I was sweating. I clung to the handrail, lugging each leg up the next step. My head down, my chest heaving as I struggled to breathe, I heard someone shout “Only 7 more flights!” I wanted to cry.
In the midst of an exuberant office holiday party I had I declared “I’m in” with more enthusiasm than thoughtful consideration when our paralegal Wendi invited me to trek up the tower.
Saying yes without asking a single question was my first mistake. I thought I was signing up to climb 27 flights of stairs. I neglected to notice that the tallest building in our city was now 40 flights. Still, striving to be a woman of my word and having three months to train, I wasn’t going to withdraw my commitment.
The holidays hit and three months quickly turned to two. To prevent the temptation to chicken out, I told as many people as I could what I was up to. I lowered expectations by setting a simple goal of completion, no matter how long it took.
I soon found myself among the ranks of Americans joining a gym in January. Since then, I managed to lock myself out of my own locker, get my ID eaten by the gap between the stairs of the Stairmaster, and began to question my motives. I found clever excuses for skipping workouts—attendance at my CPA’s open house became an essential event and a few inches of snowfall could keep me homebound.
As the trek day approached, more details about the event emerged. I would be expected to climb nearly 900 steps without music. None of my Meghan Trainor doo-wop to distract me from my aching quads. I would have to leave my favorite water bottle and my personal cheering squad at home, too. Both were banned from the premises. The rules of the game felt changed half way through.
I persisted in my practice, noticing that I was getting stronger and eventually even a little faster. Gradually my confidence grew.
The morning of the climb I fueled myself with an almond butter banana and the memory that 17 years ago I bicycled across the entire state of Iowa in a week. As I made my way up the endless flights, I spotted a woman with a hot pink cast on her leg hobbling ahead of me. Did I really need more inspiration?
I kept my head down and my focus on just my next step. After trudging up the final few stairs, I saw the admiring face of a friend and learned my time: 11 minutes. 13 seconds. Smiling photos followed.
A divorce may be the steepest and longest climb of your life. You won’t do it alone. You may doubt your ability to make it through, and you definitely will discover rules you never knew existed. Although your divorce may be the biggest challenge of your life so far, it is not your first. You will also be amazed at your tenacity and grit as you sweat one step at a time toward your destination of completion.
When the climb is behind you, may you have the smile of satisfaction that you simply made it through.