Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Tag: challenge

#2: Joy

I pulled my ancestor card this morning. It was a nice way to open my day with something to think about throughout the day. Today’s word: JOY.


This past two years living in the Bay Area has involved some interesting self-reflection about JOY. What is joy? Do I have joy in my life? Is it the same as being happy or being content? What does it mean to seek joy? What does it mean to be joyful? Am I joyful? When am I joyful?

I was talking to someone about this once in the last year or so – I said I couldn’t really feel joy. And she said, “How do you know? What does joy feel like?” And as she pushed me to think about it more, I realized I feel joy in moments and in finite bursts. I feel joy when I am reunited with beloved friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I felt joy when we made it to the top of Half Dome after a grueling hike. I felt joy when my nieces and nephew were born and I got to hold them for the first time.

I don’t necessarily feel joyful constantly, nor do I think I would want to. I’m more apt to look for contentment, a more subdued and gentle form of joy or happiness. Feeling joy all the time holds a bit too much energy for me, which I don’t know if I’d be ready for. Or am I in denial about feeling too much joy?

Interestingly, I think I feel joy the most keenly when I’ve been in a time of challenge – hiking Half Dome, missing my friends, worrying about my sisters-in-law in labor. As with many emotions and states of being, it’s not possible to feel one without having the presence of its opposite. How do you know light if you do not know dark? How do you know happiness if not for sadness? How can we know joy if not for sorrow?


A Year-ish Ago: Yosemite and Half Dome

Last June (2014), my parents, my friend (who went to the Grand Canyon with us), and I went to Yosemite National Park to tackle Half Dome. It started with some conversations with my parents the winter before about going to Yosemite. Followed by an email where my dad said he had secured a heated tent cabin reservation at Curry Village. And then another email in March saying he had submitted an application for a permit to Half Dome, following the process outlined which enters you into a lottery to “win” one of 225 permits granted each day during the season when the cables are up. Unlike the Grand Canyon trip I blogged about in the previous entry, I was totally along for the ride on this trip – my dad did all the research.

Sadly, we didn’t get a permit through the preseason process. As my dad emailed, “We’re out of luck. Accept w/ humility and God knows our desires.” But he didn’t give up and aimed for the daily lottery in which you apply two days before to hear back a day before whether you get one of the 50 daily permits that are given to go up Half Dome. We set our plans to go to Yosemite in June anyway, hoping we’d get a Half Dome permit but also being prepared to do other hikes if we didn’t get it. And in June, we got the permit on the day we arrived in Yosemite. We were so excited and yet not fully believing that we were to go up Half Dome the day after arriving!

The four of us arrived in Yosemite Valley, in awe of the views of the famous rocks – El Capitan, Half Dome, the beautiful sheer walls of rock rising above the valley floor. We settled into our tent cabin in Curry Village and turned in early. The next morning, we arose around 4am and hit the trails by 5:15am, leaving Curry Village for the Half Dome trailhead on the Mist Trail. I had no idea what was in store for this 14.2 mile, one-day, grueling hike; and that’s a good thing, otherwise, I probably would not have gotten out of bed that morning.

It was a crazy long, crazy strenuous, crazy beautiful, and crazy worth-it hike. We had day packs because we were going up and down in one day. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold and just gorgeous.


We hit Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls along the way up and back. We ran into people of all shapes, ages, sizes going up the trail (all seeming to pass us – were we really that slow?). And we just kept on trudging along. One step at a time. Stopping for snacks and breaks. I won’t go in detail of the long long trek. But we made it to the bottom of the cables, and I was about to give up. It had been such a grueling hike, and then we were supposed to risk our lives climbing a sheer vertical cliff, pulling ourselves up by these cables? No way! In the photo below, see that line that goes up that rock? Look really closely – that’s a line of people going up the cables!


With a lot of pep talking each other, we decided to keep going. After all, isn’t that what we came for? And we made it to the top. It was an amazing feeling, and we rejoiced! And then we had to go back down. I’ve never been so tired and so semi-conscious on a hike in my life.


All in all, here are the stats:

  • 14.2 miles round trip
  • 4800 feet elevation change
  • 14.5 hours
  • no blisters
  • lots and lots of aching muscles

I’m glad I did some training beforehand (running a few miles once or twice a week, practicing yoga once or twice a week, walking the stairs wherever I could) otherwise, I don’t think I could have done it. It was amazing.

The next day, we did the Upper Yosemite Falls trail – another challenging hike. This was a 6.8 mile round trip with “only” 2700 feet elevation change, and it took us “only” 8 hours. This trail is notorious for its infinite number of switchbacks (in reality, about 60, but it sure felt like a neverending number!). No rest for us who came from far away to see the beauty of Yosemite National Park!


