Glancing through Facebook, it’s easy to believe that for most people, life is a series of joyful moments. Even knowing that social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s easy to start believing that others are always happy.
In reality, I think of life as more of a climb. Some days a struggle, but most often a climb.
I’ve had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro twice. The night before the summit push is long, cold, dark, and tortuous. There are many times I asked myself why I was doing it. Reaching Uhuru peak at the break of dawn, it all made sense. When we’re in the struggle, it’s often hard to see the point. Glancing back in the darkness, the distant glow of headlamps of the other groups weaving their way up the mountain reminded me of how far we’d come, even though we weren’t yet at the top.
We judged our movement by the needs of the group, taking breaks if people were struggling, telling stories, and singing songs when spirits needed to be lifted. We knew we were going to do this as a team, and that we would leave no one behind.
By husband Joe has led over 7 school groups up Kilimanjaro. Of the people who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, about 50% are successful. With these school groups, after months of training, group work, and team building, the success rate is almost 100%. What I have learned from this, is that we work best in teams. The second time I summitted felt harder than the first. Although the photos look the same, they represent two completely different experiences. Both of which were preceded by many months of training.
Perhaps life is like this, a climb, punctuated by triumphs and joyful moments. If I’m not having fun today, that’s okay, as long as I’m content with the longer term journey. Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to reach out and join us as we move forward, together.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Executive Director, Landing Strong
“I just want to be happy,” the woman sitting next to me at the coffee shop exclaims to her friend, “is that too much to ask?”
I’m trying not to listen, but have a hard time tuning her out since she’s speaking so loudly. As I sip my London Fog, I wonder if she is struggling because she’s asking the wrong question.
Everyone is talking about having a happy life. I’m not sure such a thing exists. In true Buddhist tradition, we can’t fully appreciate joy without knowing suffering. Or love, without loneliness. I believe happiness is a byproduct of spending our time in meaningful ways, not a destination in and of itself. It’s really about understanding the impact of the many small choices we make each day. Happiness might come from supporting a friend instead of watching Netflix, or starting that fitness program we’ve been putting off. It’s about choosing to do the hard thing, instead of settling for what’s easy. It’s not always clear how important the struggle is when we’re in the midst of it. The joy of an accomplishment is in direct proportion to the challenge it presents. If it isn’t hard to do, it probably isn’t worth doing.
So instead of asking the question, “why can’t I be happy?”, we should be asking, “how have I challenged myself today?” Ultimately, it’s through meaning and purpose that we find fulfillment.
One of the physical hazards of being a psychologist is that much of my working life consists of sitting. It’s literally killing me… hence part of my motivation to create a program that is engaging and physically active. I want to move with you.
Have I mentioned that my family is hard core into fitness? I just returned from a vacation out West where we participated in the Great Canadian Death Race, followed by a back country hiking trip through the Rockies. It’s the Seagram idea of fun. What is the Great Canadian Death Race you ask? It’s 125 km of mountainous terrain covered by a team of five people over a 24 hour period. No, I did not compete… I’m not at that level. I was the support crew.
My daughter Mackenzie, the Landing Strong Director of Wellbeing and Community Engagement, played a vital role with the team, tackling a 38 km mountainous section. She killed it. A graduate from Acadia University with a psychology and nutrition double major, she practices what she preaches. She represented Acadia’s Cross Country Running team for four years, last year making it to Nationals. She has also competed at the Canada Games representing Nova Scotia in a Biathlon; and in her free time summited Mount Kilimanjaro twice. In her down time, she works on getting me to reach for hummus instead of cookies. Shall we say, it’s a work in progress. I’m grateful that we have someone so uniquely qualified to help us get active and engaged! Mackenzie is setting the food plan for Landing Strong, coordinating community activities, and planning outdoor adventures for us. She is also generating much of the health promotion social media content that we are putting out over Facebook and Instagram. The quirky sense of humour… that’s her. I hope you will join me in welcoming her to the Landing Strong Team.
Do I sound like a proud parent? Well I guess I am, but I am also incredibly proud of the huge talent we have assembled in the Landing Strong Team. It’s bursting with passion, expertise, enthusiasm, and commitment. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to various members of the team, so that you have the opportunity to get to know each of us on a more personal level. Over time, perhaps you will share with us details about your journey, so that we might walk together.
[In the team pic attached L to R: Dale Block, Joe Seagram, Kaitlin Proksch, Kyle Seagram, and Mackenzie Seagram.]
I remember from when I was a kid how my older brother and his friends were amusing themselves on a hot summer afternoon by jumping off a local shed roof. It was quite a height… perhaps seven or eight feet. Not wanting to be left out, I was determined to make the leap. I was terrified. I summoned up my courage and jumped.
Years later, when I went back and looked at the shed, I was amazed how small it looked. What had seemed an insurmountable obstacle at one point in time, later appeared to be relatively insignificant. It now doesn’t seem like such a big drop. I feel quite proud that I was able to conjure up courage as my ten-year-old self to do it. Had I not jumped, or had someone pushed me, I suspect it would have felt very different. This was a step I had to take on my own for it to have meaning.
Have you ever taken a big leap of faith? The scariest part is generally standing at the edge thinking about taking the jump. Once in motion, it’s not so bad.
If you’re reading this post, that’s already you. Just by virtue of being connected with us via our blog, you have taken that first step.
Anyone who knows me well also knows that I love a challenge.
This may be, in part, why I so much enjoy the show Naked and Afraid. It’s not that I have the desire to be dropped in the middle of some foreign wasteland with a complete stranger and no clothing. Quite the contrary in fact.
It’s the survival aspect of the show that intrigues me. The more episodes I watch, the more I realize that the outcome of the 21 day challenge is largely determined within the first 48 hours. Drinking enough water, protecting oneself from the elements, and protecting oneself from predators (which by the way does tend to be primarily blood-sucking insects rather than large mammals) are all very important. Equally important though is the participants’ ability to work together. Participants who work well together do much better than those who don’t. We survive better in tribes than we do solo, particularly in times of hardship.
That’s one of the big reasons why I believe in a group approach to recovery. Sure it’s hard to form the initial trust, but once we have it, the strength of the team far surpasses that of the individual. It’s a concept I’m totally sold on, because I have seen it work. I hope you will come be a part of our tribe.
Connecting with Belinda
Founder Belinda Seagram, Ph.D. shares regular blog posts to inspire you during your journey.