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Two years.

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
5 min read

OMG.  Most beautiful thing I've ever seen.  I think it's at the top of solar slab.
Photo by Katie Trembley, view from the top of Solar Slab, Red Rock, NV

Well… this isn’t the post I thought I’d be writing today… I had a few little gear reviews, and a “Wow, wasn’t it a great year” post planned, just like everybody else at this time of year.

But, last night’s long winded emails with my beloved pen pals turned into this morning’s long winded emails with my beloved pen pals and at one point, I was typing away, and realized…

Today’s not just nearly the end of 2009. Today has a significance for me beyond just being a day partway between Christmas and New Years. This day, two years ago, December 29, 2007, is the day that I discovered my self, for the very first time.

Nope… this isn’t another year in review post, though I’ll likely do one of those (probably, in pictures). And I’ll warn you right now, this one’s likely to be light on the climbing and heavy on the life, so I won’t judge if you come back in a few days when it’s back to pretty pictures of wild places and more stories of playing outside.

But, if you’re so inclined, keep reading.

Two years and a day ago, I was “living the dream.” Career, house, marriage, time with beloved friends and family, and more stability and security than I could have imagined. Never mind, that a few times a year I had a friend or colleague sit me down and say, “WHY are you so sad? It’s not usual for someone your age to be so DOWN all the time.” My climbing time was an escape… trips, and even weekends away, took me out of my daily existence, and gave me a little taste of my strength and independence, and of some fledgling happiness. By the time I had to turn toward home, each time, whether after three days or ten, at some point during the trip home I’d cry. At the time, I identified the feelings that triggered the tears as being connected to not wanting to go back to work… but really, I think now it was something deeper. Two years and a day ago, I was living a life that was not connected in any way to what I wanted, or needed, to be happy — other than those periods of escape.

Two years ago, on December 29th, 2007, something happened. I was on a climbing trip in Red Rock, Nevada, and for the first time I can remember, I heard a voice inside my head telling me that the life I was living was not going to cut it. That I could no longer put others first, and that, at some point, I just might have to do something to take care of myself. That big changes were in store. It was a calm realization, despite its magnitude, and the consequences I feared might (and have) stemmed from that moment. There were no tears, there was no breakdown. Just a steady, calm listening to my inner voice, which somehow had always been drowned out, before.

The next year was full of big changes — a move, a change in marital status, a new job — and a number of smaller ones. I did a lot of work… on myself, at work, at the gym, in time spent with friends and professional service providers, and that work paid dividends in the form of a creeping sense of happiness. Increased self-esteem. A feeling of strength. Independence. Self-care. New friends, who quickly became old friends, and then quickly became family. Old friends, who continued to love and support me, even though I was evolving into a different person than they’d grown to love in the past.

I also did a lot of play. I spent more time than I ever have before outside, and that’s continued right up until now. I’ve said this before… I do my best thinking when I’m outside, and my very best thinking when I’m high up on a multipitch climb, sitting on a belay ledge, feeling the world all around me as if I’m one big exposed nerve. I don’t know what it is about being up high that helps open me up and helps me listen to the world and to myself more closely, with finer detail, but I’m thankful for the privilege.

And, somewhere along the line, I settled comfortably into this… the life I live now. This life is based on balancing care for others, with care for myself. This life is based on connecting with others, and maintaining connections with others, in a way that I think I could only have discovered by being “alone” and not distracted by the comforts and obligations of having a close partner in life. This life is a balance of work and play, although the line between the two is just blissfully blurred, at the moment. This life is about listening to my self, listening to my body, listening to the voices that point the way… because when I trust myself, and listen to myself, and follow my intuition, then it’s a blessing when things work out. But, when things don’t work out, at least I know how and why I wound up where I did — and I can look back without regret, knowing that I did my best, and that’s all I can ask of myself.

It’s this life that’s taken me to places I never would have imagined two years and a day ago. And, this life is what will lead me to places I can’t imagine, even now.

None of this is because of climbing. I do think climbing may have sped up certain processes… in my first few years of climbing, I had to learn to trust myself, and to commit, and to make decisions, and to execute, and to accept and work with the consequences of my action or inaction. Once I’d learned those things in climbing, it would have been unnatural to not slowly apply them in the rest of my life. So maybe to say it’s not because of climbing is too strong.

But aside from climbing, the life I live now is made possible by the love and support of my friends and family, and by the positive reinforcement I receive through my interactions with real live human beings out in the world. By living openly, and with the abundance that now is a natural state of being for me, I’ve gained a community of wonderful people who “Get” me, and with whom there’s little to explain, and more to just appreciate.

I’ve gone from people expressing concern because of my sadness, to living a life where people ask me how it’s possible to be so happy all the time. It’s a remarkable change, and one that I can’t help but savor and feel joyful about.

I talk and write a lot about being thankful, and grateful, and about feeling joy. I’m feeling all of those things, today. And, while I don’t ordinarily open up quite this much in writing, today I felt inspired to do so. Thank you, for being a part of the last two years (or more). For following my adventures, and for being my inspiration, and for being inspired. Thank you for the coffee dates, the belays, the visits over dessert, the shared lessons, the advice, travel time, tent time, sofa-surfing and the time around the campfire. I have a vague sense memory of where I’d be, if it weren’t for you. It wasn’t bad… parts of that past life were very good, and certainly more stable in some ways than the life I live now. Despite that, I’m so incredibly full of gratitude to be where I am instead.

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy new year, full of adventure and abundance of your own.

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.