While I wasn’t marching up any mountain this week, I did take time to think about them. I was looking at some of the photographs we’ve taken over this year and was struck by how different a mountain can look season to season, and yet, how underneath it all, it remains the same.
Sometimes it wears a coat of snow, giving it a stark contrast to the blue sky. Soon it just goes wild and dresses itself in a riot of colour. Sometimes mountains are covered in trees, sometimes barren and rocky.
But underneath it all, under the snow and wildflowers, beneath the trees and shale, the mountain remains; unchanging, steadfast, dependable, certain.
Last weekend we attended the Celebration of Life for my brother-in-law, Bill. My sister Barb, Bill’s wife, and her family, planned the perfect event. It was held at our family farm, a place where Bill loved to visit. As his Alzheimer’s worsened, this was a place he felt at home and found some peace. Last Sunday afternoon was an afternoon Bill would have loved.
Besides the perfect setting, the company was just who Bill would have loved to visit with, family all of us, Bill’s and Barb’s combined ‘kids’, Bill’s extended family and our extended family. Barb asked four different people to speak. Each of them knew Bill in a different way. Each had been in Bill’s life in a different season. None knew what the other would say. Each of course, had their own personal memories and recollections of their time with Bill. What stood out for me was that although the stories, the characters and events, were different, each of them highlighted a remarkably similar theme. No matter if we were hearing about Bill as a young boy, or him as a friend, or father, or stepfather, or brother-in-law, or husband, it was so, so clear. Bill was the mountain.
He was the same with every single person in his life. Kind and gentle, and ‘on your team’, was Bill. Bill could have been at a cottage, at work, at home, or away on a fishing trip with his brothers-in-law. It didn’t matter. Bill was Bill. He didn’t make adaptations in his personality to fit the occasion. He always showed up as himself. Kind and gentle, every time.
What a tribute this is. What a wonderful way to be. To be so much yourself that even being covered with new places, people, situations, life-events, and challenges aren’t enough to cause you to change yourself. To be the mountain.
I thought about this on the long flight home. I’ve continued thinking about it all week. I want to say I’m the mountain too. I want to say I’m so secure in myself and sure of my values that no matter what gale blows, or snow falls, or flowers bloom, I don’t waver. But once in a while I do.
Certainly, there are many places in my life where I am the mountain. But there are also times when my ego or pride, or fear get in my way of simply being myself.
I’m committing to work on this. I can’t think of anything much better than having people trust that when they are with me, I am not only fully myself, but I am the me I am most proud to be. I am the me I have chosen to be. I am the me who when the snow melts off, and the clouds lift, and the wildflowers end their season, I can be counted on to still be me.
When I look out on the mountain ranges we see as we hike, I’m learning the names of some of the individual mountains. What is hard about this is how many mountains there are. What is easy, is once I learn the shape and placement of a mountain, I know with certainty, she will be there the next week, with exactly the same shape, in exactly the same place, standing with exactly the same amount of self-assuredness, welcoming all to be at home with her. She doesn’t bend and twist herself to find acceptance from others. She knows who she is, and she stands tall and proud.
I’d like to be the mountain.
Go softly, Bill.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How am I being the mountain?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations and for conducting leadership reviews. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find out how to be the mountain.