Friday, November 14, 2008

Because the last thing I want to be is a down the mountain kind of person

I know dating is not climbing a mountain. And I know marriage is not the apex of life.

It's just that my recent marriage is the biggest thing in my world lately. Plus I have a tendency to be all jump up and down yippee! And having found someone, when after a million data points suggested that I would ultimately die alone, gave me faith for the world. Which I want to share.

But yesterday I started to wonder if I've gotten all advicey and cheerleadery and annoying.

Which would make me a down the mountain person. Which is absolutely not what I want to be.

Because here's the thing. A number of years ago, I did the Everest trek.

We didn't climb Mt. Everest. None of us were climbers, and in fact, I wasn't even a trekker. As you know, I prefer the nature through a window. This trip just kind of happened to me.

I was traveling in India and met these three hike-camp-great outdoors Americans, who tricked me into going trekking with them. Tricked is unfair. They invited me to join, and I said no. Nope. No thank you. I don't even hike.

In case you are wondering, it turned out that one of them had a grandmother who lived next door to Jane's grandmother in New Hampshire. I don't want you to think I am the kind of person who meets random strangers and traipses off to bordering countries willy nilly.

OK, maybe I am a little.

So anyway, I went to Kathmandu with them, and then they eased me into it. Why not get a trekking permit, just in case I changed my mind? And then we might as well buy boots, because I needed some anyway, because everyone needs hiking boots. And so on, up to the point of, just try it for a day! You can always turn around!

I stumbled blindly into it, and it wound up being the hardest, best thing I'd ever done. I'd do it again in a second.

But that's not the point of this.

We trekked almost to base camp. Which is a big deal in my world. Our highest point was Kala Pattar, which itself is 18,192 feet.

We walked for almost a month, in and out. We took an all-day bus from Kathmandu to Jiri, I think the name of the town was, where the road ends (or ended - it might extend further now). And then the next day, we started walking.

I don't know if you know much of anything about Nepal. I certainly didn't when we started. Basically, nothing is flat.

So you'd spend an entire day trekking up 3,000 feet.

Only to walk down 3,250 feet the next day. And you'd be all, goddammit! Now I have to go up that far tomorrow!

My thighs and ass, incidentally, were in kick-ass shape after that month.

And here I am getting closer to the point.

At the end of the day, you'd be so fucking tired. You'd have walked, with a pack on your back, for 8-10 hours, uphill (hill? mountain!) and down. You'd get to the tea house where you were staying at the end of the day, and be so happy to sit down.

And on our way up, what we discovered was this. The people who were on their way down were the ones staying up late and drinking beer and reveling. We, on the other hand, we were tending to our blisters, and having sensible dinner, and saving both our money and our energy.

What's more, when they learned that we were on our way up, they'd say things like, "It's really hard, but it's so worth it."

They were trying to be encouraging. They'd just done something so difficult, they'd done all the uphill, and now, they were in a good place. They'd trudged the same path we were trudging. They knew exactly what we felt like. They knew we were having an incredible experience that was only going to get better and better. They were happy to share. And they were also happy to be on the other side.

After a while, right or wrong, we got sick of it.

It got so annoying getting all this "we've been there and we know and it's going to be great" advice from strangers. We knew it was hard. We knew it would be worth it, and that on the way down, we'd be in the same position they were.

We also knew we were exhausted, and that the altitude made it hard to sleep, and that tomorrow might suck.

At some point, one of my friends had just had enough of the down the mountain people. He suggested we avoid them altogether.


"Listen," he said, "when we meet people, we simply say, "Up or down?"

Very simple. Up or down.

"And if they say, 'Down!' we say, 'Fuck you very much!' and move on."


  1. Wow, what a story. And experience. I'm honestly amazed. You're definitely not a "down the mountainer". Keep going in whatever direction you like :)

  2. This is hard to say without sounding insulting or condescending to every single person in the world, so if it does sound that way I'm really sorry. Anyways. So Lisa, the thing is, you're right it is amazing to find that person and it is one of those things that when you know you know and lastly yes it is about someone who is perfect -for- you not perfect, etc.

    All the things you said were absolutely true but until you find it and are in it, it sounds like annoying cheesy advice. That said, you say it better than most and with more credibility.

  3. I think it's very difficult to be an annoying "down" person if you know that it's possible to be an annoying "down" person. There are some people who could manage, I'm sure...

    But I have reason to believe that annoying people is not your forte. Impressing them? Making them smile? Sure. Annoying?


  4. FreckledK - Thank you for the wonderful words and the sentiment behind them. You know I heart you so very, very much.

    HKW - Oh, I do appreciate that. Sometimes my direction is sideways, and I always appreciate your support.

