We are Alone
Epiphany – A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.
Fifteen years ago I had a moment that can only be described as an epiphany. I don’t know how else to explain it. It was a moment where a thought entered my mind with such clarity and without any other thought leading to it. It was simply just there and when it arrived, I knew it would be something that would stay with me the rest of my life. I had never experienced anything like it before, or since. And this was the thought:
I am truly alone in this world.
I know, how uplifting, huh? But hear me out…
My then husband David and I were with friends in Yosemite. We were going to hike to the top of Half Dome. This is a 16-mile hike, round trip. David had done this before, so I knew what to expect. I knew that the very last part of getting to the top was 400 feet of an extremely steep climb on smooth granite. There are poles with cables that you hold on to and pull yourself up with. I am terrified of heights and I was very nervous. I had already told myself that if I got all the way up there and couldn’t do the last part to the top, then so be it. I didn’t have to. After hours of hiking, we finally reached the rocky switchbacks, the last leg of the journey before the cables. This is the area where the back side of Half Dome comes into view and if you look close, you can see this tiny vertical line going straight up and you can see people moving along this line. When I realized what I was looking at, I thought, “There is no way,” but I kept quiet. Inside, I was having a full on conversation with myself. Those that know me well know that I can be very competitive, so even though I had told myself I didn’t have to do it, not doing it was not in my nature, hence the battle brewing inside my head.
We still had another hour or so before we reached the cables. I was very quiet the rest of the way. There was no idle chit chat for me. I was completely focused on the task at hand. I was doing everything in my power to muster the courage I would need when I got to the cables. When we arrived, I stood at the bottom and looked straight up. David knew I was nervous and was offering words of encouragement. I wanted to tell him to shut up. Please don’t take this wrong! I was just in that state of mind (terror) where there was nothing anybody could say. There was a pile of discarded gloves from previous hikers there at the bottom. I’m not sure why we didn’t have our own gloves, but we didn’t. I think I must have tried on ten pair. Well, not really a pair because there were no matches. I wanted to test them on the cables. I must have looked like an idiot, but I didn’t care. This was my life at stake. Also, I couldn’t decide if it would be better with or without the gloves so I kept going up a few feet with them on and then coming back down, taking them off and trying again. I did this over and over. Our friends took off. David kept assuring me that he would be right behind me. He finally lost his patience with me and said, “Jodee, take off the gloves!” None of them fit. They were all too big, and I actually needed him to knock me back into reality. I would have continued with my glove obsession for another hour, at least.
So off we went. We climbed up about 50 feet and it hit me. Panic. I turned to David and told him that I couldn’t go any further and that I was going back down. He said, “That’s okay, Jodee.” I crossed over to the “down” cables, held on for dear life and went back down. Well, this really pissed me off. As soon as I got back down my thoughts went to everyone taking pictures, and then later there would be nothing but talk about what it was like up there, and I would be the one that didn’t make it. No fucking way.
I remember pacing. Then I remember just saying to myself, “I’m going.” It was at the moment that I touched the cables again that my epiphany hit me like a freight train. It consumed me. I am alone. Not because everyone had gone before me, but an overwhelming feeling of being alone in the universe. I realized that when facing an extremely difficult situation, we are alone. Reflecting afterward, I thought back to my state of mind leading up to it. I didn’t want to chat with anyone. I didn’t want words of encouragement. I needed to get inside my own head and find my courage. It didn’t matter that David was there to break my fall. He would have. But there was no one but myself that was going to get me to the top of that mountain. I am not diminishing the people we have in our lives. I would be lost without the people that love and support me, but when we are facing a monumental event in our lives, whether it is walking into a situation that you feel completely unprepared for, or trying to achieve a life changing goal, or embarking on a new life that was completely unexpected, or fighting a deadly disease… The list goes on. I am talking about huge mountains. I am talking about challenges in your life that no one can accomplish for you. I did make it to the top that day, and I did it alone.