Our final day, with muscles aching and energy spent, we drove up to Glacier Point, opting out of the Four Mile Hike which would have been a pretty strenuous hike. Thank goodness we just drove – there’s a lookout point, and an ice cream shop; it’s pretty touristy – definitely not a rewarding summit after a long hike. But we got to see a panoramic view of the hikes we had done the days before. Wow. In the photo below, Half Dome is the big bare rock on the left. And Vernal and Nevada Falls are on the right – that’s all part of the Mist Trail that we did.



Willpower Won Today!

I ran my first race today.  A 10K in Crissy Field in San Francisco called Run 10 Feed 10.

race bib

It was a cool, foggy morning in the city.  The route was a loop through Crissy Field that gave us views of Golden Gate bridge shrouded in fog.  There were probably a few hundred runners in this race sponsored by Women’s Health.

My main goal for this race was to finish and to keep running the whole way.  And I accomplished those goals!  There were times when I just wanted to walk, especially as I saw other runners doing the same.  But I quelled the voices in my head that were saying, things like,

  • Just take a quick break.  You can always start up running again.  
  • Feel that cramp in your abdomen?  It hurts, doesn’t it?  Walk it off!
  • Aren’t your legs tired?  Take it easy!

I just kept thinking of how much I wanted to be able to tell people that I ran the whole race, all 6.2 miles, without stopping.  And just that thought kept me going.  The thought of how proud I would be with what I had accomplished.  But those “can’t” voices in my head sure kept trying to slow me down.

I’m just amazed at how far I’ve come in 8 months of running.  From a place where I could barely do intervals of one minute running, one minute walking for a total of a half hour.  Now to a place where I ran a full 6.2 miles.

It’s all about willpower, which I’ve talked about before.  I know my body can do the run.  It’s not impossible physically.  But it’s all about the mind.  About those voices that say, “I can’t.”  And it’s amazing how loud those voices can be when the going gets tough: running long distance, difficult yoga poses, life challenges.

I don’t know if I’m ready for a half or full marathon yet in my life.  This 10K really pushed me beyond my comfort zone.  I still have the goal of doing a triathlon someday, so maybe that’s the next thing I need to start training for.

I like the challenge that these past 8 months of running have presented to me.  I had to get into a groove from never having one before.  I had to get out of bed and battle all the voices encouraging me to sleep and “just run tomorrow.”  I overcame a sprained ankle.  I made the decision to enter a 10K race before I had even run a 5K.  I started a job and had to figure out a new running schedule.  All of these potential roadblocks were overcome by my will and desire to keep going and reaching my goal.  It’s given me learnings that I can apply to my life as I encounter challenges that really count.

Removing Barriers

As I am still in a state of transition, I have been coming across mini-projects to overcome places in my life that I have often found to be abhorrent, impossible, undesirable…  just that I dislike or even “hate.”  But truthfully, there is very little in this world that I hate (people, places, things, etc.).  Hate is such a strong feeling.

Here are some of the things I’ve been tackling with the mindset that I don’t want barriers to get in my way to doing anything:

  • RUNNING.  Ironically, I was on the track team in high school.  More as a way to keep in shape in the spring than for any love of running or track and field activities.  I ran sprints and threw discus and did the lophotong jump.  Whenever we had to do long distance running, a few laps around the track or around the school, I just about died.  I hated it.  I hated the feeling of being out of breath, of the pains in my side and lungs, of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.  Throughout my years in college and after, I’ve taken on running here and there, both indoors and outdoors, knowing that I didn’t really enjoy it; but it was a good, cheap way to stay in shape.  In Boston, I started running a bit when I lived in the city, near the Charles River, but over the years, I stopped and had no regrets.

I’ve started running again since I’ve been staying in Arizona where the weather is amenable to outdoors-running until it gets scorchingly hot.  I’ve been inspired by some friends who’ve been running marathons and long-distance for fun.  I’ve also been inspired by reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk about When I Talk about Running— a great read whether you’re a runner or not.  And I’ve also been inspired to do some of this “overcoming barriers” work for myself.  My solo-travels was about that to some extent.  Getting my scuba-diving license was about that, too.  Renting a moped in Pulau Pangkor without an international license and put-putting around that hilly island was about that, too.  Overcoming fears, taking down walls, getting over things I’ve disliked or resisted.

Because I am totally undisciplined when it comes to running (strange because I can be so disciplined about other things in my life), I decided to take on the “couch to 5K” regimen to start.  I’d heard good things about it from various sources.  I also looked at the regimen, and it seemed manageable.  I’m now on week four!  And so far, so good.

It’s amazing the voices that come up in my head when running.  At first, all seems good, and then as it starts to get challenging (I get winded; my legs feel strained; my lungs feel pressured), the voices telling me to take a break, to stop, to give up are so loud.  It takes all my willpower to quell those voices and keep going.  The work really begins when I want to stop (see my post about the practice of yoga and willpower— so relevant).

For now, I’m just trying to take each run for it is, another step.  Trying not to think too far ahead or think about the past and my dislike of running.  It’s definitely easier when the weather is nice as it has been in Arizona!

