On our first date, my girlfriend and I climbed a mountain.

Well technically it wasn’t a first date: she had come to visit me and stay for a week; it was the fifth day we’d seen each other, in person. And technically we didn’t actually climb a mountain: we drove up the side in a car on a narrow and precarious (ok paved) road, but still. We did it. Together. And now when something gets hard, we remind each other that whatever is currently overwhelming, it cannot possibly compare to “climbing a mountain.”

Did anyone else catch the gee God that’s not so subtle mountains and climbing them metaphor?

Also usually she is the “water! fun! let’s dive in!” type wherein I have my arms out, holding everyone back while checking the water quality and measuring the depth of the pool. But this time, when we pulled the car over and got out at a half-way lookout point, she could sense my hesitation (I was the one driving) and said, “This is good, we don’t have to go all the way to the top.”

I paused as I am prone to doing (see above), and suddenly said, “Get in the car. We’re going.”

And ironically, or rather how everything usually turns out, the rest of the drive up was open and easy, and the view even more magnificent from the top. (<—Yes, this could have been filtered by the “We made it!” exhilaration and relief.) Coming down we were so busy talking about the experience I missed the caution flag entirely.

I have so few of these blatant expressions of bravery times in my history I can count them between both hands. It seems I’m out to change that.

In 8 days (yes we are down to single digits now) I will be boarding a plane to New York to visit her. We started tossing around the idea after she left, in the beginning of October. It took me a few weeks, but I finally clicked SUBMIT and purchased the plane ticket right before Halloween.

“What’s the big deal Amy,” you say, “people travel all the time!”

People do—I don’t. The last time I traveled that far was over 20 years ago. This was before my brain injury and post-concussive symptoms, the emergence of chronic (<—possibly neuroplastic but that’s another blog post) pain, and prior to my sobriety/solvency/abstinence in several different 12-step programs.

“Didn’t you say you used to fly all the time from California to Arizona?” she asked in the middle of one of my full freak out “are you sure this will be ok?” conversations.

“That’s like an hour and a half,” I said. “You go up, have a beer, and by the time it’s finished, it’s time to land.”

“Not anymore you don’t,” she said, sharing the latest news of two airlines (one of which I’m flying) putting everyone in coach on the wagon.

Somehow the thought of the general public—sober, in a contained area—with no recovery or 12-step program tools was not very comforting.

“What if you’re wrong,” I said, rebutting all my positive affirmations. “What if you’re wrong and my neighbor is wrong, and my physical therapist is wrong, and my sponsor is wrong. What if I can’t do this? What if I’m not built to travel and change like everyone else?”

“Well then,” she said in her (both adoring and exasperating) objective sentiment, “you have to ask yourself one question: then what?”

“Then what?” I asked.

“Yes.”

CLICK. Suddenly I understood what she meant.

A few years ago I was in a similarly uncertain situation, down to the wire with little funds to pay my next month’s rent. In a disparaging moment I exclaimed to my sponsor, “Well I’ll just have to debt then!” because the only option I saw was to take out money on a credit card to pay it. This was two years abstinent in a 12-step program that doesn’t use credit cards or accrue any unsecured debt. And my sponsor at the time asked me the same question: then what?

Because there always is a next item up for bid. Life doesn’t stop sending challenges just because I fall back into the familiar or (my favorite control tactic) feign inaction to stay standing still. Dare I say if so the universe hedges the bet and serves a steeper incline on the next one. Almost like there is a certain queue I’ve agreed to go through and if I skip one, they accumulate over time. And pawning them off or pushing them out into the ether doesn’t eliminate them either. They also return from orbit.

YOU ARE SO BRAVE I texted her, the day she was on a plane flying here. I am in awe of you.

Seems in just a few days, should I embrace this challenge on its arrival, I might have the chance to say the same to myself.

“You can’t wait for it to feel safe, secure, comfortable, or convenient. You must be brave, and become a hero to yourself.”
—unknown