LIFE IS AN UPHILL BATTLE Celebrating Struggles and Successes on National Mountain Climbing Day
Did you know that Aug. 1 is National Mountain Climbing Day? Though some people assume Nevada is all desert, we have no shortage of mountains here, and hearing about the holiday immediately reminded me of all of the memorable climbing outings I’ve had over the years. While many of those involved trekking real trails, others were — and still are — metaphorical uphill struggles. They’ve all been difficult, but I think every mountain I’ve faced has made me a stronger person and a better lawyer. When I was involved with the Boy Scout troop here in Reno 14 years ago, a lot of those mountains were literal. We had some tough outings, and I couldn’t believe how out of shape I felt. It was a real struggle for me to get up each hill. Then, on one of those difficult summer trips, I had a medical event at Scout camp that ended with me being flown back to Reno in a helicopter. I was diagnosed with double pneumonia, and, while I pulled through, it was a scary experience that changed my life for good. After that, I started taking my physical health more seriously. I got a lot more active, and, after working at it for months, I was finally able to walk and ride my bike up Peavine Peak, a roughly 9-mile journey that took me up 2,600 vertical feet. It’s an arduous trail, and the fact that I made it was a sharp contrast to my earlier trouble climbing hills with the Boy Scouts. Not to say it wasn’t a hard climb, but, from that point on, scaling peaks has been a good challenge and exploring the mountains has helped me get my health back. In addition to enjoying the scenery, I always remember how much more difficult it was at an earlier point in my life, and I’m thankful I’ve been persistent in staying active.
The mountain I’m currently climbing isn’t a literal peak, but it’s just as much of a struggle. I’ve started working on accepting my emotions rather than running from them, which is a difficult thing to do as someone who has a tendency to keep things even-keeled to avoid dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Earlier this year, I read “The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You” by Karla McLaren, and it was pretty eye- opening for me. McLaren explains that emotions we normally characterize as negative, like fear and anger, have a purpose. She writes that we can listen to those feelings and try to channel them instead of squash them, which isn’t much help to anyone. That thought process has helped me stop judging myself for my “negative” emotions, and instead fight through the discomfort. I’ve found that just like getting my physical health back, becoming comfortable and natural with my emotions isn’t a one-day process. Many mountain peaks are involved in both journeys. While becoming more open and accepting of emotions has certainly helped in my personal life, where I’m working to engage in deeper conversations with my family,
it has also made me a more effective lawyer. I’m trying harder to listen to my clients and understand what’s important to them, what they’re fighting for, and why. Sometimes those discussions can be a little uncomfortable, but understanding their priorities helps me ensure their better future. My current uphill battle is resisting the urge to make assumptions, particularly about whether my clients are ready and willing to do what it takes to achieve their goals. It’s not for me to say whether they’re ready or not — I have to ask. And yet, it can seem easier to make assumptions than ask tough questions. That’s my mountain now. Above all, National Mountain Climbing Day reminds me that life is a journey. It’s a challenge to overcome years of habit, but that’s what makes our struggles mountains instead of hills. If you’re fighting an uphill battle, know that even your lawyer is in the same boat — we’re all taking this hike together. What is your metaphorical mountain? I would love to hear from you about the mountain you are currently climbing!
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