On Saturday I climbed part of a mountain. It was awful and awesome.
This past weekend three friends and I traveled north to my favorite Dominican city, Jarabacoa. Jarabacoa is in the mountains and it’s beautiful and there are waterfalls and rivers all around. So on Saturday morning we got up and we got on some horses and we went to see some waterfalls. The guy in the picture above was our guide (and my friend) David. First he led us on horseback down the street and off the street and over a river and up a hill and down a hill and over another river. Then we got off our horses and walked a nice little walk to the first waterfall of the day, Jimenoa 2. To get to Jimenoa 2 you have to pay 50 pesos and then walk up some stairs and down some stairs and across some pretty cool suspension bridges. You can’t swim in it, but it’s pretty to look at.
After we’d had our fill of Jimenoa 2, we started walking back towards our horses assuming that we were going to ride to the next waterfall. We didn’t get far down the stairs before David, our guide, called us back. “It’s this way,” he said. He was pointing off the path into the forest and up a hill. “You’re joking,” we all said. But he wasn’t. So we left the safety and comfort and ease of the path and started up. And we just kept going up. Pretty quickly I realized this wasn’t going to be easy. I thought very hard about giving up as I ran out of breath and started resorting to basically crawling up the side of this mountain on my hands and knees.
At times the “path” we were following was less than a foot wide. At times the only thing keeping me from falling backwards and down the mountains was my grip on the tree roots or branches that were all around us. At one point I stepped onto what I thought was the path but what was actually a hole covered in leaves, twisted my foot and ankle, fell on my butt, and started sliding down. I grabbed handfuls of foliage and started to cry.
I sat there covered in dirt, tangled up in branches and vines and leaves and plants, sweaty and tired and I thought these words, “Fat girls can do hard things.” And I got back up and I kept going.
A couple of years ago I don’t think I would’ve made it to Jimenoa 1, the waterfall that awaited us at the top of that climb. A couple of years ago I don’t think I would’ve even tried. I would’ve given up before I started. I would’ve thought, “Surely I can’t do that and surely my friends are going to think less of me if I don’t, but they’ll think even less of me if I try and fail.” Those kinds of thoughts swirled around in the back of my mind as I struggled forward on Saturday. But a couple of years ago I had never heard of women like Brittany Gibbons, author of Fat Girl Walking, or Tess Holliday, super gorgeous and tattooed plus size model. A couple of years ago I truly did not know that fat girls could do hard things. A couple of years ago I had never read Glennon Doyle Melton’s words– Life is tough but so are you. But armed with those truths on Saturday and armed with friends who think no less of me for struggling, I kept going even when I wanted to give up.
I realized something on the side of that mountain. I was capable of continuing. I was capable of pressing forward. I just didn’t want to. I remember thinking at one point, “I can’t go on!!” and then immediately God said, “Yes you can. Look at you. Listen to your body. You can certainly go on and you will.” I could, I just didn’t want to. How often do we sell ourselves short and miss out on something awesome because we convince ourselves we can’t? It’s the same lesson I learned when I started yoga and a ten second plank was a hard thing. It’s the same lesson I relearn every time I get a new tattoo. I am stronger than I think and I can do hard things. You can do hard things. We can do hard things.
As I climbed and crawled and cried I thought of Tess and Brittany and Glennon. I thought of the middle schooler I tutor who thought she had to console me when I referred to myself as chubby. “You’re not fat!” she said and I laughed. “I kinda am, though and it’s okay. It’s more than okay.” I thought about all the women who look at their bodies and are sad and angry and lonely. I thought about how I look at my body and am happy and grateful. When I finally made it to that beautiful waterfall (pictured above) I kicked off my shoes and said, “Thank you, God, for this beautiful body that got me to this beautiful place.”
We can do hard things like yoga and tattoos. We can do hard things like climb parts of mountains. We can do hard things like support our friends who are struggling up the mountain. We can do hard things like encourage and slow down and wait. (Thanks, friends.) We can do hard things like letting ourselves BE OURSELVES in front of other people. I am constantly surprised by how well people love me when I am exactly myself, pouting in the dirt on the side of a mountain. We can do hard things like love our bodies and be grateful for all they enable us to do. We can do hard things like love each other and love ourselves and love this great beautiful world.