  • MAKING BREAD.  I brought back some sourdough starter from New Zealand from one of the families I stayed with, almost making a loaf of bread every week.  I’ve always had an inexplicable fear of making bread.  I think photo(1)it’s a “I’m not worthy” type of complex.  I was afraid of yeast and sourdough was another level beyond me.  I’m not sure what the fear was based on– fear of killing the little bacteria, fear of doing something wrong and failing, I guess.

Once I revived the starter and got to making the bread, I’ve tried various recipes and methods.  I’ve had to negotiate the dryness and elevation of Arizona and where my parents live (about 3500 ft above sea level).  And I’ve been using different types of flour– wheat, spelt, rye, white, multigrain.  And I’m finally getting the hang of it, after a bunch of loaves.  The key is having enough honey to add sweetness to the bread.  Also, kneading it enough to make sure everything is incorporated.

I haven’t eaten store bought bread in several months, and I’m loving it!  All that goes into the bread is the starter, flour, water, salt, some oil (I’ve been using olive oil or flaxseed oil), and some salt.  I even experimented with a loaf by adding fresh rosemary.  Yum!  There’s nothing like freshly baked bread.  This is a denser type of bread than the usual yeast breads, but I’m loving the whole process!

Doing even these two seemingly simple things– running and making bread– has taught me so much about how much we blow our barriers and challenges out of proportion.  They become monsters in our head, made up of irrational fears and dread.  And when we take the steps to break down those walls, the shadows and darkness are dissipated to reveal a beauty before unseen.

There are more things I am afraid of, that I dread or dislike; but for now, I’ll go with these two activities.  Nourishing my body in these two ways, building my willpower and my stamina.

Final Day of the Road Trip

We decided to make this the final day of the road trip. One of the ideas had been to drive down from Santa Fe through Albuquerque down to White Sands National Monument, but that would have put an extra several hundred miles and an extra day into our travels. And I was really starting to feel the bone-weariness of being in a car, driving for hundreds of miles each day. So we decided to head to Globe, where my parents live. Just a day's drive.

Itinerary: Santa Fe, NM to Globe, AZ by way of Albuquerque, NM
Miles driven: ~400 miles, which at this point feels like a breeze. “What, just 400 miles? That's just 7-8 hours away by car!
Food eaten: some treats from the farmers' market, breakfast in Albuquerque, and finished with a meal of greens, rice, and kimchee at home. The best way to end a long trip.

Before heading out on our journey, my friend and her husband took us to the Santa Fe Farmers' Market which was beautiful! We ended up spending about an hour there with my mom buying things left and right to take home and cook. I love farmers' markets.

Roasting Hatch peppers-- a common sight in the Southwest

The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this farmers' market were breathtaking. I really wanted to buy up everything I saw, too. But I restrained myself. Fresh produce and me are good friends.

Beautiful purple flowers of the artichoke plant

Who knew there were different colored cauliflower?!

Love all the colors of the rainbow you can see in a farmers' market in peak season

So after tearing ourselves away from the farmer's market with considerably less money in my mom's wallet, we drove to Albuquerque, about an hour away, to meet up for breakfast with another old friend from Boston. It was great to see him and also good to hear that he might be moving back to Boston!

Other than those exciting moments, we took the rest of the drive back to Globe, meandering through the mountainous roads and ending up here:

Strangely, it was cool, almost cold, in New Mexico and in Globe, too. Rainy, cloudy, cold. Not like the Southwest I often hear about. And the summer is just finishing up. But no complaints here.

So final tallies:

  • Total miles driven: ~3000 miles plus some extra for driving around when I got lost
  • Total driving companions: two– my friend S from Boston and my mom
  • Total great meals: too many to count. Highlights would have to be Zingerman's Reuben in Ann Arbor, egg sandwich at M. Henry in Chicago, ribs at Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis, and that bag of Hot Fries that I consumed somewhere between Chicago and Centennial, CO.
  • Final reflections: I did it! No small feat. And thanks so much to all those along the way who helped make it so enjoyable with the mini-reunions and tips on delicious eats. Thanks, especially, to my amazing car that held up through it all. Honda Accord 2000. Do they still make them as good as they used to?

So now time to rest up, pack, buy the last things I need for my “REAL” trip and figure out really how this blogging thing works for real on my iPad.

Side note: Part of why I started blogging before my trip was because I wanted to get used to this medium of journalling. It's public and requires some consistency if I want to maintain readership. More on that issue for another post. But if you've been reading along, you may notice that my formatting has been kind of wonky. I finally read up on blogging with my iPad and found Blogsy, what a great app to help me blog more easily! Blogsy + Picasa + wireless connection + a wireless keyboard + photo-taking on my iPhone + Instagram (for photo editing) make the winning combination! So enjoy, hopefully with more consistent formatting as I get used to using my iPad and not my laptop for the rest of my journey!


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