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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

Be TRUE to Yourself, and Rise to New HEIGHTS

Dr. Nadine’s Thoughts:

Dr. Zan and I just returned to our homes from a lovely weekend at the beach with our group of Fine Friends.  We collect annually to spend a little more quality time together than our weekly dinners allow. We share three glorious days, each day starting with coffee and conversation on the porch in the morning, followed by conversation on the sand near the ocean in the afternoon, ending with conversation after dinner which expands into the wee hours of the night.

I find this time to be meaningful to me in so many ways.  At its foundation, it’s a special time for us to share each other’s lives within an intimate bond that has trust and total acceptance as its glue.  We can be who we really are in the presence of one another, unvarnished in our appearances and unpretentious in our expectations. In addition to the wonderful celebration of our friendships, it is a benchmark against which I measure my previous year.  I assess where I am in my life, and what life has served up over the last twelve months. There are always ups and downs to be acknowledged—sometimes more positives, and sometimes more difficulties. Nevertheless, all are to be embraced and reconciled.

So Dr. Zan and I were reflecting on this as we contemplated our current situations.  We’re both in transitions that differ in nature, but that have the common characteristic shared by all transitions:  they include an uncertainty that creates discomfort. By definition, a transition is the passage between two things, and traveling across that space can feel wobbly and unstable.  It should be said that the discomfort doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though. It is the price to be paid when you want to move toward something better than where you are now or than what you have now.

I think of the dreaded process of moving from one home space to another.  I’ve moved plenty of times, and each time I vowed NEVER to do it again. Yet, each time I’ve moved, it was to keep progressing forward in my life.  It was to grow, to gain, to advance, to improve, to achieve. That movement was always accompanied by some amount of difficulty, for sure! But the outcome was always worth the effort.

The quintessential story that captures, for me, the spirit of stretching toward your “best self” is one that tells of a group of mountain climbers. They decided to summit a mountain that promised a challenging yet gratifying experience, culminating in spectacular views of the region. The troupe started out together, enjoying each other’s company and the physical workout.  As time passed they began to tire, but the group pressed on. Finally, at the half-way point they found a beautiful lodge with all the comforts and amenities they could want for resting and to refresh themselves. After a day of repose, only a handful of mountaineers packed up their gear and resumed the journey to the summit.  All the others proclaimed how comfortable they were, and how the lodge was a fine destination in itself. And so they stayed there, halfway up the mountain, enjoying the luxuries of the lodge and the ease it afforded.

So, where are you in your life?  The journey is yours to decide. Will you stay in the lodge or will you summit the mountain?

Dr. Zan’s Reflections:

Wow--I don’t know about you, my dear readers, but Dr. Nadine’s mountain climbing analogy vibrates with resonance for me. In fact, I have my own hiking experience that fits quite nicely with Dr. Nadine’s story. A few years back, my spouse, youngest son, and I decided that we needed to find ways to solidify ourselves as a threesome. We wanted to find those special shared moments that would build memories and bond us--given that our two older kids/siblings were off living their own lives. Together we determined that, given our common interest and love for nature and hiking, we would make a particular effort to embrace every chance we could to visit national parks. As a result, I found myself on an especially challenging trail at Zion National Park in Utah. It turns out that the other two thirds of our trio likes to hike at a much faster pace than I do. So I ended up being on my own to negotiate the path to Angel’s Landing, which as the name would suggest, requires trekking up a pretty steep mountainside replete with narrow passages and switchbacks that required me to literally stretch myself (physically and emotionally) in order to grab onto the next chain that provided a gripping point. (These chains were the strongholds that prevented me from plunging into a deep ravine.) Having completed the very demanding part of the trail known as Walter’s Wiggles, I arrived at an uncharacteristically wide landing where I could take a moment to pause and breathe, trying to soothe the anxiety that had been prompted by the treacherous trail. A young hiker, in the process of making his way down from the pinnacle, took note of my countenance and posture. He, very intentionally, made eye contact and offered an encouraging smile. Accepting the non-verbal invitation to connect, I said, “The view’s pretty good from here--quite beautiful, actually.” He smiled knowingly and offered, “Yes, it is, but you don’t want to miss what’s on the top. It’s worth it.” Then after a brief pause, he looked at me with the most sincere expression and said, “You can do it.”

Talk about finding inspiration in unexpected places! This young, kind stranger knew exactly how I was feeling and offered exactly what I needed to hear to move myself the rest of the way up a mountain which provided one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. But even more importantly, by tapping into our shared human experience--through his offering and my acceptance--I was given the gift of a sense of accomplishment that would have otherwise gone unrealized. Pardon the cliche’, but I made it to the mountain top. And it truly was a glorious experience, one that I fully expect to carry with me always.

You see, it can be so seductive to settle, rather than to accept the abundance that is ours, if only we will open our hands, our arms, our hearts to what is offered. Perhaps we need not only accept that wonderful relationships and opportunities can be ours--perhaps we need to insist on it! During our beautiful shared weekend that Dr. Nadine described so eloquently, we often have moments of insight that are significant. This occurs because we have such amazing people with whom we share our lives. The brilliant, generous, loving group we met in graduate school has clearly rubbed off on me because now I can come up with some pretty useful insights too, if I do say so myself. (Sorry, my family called that “tooting your own horn,” and I try not to do it too much, but this time I cannot resist.) At one point during a conversation this weekend, Dr. Nadine made a remark that sounded like she was settling for something that was not likely to promote her happiness. I pointed this out to her by saying, “Wait a minute--that doesn’t sound quite right to me. You know, here’s how I want you to think about it: Everything in your life should be as amazing as your business partner.” Once we finished laughing at my comment, we decided that I had actually captured the perfect benchmark for each of us. Our full admiration and appreciation for one another is a reminder to expect wonder, awe, fulfillment in the rest of our lives.

So, no need to settle, my friends. Embrace your beauty within and all the beauty that surrounds. Rise to new, True Heights!

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