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Sunday, July 4, 2010


On the night before we were supposed to start our journey to the higher mountains, I was despondent. My lower back pain was agonizing, and I thought that surgery lurked around the next corner. After all, two different doctors had recommended that I have another section of my lumbar spine fused ASAP after my neck fusion surgery a few months ago. I decided to try to stave off that surgery and enjoy the summer. So, on that night before our planned trip, I thought that my decision was being made for me.

That night, we watched an inspiring movie, Invictus, about Nelson Mandela. In the movie, Mandela recites the poem "Invictus" to help himself through his seemingly never-ending imprisonment. "Invictus" is Latin and means "unconquered".

Invictus. William Ernest Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

At first, I focused on the second to last line "I am the master of my fate". I thought that it was delusional. After all, Mandela had lost 27 years of his life due to the tyranny of imprisonment. And, although my case is far less tragic, I've come to believe that I have little control over my spine degeneration and its effects on my future. On that night, I felt like a ship lost at sea, completely out of control of my future. My attitude definitely was not summed up by the phrase "the master of my fate".

But then, I thought about the last line: "I am the captain of my soul.". That provided me with a toehold to keep moving. For Mandela, it meant that his tragic loss of so many years didn't sour his soul. In fact, he even forgave those who imprisoned him. For me, I interpreted it as I CAN control how I react to bad events and how they impact my spirit. More concretely, I do control how I respond to back pain.

On that thought, I decided that we should take our trip. We'd modify it a bit to give me recovery time reclining in a La Fuma chair. However, I knew that simply being in the high mountains would make my spirit soar. So, we headed out with the agreement that we'd go to one locale and stay there until I started feeling better. Thank goodness - I did recover and my pain returned to its familiar level over our first four days high in the Rocky Mountains. I think that surgery can wait a bit longer.

I'll be back to thicker air soon with stories and photos from our trip up in the thin air.


  1. Once again, I have to shake my head and wonder how in the world you can do it!

    Welcome Back!

    I know we'll all be looking forward to pics and such!

  2. beautiful...good for you...i've missed you....
    you are the captain of your soul...

  3. Welcome back, we missed you. We hope you are doing better.

  4. Count us as having missed you too.
    We will look forward to pics , more writing and more unconquerability!

    Jo and Stella

  5. Glad you went on your trip!

    It sounds like you had a great time!

    Can't wait to hear and see all the wonderful things that you encountered.

    Stay strong!

    Lots of Luv & Kisses
    Addie, Lucie and Hailey

  6. It is so good to hear from you again. We missed your morning courage and optimism.

  7. And here we are sitting at home being lazy!

    And you are up in the mountains with a sore back having great adventures!!!!!!!!!!!

    Good on you!

  8. Isn't it great how we can get our inspiration from words? I learned a mantra many years ago that I use when things don't go the way I think they should -

    I am 100% responsible for how I chose to respond to all situations and all people. Everyone else is 0% responsible. No excuses. No whining. No blaming.

  9. I'm glad to see you back from your travels safely and glad to hear that the trip was a balm to your soul. That poem is certainly inspirational and I'm glad that you found it when you needed it! I hope that you are able to put off the surgery as long as possible!

  10. We are glad you still made your trip. A pretty place can sometimes be the best medicine for your soul!


  11. I love that you found something that you were able to embrace to help you find the strength to keep going. When life feels overwhelming yet you find a way to overcome spiritual defeat it is an incredible moment.

    Thank you for sharing that. And I am so happy that you were able to rise above.

    You are a wonderful inspiration my friend.

  12. Glad you were able to go on your trip.

    I've missed my daily dose on Romp-Roll-Rockies, but am happy you've been able to play outside. Looking forward to the posts about your trip.

    Thanks for sharing the poem.

  13. I've been wondering how you were doing after your previous post. I'm happy you were able to go and it sounds like the trip helped lift your spirits.

    I don't have anything as difficult as what you are handling, but I am still struggling with keeping my spirits up and not letting my circumstances drag me down. It's hard work but reading your words certainly helps.


  14. So glad you got to come up high, KB! Your spirit was quenched, I bet, and I hope your pain was manageable. The photos make me smile!

  15. I'm glad you found a thought pattern and a location to keep yourself on track.

    The idea of YOU beyond the pain, beyond your body, even beyond your thoughts and emotions is a concept (from yoga) ... that gave me trouble.

    The way I see it, there is a seed of YOU that's out of reach from even the pain and what it may (or may not) mean.

  16. That's always been one of my favorite poems.

    I've been wondering (and worrying) about you ever since your last post. I'm so glad you've decided to give it a bit longer so you can enjoy the mountains while they are so enjoyable. Winter makes everything so much harder.

  17. Although I missed reading your posts, I was happy since I knew it meant you had taken the trip after all. I have loved Invictus since I learned it in school so many years ago. I'm so glad the trip went well.

  18. SO glad you decided to lauch your vacation! We have a La Fuma chair ready and packed for camping, so comfortable.
    Your trip reports have been wonderful! (Going about this backwards.)

    Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
    Sierra Rose


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