You know those cliché inspirational pictures talking about how the view at the top is always worth the tough climb to get there? I had an experience that exemplified this lesson the other day. After our stay in Croatia, the boat made its way to Montenegro for two nights, and the time we would get to spend on land would be limited. From the water, we could see a massive wall all the way up one of the hills that led to beautiful ruins and we were given the option to make this ‘walk’ one of the mornings.

It looked challenging, but I was itching to get to explore a bit and figured some physical activity would do me good anyways. Only four of the twelve of us decided to go for it, then we took along one of the crew members who was familiar with the ‘walk’ trail.

This was not a ‘walk’. This was ~40 minutes of stairs uphill in 90-degree Montenegro sunshine, with little breeze. When I say stairs I am talking about uneven concrete stairs about one person’s width wide; I’m not sure if the other half had been bombed away or was never built, but it wasn’t there. Alongside the stairs was a gravel-ish pathway that I avoided as much as possible. I’m not the most surefooted person ever anyway, so unreliable ground is not ideal.

The hike up was incredibly difficult. With every switchback my internal dialogue was becoming increasingly concerned; I went from ‘this is so beautiful!’ to ‘man, this is a tough hike’ to ‘holy sh**t, why did I do this’. Luckily, my hiking buddies, though much faster than I, were extremely encouraging. Our guide reminded me how amazing the view would be at the top, but I only had room in my brain at that point to focus on NOT puking.

I made it to the top without incident, and felt so triumphant. It was probably the most strenuous workout I have accomplished since my accident, and the view WAS amazing. I was dripping sweat, my thighs were shaking, my nose was running and I looked a hot mess, but none of that mattered because I had DONE it. When the trek got to the point I thought I could no longer continue, I talked myself through it just like I had done my entire hospital experience. The only way out is through. I was so proud of myself; I thought the hardest part was over. And it was, depending on how you think about it. The challenge of the ascent is purely physical, it took brute strength and the mental toughness to carry on. The descent was all strategy and attention and tact; and this is what got me.

I was feeling GREAT on my way down, I was too confident and riding the high of my accomplishment of getting to the top. A family friend (and one of my fellow hikers) mentioned that the descent was more of a mental workout than anything else; You have to strategize where to step down, what was solid ground, all while being aware of oncoming traffic coming up the hill.

I made it about halfway down the hill when I stepped off the stairs to accommodate oncoming hikers, and onto a rock that was not very stable. I fell hard onto my hip, then my knee, but because it was downhill I somersaulted so my head was facing down the hill. It was quite spectacular, and I think I gave everyone with me a heart attack. Luckily, the extent of my injuries was some gnarly road rash on my leg and a bruised ego and that was it.

This was a reminder that my recovery comes in ebbs and flows; yes, I can climb a massive hill but an unstable rock will defeat my graceful climb. I have to sweat the small stuff even following a big leap forward if I want to continue progressing.

This trip was exactly what I needed to refresh and regroup, and I could not be more grateful to everyone who coordinated getting me there!

2 thoughts on “The Only Way Out is Through

  1. I’m so glad you made it–to the top and on the trip. You needed it, big time. Thanks for the reminder to take care of the little things as well as the big. And I’m jealous of that view!! Lots of love to all!

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  2. Amber-you are my hero. You handled the aftermath of the fall like a pro athlete. You did not complain and maintained your focus until the end and after. While the big challenges of life define who we are, remember my dear, that every journey is a collection of many steps. Some challenge us, some redefine us, some remind us of who we are and some steps point us to who we want to be. May many of the steps on your journey lead you to who you want to be. Much love to you!!

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