Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Wow! Kent and I have been accepted as “caregivers” on the pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash in the Tibetan Himalayas with Above + Beyond Cancer.  We have been told to expect a challenging experience in physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual terms.

The physical and cultural part I’m not so worried about. Physically, I’m healthy and in good condition.  While trekking has never been my favorite weekend activity, I’ve climbed some significant hills in my time.  I expect 18,000 feet will test my mettle (my highest climb to date was about 14,000), but Kent and I intend to take the training regimen seriously.  If I survive the training, I expect I’ll make it to the top.

As for the cultural part, I look forward to sharing in the life of people who live a mountain existence, with little or no experience of the “mod coms” we take for granted.  I’ve traveled widely enough to know that I can adapt to any sort of accommodations, the absence of plumbing, and unfamiliar foods.

What worries me are the emotional and spiritual dimensions.  As a caregiver, I need to be fully “present” for the cancer survivors who are making the pilgrimage, to get past my own physical and emotional fatigue to support others more tired than me. 

But I am a classic introvert, who needs large dollups of alone time. I suspect that solitude will be an even scarcer commodity than indoor plumbing.  I am also logical and analytical, with a decided deficit of the kind of emotional intuition that lovers of poetry are born with. And while I have studied religion and philosophy for years, I don’t much enjoy yoga and have never learned to meditate.  Will I be able to connect with the changing mood of the group as we get farther up the mountain?

My biggest challenge, I think, is not whether I can make it to the top under my own steam, but whether I can hold up my share of the emotional burden as we make the climb.