Christen ~ Gratitude in Letters

Bit from the letters ~

“Crouch LOW when you pee outside… getting a little hoo-hoo chill is better than sleeping with pee on your pajamas!”

~

“It is not a portrait, in the classical sense. No airbrushing. No photoshopping. In Nepal, I tried to see people how they were. Just you, as the person you are. This is the thinly veiled smile you gave to the doubters before we left. After four demanding days into the trek, that little curl of the lips turned into a full-fleged mischievous grin. It was clear to me then that, while you hiked for the cause, this smile meant more….”
© Luke Mislinski

~

I often come back to a sign my brother saw in Berlin that said, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

This trek has been chockfull of firsts for me. My first pair of hiking boots. My first foray into talking openly on social media about what I am doing in my life. (As a generally private person [understatement], that is still weird for me.) My first time eating yak. My first time in Asia. And, yes, my first time heeding nature’s call in nature.

With unhappy digestive systems abounding, bathroom breaks were freely discussed in detail by necessity. (One man’s illness affects the group’s itinerary choices.)

So, as I returned to the lunch table from my first wilderness meditation, so to speak, Luke asked, “How was it?”

I gave him a look. “Um, awkward…? But, I guess I am getting the hang of it.”

Luke responded, “I meant the consistency…”

“Okay, well, still awkward, but, fine, I guess.”

And, it was. And, it remained fine. Whoever is in charge of these things must have decided that this was hard enough on me without laying on that extra stress of getting travelers’ sickness on top of it. One of many things for which I am grateful.

~

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

~

Gratitude…

When I asked for letters that I could read on the mountains, a beautiful thing happened. Letters arrived.

Letters from strangers. Letters from family. Letters from people I get to love in person in my life, and letters from people I no longer get to see but love still. Letters from people I know well, and letters from people I wish I knew better.

The letters were thoughtful and personal and inspiring. They took all forms. Some shared personal struggles. Some shared personal triumphs. Some shared memories we had made together. Some shared hopes for their own future adventures, slices of wisdom, moments of humor, or kind admiration for what we are doing.

I have been sharing bits of the letters with these entries because they mean so much to me. I wish I could post all of them here, but that would violate the trust I feel I was given in receiving them, though I have not been instructed once that this is so. I have left off all of the names because some of the letters shared such intimate vulnerabilities that I preferred to leave them well protected in the mountains where they were first read.

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

One told the story of a recent assault on a dark walk home alone. Others were stories of the difficulties of daily life in the attempts to be a good grownup and stories of the hardships of parenthood and all that entails. Stories of the sacrifices made for others and how those sacrifices can sometimes make you feel like you are drowning. Things that cannot be admitted anywhere but a letter sent to mountains far away where the words will not echo back. Stories of finally finding love, stories of still seeking love, and stories of love attempting to be maintained.

There were quotes, poetry, and lyrics to songs. One story-laden song in particular made me smile and sing it out loud when I read it. (“That’s the sound of sunshine, coming down…”) Love you, Mama.

Some fantastic awkward family photos that made me grin. (I am going to go right ahead and credit my sister for this gift, so you know I am not grinning at your awkward family photos.)

©Christen Babb
©Christen Babb

One line from the letters has continued to play in my head. I imagine it will continue to do so for a very long time. It is this, “…and there was you…treating me like I was normal, like I was valuable.”

Like I was valuable…

That sums up, so well, the reasoning that has been behind so many of the choices I have made in my life. I want people to know they are valuable.

I want to say, Thank you, to all of you for your generosity of time put into words. It is such a rare gift to have people in your life that take that kind of time. Thank you for letting me take that gift with me on this journey.

[Mio caro bello vecchio uomo, HKM, CLF, MDB, and JLT, I want you to know that your letters are getting worn at the edges from the rereading. You own real estate in my heart.]

People are asking me if I am glad I went. The easy answer is, Yes.

Someday, when I look back on my life, I want my list of Things I Have Done to be much longer than the Things I Have Not.

The complexity of that Yes is that I know I am just trading in the literal mountains for the much more arduous figurative mountains of working towards doing justice to the stories we have so far, and the more we have yet to experience. That is a much longer climb we will be beginning.

At this moment, at the end of this Himalayan hike, that idea is overwhelming. Instead, I am focusing on how lucky and blessed I am, and I am just going to look forward to this next week we will spend in the little village above Kathmandu called Changunarayan.

https://karmadocumentary.com/invest-in-karma/

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