I believe in discomfort. Yet I have heaters in the winter, air conditioners in the summer and I admit that I am apt to complain when they do not work perfectly. I live in New York City and dissatisfaction had been part of my breeding. If everything is not going perfectly, and it never is, we New Yorkers are bound to kvetch.
Yet every summer I go to Wyoming and change my state of mind. I leave comfort behind in the city and become more thankful. I learn to sacrifice a warm bed for the awe-inspiring beauty of the West.
To summit a peak without getting stuck in a life-threatening lightning storm you have to be down the mountain before the afternoon. Inevitably, this means waking up very early. The piercing beep of an alarm clock at 3:30 in the morning is not the most pleasant of sounds. My groggy eyes peer out of my zero degree sleeping bag to see that it has been covered with a thin, white sheet of frost overnight. Though this may sound like a frozen hell on earth, I only have to look up at the sky to realize that it is all worth it. Up in the inky black of the early morning the stars still twinkle, even brighter than they had the night before, and a full yellow moon glows with a cool, mellow light.
There is much to be done at this freezing hour, and I wake up my friend to help me bring water from the brook that is inevitably downhill. We trudge back up the steep banks to start the water boiling for oatmeal. I try to light a match and realize, much to my dismay, that I will have to remove my gloves. I finally get the tiny stove to work and we huddle around it to steal some of its wavering warmth.
The water starts to boil and we pour it straight into our oatmeal packs. Nothing has ever tasted better. I itch to start our hike and we finally do so, trudging up the path towards the peak. As we rise up the mountain so does the sun, and panting replaces our previous shivers.
I am rewarded again for all this discomfort as we finally reach the summit. The world spreads out before me and the clouds are only just out of reach. We lay out a delicious lunch of peanut butter and jelly, and eat it, enjoying our view from heaven.
I need this uncomfortable cleansing once a year to detox from the New York atmosphere polluted with cynicism. Comfort brings a sense of entitlement, and only with some discomfort can I really enjoy all that I have.
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