It’s about who and what stays with you, when all the rest move quietly aside, when it’s neither necessary to keep kicking you so you stay down, nor possible to help you up any longer. And as you lie, and breathe, and wait for absolutely nothing, you begin to really watch your dreams. Mostly, they are memories, awkwardly assembled by the subconscious into puzzles, which look like nothing real but never fail to evoke a feeling.
After everything that’s happened in the course of the past year, I can’t help but watch my dreams carefully. I had a dream of climbing Everest without oxygen, but another idea, this of Muay Thai, kicked and punched it out of me. As my friends, who follow this blog, know, I walked to Everest base camp in April, looked up at The Mountain, and went right back to where’d come from. You can read about what was going through my head at the time here: https://sixthsymph.com/2013/04/13/everest-2013-requiem-for-a-dream/
My return to Thailand and Muay Thai after the expedition forced me to deal with many conflicting thoughts and feelings about the decision to trade 8000-meter mitts for boxing gloves; I was on an indefinite break from climbing. An accidental visit to the hospital in Bangkok revealed I was very ill, and soon enough I began to experience the truth of the diagnosis in my very bones. Then, suddenly, I was that person on the ground, whom life was stepping away from – as I encouraged it to do. When the pain became unbearable and the loneliness frightening, in rare moments of sleep I dreamed not about wearing a champion’s belt around my waist, or completing my PhD, or emerging safe and sound after a record-setting deep dive or ice-swim, or writing a book, or anything but… the mountains. In one recurring dream, a cloud of snow and wind holds me without touching, suspended above the clouds and the Himalaya, with mountain peaks rising like waves of an uncontainable ancient flood under my feet. Time passes, and people, whole civilizations, die and are reborn, but little changes up there, where Eternity lives. I always awaken from this vision calm and brave; it must be because in it I see this that I love more than I know. It is not mountaineering as such, nor the support and love I get from people, who emphathize with the climber in me, nor is it any mountain in particular – it’s how I feel in the mountains that I treasure and the person I become when I try to touch something unchanging.
I hope, this post doesn’t make it sound like I regret my decision to abort the Everest expedition last spring. I truly don’t. My heart was not in it: it was hurting, and confused, and angry. I felt and still feel too much awe and gratitude for Chomolungma to climb on her slopes with the wrong motivation. I know people, for whom mountains are steps to a certain social standing or a pedestal, on which to place their ego. I understand and wouldn’t dream of judging those, who approach climbing differently from me. My own approach is, perhaps, too sentimental, but I kinda like it this way. Thus, I don’t want to turn back time: to un-make the Everest decision, un-do Muay Thai or even to un-fall dangerously ill. Instead, I want to thank life for all these experiences, because when the storm of the physical and mental events of the year started to quiet down, what remained standing – perhaps, the only thing that did – was The Mountain, and I was relieved to see Her!
My recent test results from the hospital are looking reasonably good and promising, which means I can start hoping again. I will not say yet what it is I am hoping for for the 2014 spring climbing season, but I can tell you that, all going well, it will take me back to the Himalaya – the place I dream of even when I am more dead than alive. Following over 3 months in bed on drugs, I will need some serious training if my hopes are to have a strong foundation. Given that I still like Muay Thai just as much as before, it will once again be my training tool of choice for the possible climb. I have just seven months to bring myself back to life. Can I pull it off? Well, if I keep seeing that dream, then, maybe!
Keep your fingers crossed for me and, if you wish to follow my return from the dead (I actually do look a bit like a zombie right now)/preparation for the next climb, drop by the blog again soon!
P. S. I would like to give my most heartfelt thanks to those of my friends, who have been waiting and listening even when I wouldn’t come and wouldn’t talk, who flew across the globe to see me, and I wouldn’t see them; who supported me unconditionally. You know who you are, the amazing people I am bessed to have in my life: Michelle P., Kim S., India H., Eileen H., Jaimie S., Liz., E. N., and many others, Thank You!
P. P. S. Good luck to the teams climbing the gorgeous Manaslu this fall season, especially, of course, to Altitude Junkies!