Do Hard Things
If you ask me to list my all-time favorite call outs, the list will include two types of missions: fun and hard.
Fun calls include zipping across the lake on a PWC on a bluebird summer afternoon and pulling an attractive girl from the water moments before she sinks below the waves where her boat sank. She would catch her breath, discover a brand new perspective on life, and we would become fast friends on the ride back to the marina with her arms wrapped tightly around my waist. We would go on a picnic that weekend, fall madly in love, and live happily ever after.
Nothing remotely like this has ever happened, of course, but I won’t complain if it ever does.
Hard calls are not always fun. Their rewards come at the expense of fatigue, endurance, and technical challenges. They may include rushing up tall, steep mountains in dark, inclement weather, carrying a heavy pack filled with ropes, hardware, medical and survival gear on my back. They may include severely wounded victims who we must quickly transport through challenging terrain, knowing they will die if we don’t. They may include ————.
I didn’t always like hard things. I wanted everything easy and comfortable – who doesn’t? But then something happened. I did hard things because I could not avoid them, and I learned. I changed my mind. I discovered the deep, exciting, satisfying appeal of the word “challenge.”
Sometimes the reward of difficult things comes after the fact. When I reached the 13,770’ summit of the Grand Teton after climbing the full Exuum Ridge, for example, I had a splitting headache from dehydration. I looked down at Lupine Meadows and the anticipated elation did not materialize. I merely felt tired and uncomfortable.
While planning the expedition, I often wished aloud that the Grand was 35’ taller to make it the highest point in the state. As I sat down on the summit block, I thought, “This is high enough.”
After dropping 7,000’ and slowly swinging my 45 pound pack from my stiff and sore shoulders, after taking a short nap in the shade while waiting for the rest of the climbing party to catch up, and after climbing into the car and starting down the highway toward home, I looked up. I saw what we had just accomplished. I noticed how thick the air was below 7,000’, that I no longer had to catch my breath after a drink of water or saying a long sentence.
And I felt good. Happy. Satisfied. Hard things, at least if they’re also worthwhile things, are rewarding.
Becoming converted to doing hard things doesn’t mean I actively seek out difficulty and danger, but perhaps I’m wrong and my perspective has grown skewed. After solo climbing an extremely steep route 7,000’ up Mount Timpanogos one spring, a friend asked me if it was hard. “No,” I replied, “you just have to keep going.”
“You never think anything’s hard,” he responded, “unless you can barely do it.”
Maybe so. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I hardly know the meaning of the word “hard” anymore. If that’s true, I can’t say that I mind such delusion.
…that said, life *is* hard. There are things I can barely do, or at least they take time. A lot more time than I ever expected. But I’m doing them. I’m keeping going. I will come out on top!!!!!!!!!