Dear Media (and other fine folks),
Should it come to pass that I eventually stand (or more likely sit or kneel) on the summit of Mount Everest, please don’t say I conquered the mountain. Or conquered my fear. Or conquered anything for that matter. That moment, which on alternative days seems either inevitable or impossible, will require you to reach much deeper into your vocabulary and library of metaphors to describe. This is an invitation to write differently about an Everest journey/climb by asking you to forgo one of the most common words used to describe the experience of being on the highest point of a mountain. Conquer. Don’t even think of using it.
I won’t have conquered anything by being there. I aim to never conquer. Having suffered the deep searing pain and agony of having been conquered in childhood by sexual abuse and having worked hard and long to climb out from under that damage, I vow to live gently and with compassion. There is no room or space in my experience for conquering so I ask you to respect that…and never again, say that I conquered a mountain.
For I do nothing of the sort. I climb. I do my best to step lightly in the landscapes in which I travel. I learn. I respect those who live in close communion with the mountains I traverse. I look at the view. Many views. From the sides (and occasionally the top) of the mountain and of myself. I climb. I step. I sleep. I eat. I work hard. I climb. I step. I sleep. I eat. I work hard. I feel many emotions including fear, despair, and panic punctuated with joy, wonder, awe, and amusement. I laugh. I cry. I muse. I lend support and strength. I draw upon others’ strength and support. I am humbled almost daily and will wonder if I am worthy of the summit. Worthy of life. Worthy of being on the mountain. I will also deeply know that I am. Worthy. Unbroken. Healed. In every step I take up the mountain. Any mountain. This mountain. My mountain. With each step up, I know that more deeply, in more cells, in more ways. I know.
And if I have the most precious gift of weather, climbing conditions, teamwork, and my entire being connecting together so that I inch my way up Everest to the summit and sit there in total overwhelm at being there, I will not have conquered anything to be there but instead, I will have gently and compassionately moved myself, my being, my whole self away from the darkest, deepest pits of human despair to the epic blue and white world of a Himalayan summit–a summit of my dreams and ten years of hard work, focus, and commitment–say that…or something like that. Please and thank you.