, and searching, about the purpose of fantasy this past weekend.  During my (less than) extensive searches on the interwebs, I read in the online mag Psychologies  a survey from the University of Minnesota found that 80% of people would rather tell you about an embarrassing situation in their life than to reveal their fantasy or daydream.

I must be in the other 20% because I am about to tell you about what I was fantasizing this past weekend.

Ugh.  Here we go.

At one point over the past weekend we actually had the boy out of the house on a play date, and the baby down for a two and a half hour nap.  I got to sit in front of the TV and drool for a bit.  As a working mom, this two and a half hours of tele-time could have been my fantasy in and of itself, but I actually got to watch two of my favorite episodes from one of my all time favorite shows, House, MD.  

Back when House was on prime time, I was a huge fan of the medical drama (and of Hugh Laurie. . .  omg, those blue eyes. . .  ).  I loved the mysterious cases that would present themselves at Princeton Plansboro Hospital, and how the misanthropic Dr. Gregory House would methodically solve each and every one.  It is no exaggeration to say I have seen each episode at least three times, because I will also watch House in syndication like there is no tomorrow, as evidenced by my little binge this past weekend.

Something about the bad-boy Dr. House just makes me feel weird and warm and squishy.  Yes, he is damaged.  He is a drug addict who lacks empathy, a total narcissist who cares only about his own pleasure and the obsession of solving the puzzle before him.  He is willing to stomp on the liberties of anyone who stands in his way.

It got me thinking about how I’ve always been obsessed with guys who range from being aloof and unattainable to straight up bad boys:  Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, Sawyer from Lost, Steve Martin in the Jerk, rugged mountaineer David Breashears, that married man I dated in college. . .  but I digress.  Like any “good girl” who is infatuated with a “bad boy,” I can’t help but think, if only I could “fix” him.  For me the allure of being involved with a bad boy has to do with feeling power I would have to captivate and change him.  In reality this never happens; people don’t change unless they are heartily motivated, hence all of this being a fantasy.

It just so happens I married a man who is possibly the nicest person on the planet.  He is kind to all sentient beings to the point of being unwilling to kill an ant on our kitchen counter.  He is a loving, involved parent and partner who splits all chores with me 50/50.  He happens to be very handsome, with amazing amber eyes.

He also puts up with me, which is no small feat on some most days.

So, despite my fantasies of the surly and detached genius who was born with a heart three sizes too small, everything worked out okay for me in the relationship department.

The few hours I spent over the weekend in a hazy House reverie got me to thinking about why we fantasize, and if I am cheating on my quest towards mindfulness when I do partake in the occasional daydream about those icy, blue eyes (have I mentioned the eyes?!)

Siri couldn’t answer my question, but she did search the web for me.  I browsed Wikipedia and got some answers from Freud and Lacan, which once upon a time when I was studying psychoanalytic criticism in college I could have made sense of.  These days, my mommy-brain resonates more with some of the answers I got from other blogs and from articles in the New Yorker online.  The answers I found ranged from fantasy being a helpful tool for problem solving, to an escape from boredom, to a symptom of narcissism.

The general consensus seems to be that daydreaming or fantasy is a normal and common event.  Anecdotally, I can tell you that most women of my age and station have what is called a “mommy-crush”.  I knew one woman (not me, I swear!) who even fantasized about the children’s singer Raffi (okay, maybe it was me).  So, I asked Siri to do a little digging for me on “mommy-crushes.”

An article in Parents.com says mother’s of young children are particularly “vulnerable” to crushing.  Dr. Barry McCarthy says, “they’re overworked, perhaps not getting as much attention from their busy spouses as they’d like, and probably not feeling particularly sexy.  When you have a crush on somebody, it suddenly validates that you’re still a passionate, desirable woman– not just someone’s mom.”  Bingo!

This article helped me bring my daydreaming back around to mindfulness, being more aware of how I am feeling about myself, and how my insecurities or stress may make me detach from reality for a bit.

All in all, I think the moments I spent crushing on the good (bad) doctor this past weekend were harmless, and pleasantly-well-spent, since now I know a little more about fantasy and daydreaming.

And now, back to reality.

What purpose does fantasy serve for you?  Do you think it helps you in any way?  Do you have any mommy (or daddy) crushes?  If so, who are they and why do you think you crush on them?  

 

Climbing Mt. Motherhood– My Hillary Step

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Today is the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s heroic first summit of Mt. Everest. I wrote this post a few months back about how being a working mom is sort of like being a Himalayan mountaineer. On this monumental anniversary, I would like to repost it, since I have had Everest on the brain, and it is one of my favorite posts. . . also, I am exhausted and can’t think of anything else to write about Everest that has to do with motherhood and mindfulness. Sigh.

