You made it happen!
So … now what?
Let’s rap, I guess. This is what we do.
How about a metaphor?
Acclimatization. It’s about getting used to stuff, right? Specifically, it’s about organisms getting used to change in their environment. I’m an organism (I function independently!) so I think it works.
I’ve been thinking about acclimatization because my beautiful, wonderful friend Diana just got back from a trip to Africa (for her honeymoon) and recently wrote me an email about what it was like to climb Kilimanjaro. “We did the climb in six days,” she wrote. “Two of the six days really weren’t fun … I would highly recommend a ten day climb if you want to try Kili. Six days was just not enough to acclimatize … We both felt lightheaded and a bit confused …I felt very nauseated and Dave was ataxic… However, some of this is supposed to be ‘normal’ and I guess things are okay as long as you don't have a headache.”
That’s just perfect, isn’t it? Lightheadedness. Confusion. Nausea. Ataxia (which btw translates to “lack of order” and medically refers to a lack of coordination and wonky muscle movement). And the best bit: knowledge that such things are NORMAL and acceptance of the notion that everything’s okay … as long as you don’t have a headache.
How true. How fundamentally true. I don’t need to climb a mountain for this stuff. This is how I feel EVERY. DARN. DAY.
I like acclimatization much better than adaptation as a metaphor. Adaptation is about evolution and evolution takes too long. I mean, it’s great and all, but it requires so much patience. Acclimatization happens in the now. It’s relatively fast. It’s more comforting as an idea. We can get used to stuff. We might think we can’t, but we can. If we need to, we can.
Diana isn’t my first friend to climb Kilimanjaro. My friends Craig, Rob and Paul did it last year (and Craig wrote a story about the experience for the magazine awhile back). Of acclimatization Craig wrote, “Doing anything at that altitude requires a huge amount of effort … even sitting up too quickly can result in an instant headache.” He also wrote of the final ascent to the peak: “As close as we were to our goal, several climbers quit during this last leg. Many had rushed, and we came across them on the trail. Some were vomiting, others looked drunk or confused. I was fortunate to feel relatively clearheaded, though I admit I was forced to focus all my thoughts on propelling myself forward – right foot, left foot – in order to advance.”
Did you catch that? Many had rushed. That’s it, isn’t it? That and the bit about the need to focus on propulsion. On moving forward. That’s metaphorical GOLD right there.
So what, though, right? Big deal.
Looking back over the emails they sent me, I noticed that Diana and Craig ended up expressing similar thoughts about their respective trips. They each had their own take on Africa – Diana, being Diana, focusing on poverty, the kindness of strangers, ideas about social and institutional infrastructure, and Craig, being Craig, focusing on physical challenge, climate change, the environment, and existentialism – but in the end, they both had the same fundamental things to say. Craig wrote, “I wish I could accurately describe the exhaustion, exhilaration and excitement … but I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer. Maybe it’s not something anyone can accurately describe.” Di wrote, “It's so hard to describe Tanzania in words. There's such conflicting tension between so many human emotions.”
Tell me about it. I guess that’s why I was stressing about the blog. What does it mean, I wonder… all these words?
But just to bring it back around, I’ll leave off with my real questions: How does one acclimatize? Is it controllable? Can I force it? What if it’s not happening quickly enough? What if it hurts?
Maybe acclimatization happens only as quickly as it has to. And only because it has to. Because if it didn’t, we’d die or something. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know.
I’m okay, in case you were wondering. (And I know you were. Thanks for that too, guys. Thanks for your concern.)
People are resilient. And I’m people.