The struggle is real…
Today after work I went straight from my office to the base of Grouse Mountain to climb the dreaded Grouse Grind (https://www.grousemountain.com/grousegrind). The Grind is well known in Vancouver. Most Vancouverites have either done the Grind or avoided it on purpose. And those of us who are Grind frequenters, many of us armed with annual Grind passes, have a love/hate relationship with the trail. At the top of the trail, once we’re able to breathe again, let alone speak, the first question is often ‘what was your time?’ Veteran Grouse Grinders compare times and war stories, as we all squeeze on the gondola, sweaty and spent, to descend the mountain.
Every time I ascend the mountain, I am striving for a faster and faster time. Last year, pre-broken foot, I had a personal best time of 44:50. I was filled with elation and pride when I hit my watch at the top of the ascent. According to the website the “average” time is 90 minutes. I was stoked to achieve this milestone. I have yet to achieve that again, but I keep trying. At a respectable 50 minutes, I’m content with my Grind abilities, yet continue to attempt a faster completion time.
On this warm, late summer afternoon, I felt tired but knew that it needed to be done. I decided it didn’t matter what time I did it in, I just wanted to do it. As my latest crush told me, there’s a bottom and a top, just get from one to the other. As I started out, I let my mind wander. Many use the Grind as “thinking time”. For me, it often acts as the opposite. I’m someone with a busy mind and climbing the Grind, lungs and legs screaming at me, I am often able to tune out and concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. This time however, I started thinking about relationships, as I often do, and thought about how similar the Grind is to a developing relationship.
The Grind is marked with quarter markers and the first quarter is the longest. The markers are based on elevation, not distance, making the first quarter the least steep but the longest section. Many who attempt the climb give up before, or at the quarter marker. As with relationships, the first part is slow and steady. It’s about learning, getting my balance and finding my “pace”. The first quarter is difficult. It’s fraught with stumbling blocks and the desire to give up when it gets a little bit harder. There is a tendency to want to rush the first quarter, but there is danger in that action. There is danger in too much too soon and burning out before the marker. That first quarter is uncomfortable, but it’s exciting. There is an uneasiness, a sense of insecurity, and doubt about whether or not I can do this, I want to do this or if my prospective partner is as excited about this as I am. The excitement, I find, is in the all the “firsts,” as we slowly learn about each other and figure out who we are as a team.
After the first quarter, it gets steeper. The sense of comfort comes faster, (sometimes) easier and there is a familiarity that has developed. I know what to expect, or even if I don’t, there is a security in knowing that I can handle it. Things happen faster. There are less and less people turning around and giving up. In a newly formed relationship, you are friends and lovers and slowly becoming a team as you make your way to the halfway point. Many of these “milestones” can happen quickly, as the trail is steeper and before you know it, you’re at the halfway mark. On the Grind, I often think, “Wow! That snuck up on me.” After how long the first quarter took…it’s amazing how fast the middle comes. At the halfway marker, many stop to rest. To pause. To savor the accomplishment of making it this far and reflecting on the milestones and “firsts” that have happened, up to that point. Not many turn around and go back down. Not as many give up. After halfway, there is no sense in turning around.
I admit, that on the Grind, the trek from the halfway to the third quarter is somewhat anticlimactic. It’s necessary, but it’s not as full of firsts or milestones that encourage a sense of accomplishment. This *may* be true of my relationships. There are so many moments and discoveries in the first half, that it can be both exciting and overwhelming. The third quarter is almost necessary to chill everything out. To let the two of us start to settle in and absorb all that we have learned, accomplished and gained together. It’s not as exciting, necessarily, but we keep going, because (hopefully) we don’t want to turn back and we know that it is closer to the top.
The last quarter is by far my favorite part of the Grind. It’s steep and it’s quick and I know that in a few short minutes I’ll be standing on the top of a mountain. This is where it all comes together. All of the hard work, the sweat, the heavy breathing and the internal doubt culminate into an excitement that we will make it to the top. This is where the synergy develops. We match pace, stride for stride, an understanding and a security setting in and allowing us both to be vulnerable and surrender to the idea of being a team, a couple. As we come out from the trees and get glimpses of the top of the mountain, it is exciting and it is satisfying. Standing on the top of that mountain is a reward on its own. But standing there together is indescribable. There are always more mountains to climb, peaks and valleys, but after that initial ascent, there is a confidence in knowing that I can do it, that we can do it, together.
Every time I stand at the base of the Grind (or start something new), it’s a different day and a different set of circumstances. Not all climbs are going to be personal bests. I don’t need all of them to be a personal best, I just need that one. The one where we make it to the top together, in synchronicity, developing a commitment to climb as a team. The one where when we make it to the top, there is a desire to climb that next mountain; to summit all the upcoming hills, for three reasons: because we know that we can, we want to do it together and the view from the top is so worth it!