The Power of Community

by Jen Waak

“Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.” ~Emily Kimbrough

Even though it was 18 months ago, I still remember my climb up Kilimanjaro like it was yesterday.

Taking those final steps toward the summit with tears in my eyes because I never believed that I—someone who grew up this sick little kid who held a deep-seated belief that she’d never be “an athlete”—would do something that thousands each year, including world-class athletes, cannot.

Yet there I was.

But I certainly didn’t get there alone. I had help—a lot of it.

While training, I called on my friends who are athletes and coaches to ask their training and recovery advice.

For example, when I got ambitious on a hike and was so sore the next day I had to crawl up and down the stairs on my hands and knees, I called my Ironman Triathlete friend Shannon to ask him how to avoid having that happen again. (His answer was twofold: He first told me not to do that again, and then patiently walked me through the wild world of sport recovery drinks.)

As I continued preparations, I continued to turn to my friends, the climbing company, and seasoned climbing veterans for buying and renting gear, figuring out snacks on the trip, understanding the challenges of altitude sickness, and everything else that went into making Kilimanjaro a memorable and easy trip for me.

The phrase “it takes a village” certainly applied to me and this trip.

Then, when I got there, it was my turn to pay it back. I was climbing with some older gentlemen who were having difficulty navigating the rocks and tree roots. So, I’d patiently reach down and offer a hand—after all, we were there together, to accomplish this together. I wanted to both pay it forward and see them succeed.

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Growing from Pain and Using it to Discover Who You Are

by Lisa Humphries

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

At the age of 37, my beautiful young mother, who I considered my best friend, crashed her car in light rain just around the corner from our home. We will never know what really happened because she woke up from her brain injury a very different person from the one who drove away that morning.

The experience of suddenly becoming a caregiver at the age of 16, along with my 13 year-old brother and the rest of our family, could fill the pages of a how-to manual. I could have benefited from reading something like that during those long years, when we all struggled to adjust to our new reality.

Five years into this new life, our mother was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, something that she did not fully comprehend because of her condition. Of course it was all too real for the rest of us, and, despite her continued resistance to the cancer, it eventually took her from us.

The ability to look back on a tragedy, a loss, a challenge of any sort and see through eyes that have healed, a heart that has been broken and patched up—this is the ability to grow and become a person who is shaped by the darkness.

It is hard—so, so hard. At times we may want to swat the well-meaning reminders of life like an annoying little insect in our face, close our eyes and our hearts to the new possibilities, and just sit in our paralysis. It’s certainly much easier to do that.

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How to Love Without Losing Yourself

by Jennifer Gargotto 

“We love because it is the only true adventure.” ~Nikki Giovanni

Last night I sat with an old friend who has recently broken up with his girlfriend. He’s sad. She’s sad.

I don’t think it was time for them to give up yet; he’s exhausted and disagrees. He says he thinks that he just loves to love. When you love to love, he says, it’s impossible to separate the act of loving from the person that you’re actually supposed to love.

He thinks that he’s too much in love with the idea of love to actually know what he wants. And so, he argues, giving her another chance would be futile.

I know what he means, because I love to love, too.

When I met my boyfriend, Chase, I thought I had been in love before. In fact, I was positive of it. I had built a life out of a dating and relationship blog—of course I had been in love before.

There was only one relationship that stood out from the masses of little flings, and for a time, he was my world. We met in college (although he wasn’t in school, a sign of different horizons that would eventually be the pitfall of our short-lived romance). And we developed our own little cocoon which quickly meant everything to me.

I had grown up with a happy home life, two parents that met, fell in love, and then stayed together. I had an (albeit naive) perspective that when you meet the right person, you fall in love, and that’s that.

I never doubted him for a minute; this was what was supposed to happen. I trusted it, the process of companionship, and I let myself settle into having someone.

After only a few short months together, he said he needed to move since he could no longer afford to live Boulder, where I was going to college at the time, so we made the decision to move in together.

Whether he meant that or not I’m unsure. I had more financial resources and was able to subsidize the move—a theme that stretched throughout the majority of our time together.

That decision to move in together felt like every other decision we made—an initial excitement that then was held together by necessity.

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