Balance in life is hard for me. I tend to learn how to find it only when I've lost it.
When I worked on a contract project in the late 90s I would leave my day job (8am-5pm) and head straight to a co-worker's apartment to work until midnight. Then I'd drive home 35 miles half-awake so I could fall into bed for an hour or two before I started over. One of those co-workers remarked I was spending more time with her than with my wife.
When we bought our first house I was traveling for work when we closed. Amy signed all the papers for herself, then had to do it for me. She picked up the keys and unlocked the door without me. I missed out on an important life event.
In 2010 I set aggressive goals for hiking mileage, days on trail, and elevation gain. I made all those goals, but at the expense of having fun. Toward the end I was hiking for numbers.
You'd think this would be enough for me to learn the lesson, but just yesterday I fell into the trap again.
I stressed all day at work because I was going to have to traverse downtown Seattle during the May Day "festivities" in order to get home on time. I got lucky and actually arrived home early and made dinner for Amy and Clara before we were due at the new middle school where Clara will be a student next year. I wanted to hike with TNAB (Thursday Night AfterBurners, my usual after work hiking group) starting at six so I sat and stared as they chewed their food. At the open house I had to physically restrain myself so I wasn't rushing Clara through the halls in order to stay on schedule.
Once 6pm came and went I breathed a sigh of relief and settled down. There was no more pressure. I was able to enjoy this milestone in Clara's life. If I hiked at all, I'd go as high as I wanted and then come down with everyone else.
At the trailhead I lazily put my boots on and geared up. It was a record-setting warm day so I didn't expect to go terribly fast. But as I let go my tension and stress I found myself moving fluidly up the trail. Mt. Teneriffe is not an easy trail. I think it's harder than Mailbox. Certainly, I was breathing heavily and sweating profusely. Yet it was freeing to know I was just out to enjoy nature with no deadlines, no goals.
I passed the waterfall and made the ridge above it. I even got as far as Tokul's Crux where she fell in 2008, but rather than push hard to get higher for the sake of... going higher I sat on the rocks and chilled out. Treen had water and lay by my side.
Hiking at night with TNAB has always been about balance. I hike from 6-10pm so I can stay in shape without sacrificing an entire weekend day. We hike well-known trails close to home so the risk of getting lost in the dark is minimized. We turn around when we are too far from the summit to get there in two hours. Over the last two years I've joined TNAB only when it wasn't a major challenge to cover my other responsibilities.
Teneriffe and I have always had a bad relationship. This was my eighth attempt. I've summited on six trips, but never had good weather. It's the only mountain I haven't completed with TNAB and I've done that twice. But if nothing else it's reinforced the need to find balance in all things and for that I'll keep coming back. (Plus, I really want to see a sunset from the summit and look down the back side.)