I read an article today about how Everest has become a trash heap. Tourists have polluted one of the world’s pristine and majestic landmarks. This makes me so sad, that people have not cared more for this sacred mountain.

The Sherpa call Everest Chomolungma, which means Goddess Mother of Mountains. Until Europeans came to their land, it never even occurred to these deeply spiritual native people to try to climb this Great Goddess.

It is something to think about- humanity has sullied Everest with not only their foot prints, but also with huge amounts of trash, thousands of empty bottles of oxygen, piles of human excrement, and dead bodies.

In the words of the illustrious Butthead, “Life is hard, Beavis.”

Seriously, though, I will always regard this mountain with nothing less than utter amazement. I hope people can get their act together to stop trying to kill the Goddess Mother of Mountains.

Happy Hillary Step Day.

momaste

The Hillary Step is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice at the top of Mt. Everest.  It lies in the “death zone,” the altitude above which there is not enough oxygen to sustain human life for more than a day or two.  By the time most climbers get to this point on Earth’s tallest mountain, their brains and bodies are starved for oxygen, making every step a burden.  Hypoxia can cause climbers to hallucinate, opening the door to danger, disaster, and death.

Or so I have read.

For the record, I have never been to Everest.  Nor do I climb mountains.  Ice, snow, and heights are so not my thing.  But over the past decade, I have become obsessed with stories of mountaineering, and read a dozen books on Himalayan expeditions.

What strength and hubris do climbers possess to scale a 29,000 foot mountain?  How do men and women…

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Of Moms, Mountains, and Music- “Small Steps”

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If you read my previous post, Climbing Mt. Motherhood– My Hillary Step, you know that, as usual, I have mountains on my mind.

A musician-dude named Rob read my post and commented that he has a band called The Hillary Step.  Rob told me about a song he thought would resonate with me called “Small Steps.”  He sent the song to me via email.

Oh, little blog, we have yet to commune about my enduring love for music.

In college, I modeled for an art professor from Brown who kept a steady stream of tunes playing throughout the class.  He introduced me to Bolly Sagoo, and I introduced him to Bjork.  He taught a class in his basement where the walls were stacked with piles of his drawings, cassette tapes, and records.  The basement was musty and triggered my allergies, but I escaped in whatever he was playing and hardly noticed any discomfort.

Although my art-modeling goes back 18 years, I remember this professor say he could always justify purchasing music because of its priceless therapeutic quality.  Music is as nourishing as food.  I remember him saying this every time I spend money on music I can’t afford (itunes, anyone?).

Since then, I have been avidly collecting music of all styles.  So, the gift of a song from someone I have never met is very special.

Rob sent me a link to The Hillary Step’s website.  I encourage you to check them out either at http://www.thehillarystep.com or on itunes.  I listened to a few songs that had catchy titles- “Quietness of Love,” “Stars & Butterflies,” “Neon Road,” and “Breathe Again,” to name a few.

The Hillary Step has a crystal-clear, jammin’ melody.  Their songs are lyrical and lovely.  Rob has a tender, James Taylor-y voice.  You can imagine every girl in the room totally swooning over him as soon as he opens his mouth.

I listened to “Small Steps,” the song he sent me, about a dozen times.  Every time I listen to it, it grows on me a little more.  The refrain is, “Small steps move you, small steps over the mountain, and small steps will bring you home.”  The words are sung in a mantra-like way that does indeed resonate.

A total stranger sending me a song was an incredible kindness that got me through some moments this week.

For example, this morning I had to take my car into the shop for repairs on my breaks.  It ended up being almost twice what I expected to pay.

Not much could sugar-coat my nasty mood this week.  I’m in a grouchy, dark place, and it is taxing to move my body off the couch.  Sometimes I can redirect such a fowl humor by thinking, “well, we’ve got our health,” or by listening to the news about Syria.  That was not working for me today as I perseverated on life’s many  expenses.  But a responsible mom gets her brakes fixed, so I dropped off the car and put in my ear buds for the short walk home.

I cued up “Small Steps.”

The music was loud and I walked in time to it, through the dusting of snow we got last night, a fine, sparkly powder.  As I walked, I allowed myself to let go of some of my frustration and anger and revel in the beauty of the snow.  The music was almost hypnotic.  At about 12 degrees fahrenheit, my face and fingers froze in moments, but there was exhilaration in the cold that allowed me to imagine that I was trundling through the Himalaya.