    Jo - I get exactly what you are saying, and you said it very constructively. This is precisely what I started worrying about, when I stepped a foot back from my sparkly bubble. I used to *hate* hearing it from people. Well, some people who really had faith for me, I almost believed. It ached, I wanted to believe so badly. But the random people who were all, "you'll meet him and you'll just know" I mostly just wanted to poke really hard in the eyes.

    Jessica - Hi, fellow uncloseted optimist! That is really good to hear. I hope it's not just because you are biased in my favor (which I am so happy to know you are).

  5. I've been trying to ease off the cheesy advice/schmoopiness as well. But it's hard. Because IT'S TRUE! IT'S TRUE! And all that noise.

    Maybe just a little is okay...

  6. that's quite possibly the best analogy i've ever heard for this. i don't think you're being too giddy on here, i also don't know that it's possible. if we didn't have people so happy coming down the mountain then no one would want to go up. i know that as a (legally) up the mtn. type i really look forward to becoming a down the mountainer myself! (sorry to butcher your analogy)

  7. OMG! I had no idea you did Kala Pattar! Hans Hermann’s Baekerei in Namche Bazaar! Thyangboche monastery! Canned quail eggs at Dingboche! Yak steaks! Chaang! RAKSHI! Man, if you can do that trek, no-one's allowed to tell you NOTHING.

  8. love your analogy! i feel like say fuck you very much to just about everyone these days, but now i feel a bit more justified in doing so...

  9. What an amazing time! And a great analogy.

    However, there are always going to be people who are in the stages of their climb where they need to be told it's worth it. So if you feel you're doing too much, back off a bit, but don't give it up completely. You will motivate someone.

    And good for you for climbing that mountain!!

  10. Also, much better to be "lala happy day whee" post-wedding than to feel down. I spent a month randomly crying over nothing, which, while I was deliriously happy, I was also an emotional wreck from having nothing to plan and focus on any longer. Sort of like post-partum depression, only I'm guessing not nearly as bad or real or scary. So keep up the happiness!

  11. You do have great analogies, and I love that you're happy and tell wonderful stories. To me, the difference is that you couldn't help but encounter the "down the mountain" types, while here on your blog, people seek you out. So if they don't like what you have to say, they can just go away for a while.

  12. I love this story - it is exactly what I needed today.

    I work with a building comprised (almost) entirely - save for 5-6 great people - whom I consider Down folks.

    And oh. my. God. did I want to say 'eff you very much' to a few today.

    Recap on the blog if you'd like to see for yourself how much they really do suck.

  13. Recently one of the women at my work said to me, "If I weren't married, and if I weren't straight, and if I weren't too old for you, you'd be exactly what I was looking for. I don't know what's wrong with the single men out there that they can't see it."

    This helped me more than what she said in the next breath, "But don't give up, and, I don't know, maybe don't try so hard." What Downers don't remember is that when you're hauling a pack up a mountain, you have to try, or you're going to slip and fall and give up. You totally get the trying, though, Lisa, and so thank you.

  14. Loved your story/analogy. Of course, you should be happy and express it! How appropriate!

  15. I am still most definitely in the "up the mountain" category. Although, at this point I no longer believe it is a mountain as much as an infinitely high granite wall that I am uselessly battering myself against. I realize that, at 22 years, I am still very young but when my first real relationship ended with the guy calling me on the phone to tell me that I wasn't worth it and the second ended (a week and a half ago) with a walk in which I was told that he is now seeing someone else, it's probably understandable.

    And then I come across a post like this, which describes quite well the way I feel when people in wonderful relationships try to cheer me up. And, although it doesn't make me feel better or more hopeful, it does make me realize that, in a while, I might feel better and more hopeful.

    So, thank you very much for that.

  16. I'm impressed that you can make an analogy with a real-life Mt. Everest connection. And just when I thought no one could possibly be tricked into something like trekking Everest, the Onion offers this:

  17. LiLu - Big hugs to you!

    notsojenny - You didn't butcher. I appreciate it!

    Jordaan - Chaang! I haven't thought about chaang in years! We drank SO much of it on the way down!!!

    k - You are justified. You are.

    Sarah - Thank you thank you! What lovely things to say! I have heard that a lot about post-wedding.

    browneyedgirlie - Argh. And it takes a lot of tongue biting when you can't say eff you very much.

    Alex - I feel you. And your irritation is valid. I always hated when people would say things like that. What the fuck do people want you to do? Not try?

    lacochran - Thank you! :)

    Christine - I am so, so sorry. That's extremely crappy behavior on both their parts. I can totally understand why you'd feel the way you currently do. It's not forever, but I do know that it sucks a lot of ass at the time.

    Girl With Curious Hair - Excellent! Thank you!


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