Facing Impossible Challenges

Braving the Ice

Do you have trouble asking for help? Would you rather soldier on, than admit that you are struggling? Do you tough it out?

I pondered this a couple of weeks ago as I slid down an icy slope in the woods. Those of you who hate the cold are likely wondering what I was doing there in the first place. What you may not appreciate is that winter hiking is the best! The secret is in being prepared, and knowing what to carry.

I’ve always loved hiking, but it wasn’t until I met my husband, that I fully appreciated the glory of long winter treks. I hated being out in the cold. Many women hope for jewelry from their sweethearts, but my most treasured gifts have been the hiking boots, fleece vests, walking poles, and snow shoes that my sweet husband has given me over the years. Now that I am properly equipped, I love accompanying him on his winter hikes.

A few weeks ago, I went on a long hike in the woods, with my friend Pat. I knew it might be icy at the top of the mountain, so we packed our micro spikes along with peanut butter wraps and extra pairs of gloves. Micro spikes, for those of you who are not lovers of the cold, are “winter traction devices”. Think sharp-toothed chains you attach to the bottom of your hiking boots.

When we started out on the old logging road, there was a crust of frozen snow, with enough roughness for us to walk easily in our hiking boots. About a mile up the mountain—deep in conversation and not paying much attention to the road—we hit a steep patch and started to slide backwards in slow motion. Frozen in fear, as our boots failed to grip the crust on the incline, we envisioned a long bumpy tumble down the mountain. After a few frightening moments, I settled my shaking legs by taking long slow breaths. Pat and I then gingerly sank to the ground as we searched for old tree stumps on which to brace our feet so we could strap on our micro spikes.

A few minutes later, armored with spiky feet, we hiked up the mountain.

Pat had never worn spikes and couldn’t believe how easy it was to make it up the mountain. We were giddy! We felt like champions. Even when we hit sheer ice, our spikes gripped solidly, and we walked with confidence. It was as easy as walking across a room in our slippers. Finding our stride, we picked up our pace, built up some heat, and forgot about the ice. At the top of the mountain, we set our backpacks down on a picnic table overlooking a snow-covered pond, and delighted in our peanut butter sandwiches and thermoses of warm chai tea. There is nothing more magical, than the sharp contrast of chilly air against your cheeks, and warm, sweet tea moving through your system.

As we retraced our steps down through the woods, we marveled at the transformation in our day. Had we not packed our micro spikes, we would have been forced to slide down the hill and abandon our adventure. But equipped with the right tools, we were able to surmount the hill—and our fear.

So, when you’re faced with a mountain of stress at work, what do you do? Slide back in defeat? Suffer in silence? Complain to your friends? Daydream about a better job? Or do you do something about it? Is there someone you can turn to for advice? Could there be a tool that will make your job easier?

There is always a solution: even if it means finding a new job. You are not powerless, even if you think you are. My friend Pat and I would have been helpless had we not packed the right tools. Imagine facing an icy slope without a pair of micro spikes! That is terrifying. But braving—and conquering—the ice is thrilling when you carry the right tools. The secret is not giving up, and then knowing when and where to turn for help so you can step into your power.