We don’t live far from the station where I left my car; I was home in the time it took to listen to Rob’s song.

When I went back later to get my car, the mechanic informed me I will also need rear brakes in a month or so.  Through gritted teeth, I thanked him and drove away.  So, there is another expense on my horizon.  I may have to log onto itunes and buy some more music to get me through.  In the mean time, “Small Steps” will be my theme song.  I will keep putting one foot in front of another, hoping to get up and down my mountains.

Thank you, Rob, and The Hillary Step.

What songs help to keep you going?  How do you manage to get up and down your mountains, or dispel an angry mood?  Do you have any tricks that adjust your attitude during difficult times?  

Climbing Mt. Motherhood– My Hillary Step

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Mt. Everest

A stunning view of Mt. Everest. Photo taken from the interwebs without permission, but it didn’t look copy written, so. . . it’s all good?

The Hillary Step is a 40-foot wall of rock and ice at the top of Mt. Everest.  It lies in the “death zone,” the altitude above which there is not enough oxygen to sustain human life for more than a day or two.  By the time most climbers get to this point on Earth’s tallest mountain, their brains and bodies are starved for oxygen, making every step a burden.  Hypoxia can cause climbers to hallucinate, opening the door to danger, disaster, and death.

Or so I have read.

For the record, I have never been to Everest.  Nor do I climb mountains.  Ice, snow, and heights are so not my thing.  But over the past decade, I have become obsessed with stories of mountaineering, and read a dozen books on Himalayan expeditions.

What strength and hubris do climbers possess to scale a 29,000 foot mountain?  How do men and women leave their cozy homes and beloved families to put their lives into risk of dismemberment and death?  The tales of survival and rescue are grizzly, but also spellbinding and suspenseful.

I am also fascinated by the Sherpa.  This Buddhist folk has a rich and mystical culture. Without their hearty endurance for high altitude while carrying huge loads of gear and supplies, ascent of Everest would be impossible.

These stories take me out of my element to an exotic locale where I will most likely never travel.

At least not physically.

Mentally and emotionally, I think of Thursdays as my Hillary Step- my last big push before the summit of Friday, and the descent into the base camp of the weekend, where I can breathe a little easier.

Thursdays are my long day.  I kiss the kids good bye and do not see them for 11 hours.  By the time I get home, around 7:30 pm, the children are exhausted.  Both they and my husband are grumpy.  I am hungry and tired myself, but set that aside to help finish homework, nurse, read stories, and kiss good night.

I wonder what David Breashears, acclaimed mountaineer, film maker, and author of some my favorite Everest books, would say about me comparing my life as a working mom to scaling an 8,000 meter mountain?  No doubt, he would call me an “Armchair Alpinist,” or something of the like, with a haughty snort.  (Mr. Breashears, by the way, if you have googled yourself and hit on my blog, I think you are sexy as all hell and would love to shake your hand, even if you are snorting haughtily at me!)

This much I understand:  There is monumental mindfulness in mountaineering.

Climbers are totally in the present moment.  A climber puts his or her life, and the lives of anyone else on the mountain, at risk if they are not completely aware of their breath, body, and surrounding at every moment.  A misstep could trigger an avalanche or send them plummeting thousands of feet to their death.

My office is plastered with calendar pictures of Hawaii.  I have trained my brain to respond to a quick glance of these pictures of surf and palm trees with a little endorphin boost, to help me through stressful times.  Hawaii is my “happy place,” without a doubt.

But sometimes, I close my eyes and imagine myself clinging to a blue wall of ice and snow.  There is peace, silence but for the sound of my breath, raspy in my oxygen mask.  I hold on and calculate where next to plunge my axe, place my crampon.  I do so, with great deliberation, and then slide my carabiner up the fixed-rope, open my eyes, and move on to my next task.  (Yes, Mr. Breashears, in my imagination, I do climb with bottled oxygen and fixed-ropes. Mock away.)

So, no, people do not die if I happen to screw up at my job or in my home.  The only avalanche in social work is of paperwork, and at home the only thing I have resembling a crevasse is my never-ending pile of laundry.  But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t equally important for me to be mindful of each and every step.

From what I understand, there is euphoria at the top of the mountain, and joy in the art of climbing.  But this is not to say that every moment on the mountain is a joy. I’ve never read any climber write that they relished a bivouac at 27,000 feet with 100 mile per hour winds whipping around their tent, sleepless in minus 30 degree temps.

If that isn’t analogous to my journey as a parent, then I don’t know what is.