I glance in the direction of the clock, a bright red 2-0-0 is stitched into inky blackness.
It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’m just getting to bed. I think to myself, I should just stay up...make a pot of coffee and just slide right into tomorrow, opting out of tonight's night sleep entirely...
But just as fast as that reverie appears in my mind it disappear, dissolving into a deep and needed sleep.
Now my alarm is yelling loudly at me from the living room. I'm tired. It's 4 o'clock in the morning, I know this for certain because I set that damn alarm before crawling into bed just two hours earlier. I keep my alarm in the living room so that I have to get out of bed, walk out of the bedroom, across the cold hardwood floor and into the living room to turn it off - by the time I get to it I'm more awake then I am asleep and the snooze button no longer temps me.
But this morning I linger in bed for a moment longer, blinking my puffy eyes open and listening to the obnoxious sound of my alarm for an extra second. Then, in a ritualistic sweep, I roll off my bed and on my feet mid stride towards the living room, towards the return of silence. Plus the coffee maker is already pre-loaded with 8 cups of water and 60 grams of coffee grounds and even my sleep deprived mind cannot not know this.
I'm an early riser and I always have been. And you want to know the deep dark secret to being an early riser? Good coffee.
Sure, some days it’s the wish to experience a beautiful sunrise that gets you up early or some days is a heavy workload that gets you to to leave the cozy nook of your bed. But most days it is a good cup of coffee, or the tea, that gets you up and rolling before the sun.
Now wide awake with a halo of steam rising up around me from the coffee cup glued to my hand I make my way back into the bedroom. I lean in real close to a shadowy mound that resembles a human form, and whisper into the tangled mess of covers,
“Zack….do you still want to go climbing at Pinnacles?”
Him, “ Do you?”
Longer pause that I punctuate with a big slurp of coffee;
“I’m kinda tired. But, yeah. I think I need to get out of here.”
And just like that, in record time we're dressed. Coffee cups in hand, our climbing backpack strapped to his back and my camera bag strapped to mine we wind our way from our front door through the street light polluted blackness of night to the getaway car.
Gone we are.
Off to satiate the deep need to feel wild and free and wholesome. To let the toughness to mom nature remind us that the world, that nature herself, is so much bigger and grander and unrelenting and alive than the little piece of contained life that we create at home.
There are many things I love and admire about Zack. He has so many pieces of goodness and toughness and softness all wrapped up and bow tied in the skin of his body. But one of the qualities that I admire most is his high level of willingness. He is a will do, go along, say yes to any experience life presents no matter the time of day or night kind of human being; the best kind of human being if you ask me. Willingness sometimes seems like a lost virtue in our modern technological world, a world that hoards the sort of convenience that has the minimum amount of compromise.
Needless to say I treasure this willingness about him.
We have many lost nights asleep between the two of us. Countless after work midnight drives down dirt roads with alpine starts the following day. Week after week of turn and burns to the mountains we love on the single day off from work we have that week. Memories we’ve created and had to work hard for, punctuated with our own blood, sweat, and tears. It sounds exhausting doesn’t it? And sometimes it is, ruefully so.
But the truth is that most days it seems more exhausting to try to convince ourselves to take it easy and stay home rather than tear out of town to climb up a sandstone slab or traverse a mountain ridge or sleep under a blanket of stars unfettered by the light pollution of humanity.
Sure, the compromises we make are great. But shouldn’t they be? Isn’t a life well lived one rife with compromise, rearranged priorities, and hard right turns onto a road more congruent with the person we feel ourselves to be? Isn't compromise how we find out what matters to each of us as individuals?
I believe so.
I believe the things we are willing to compromise don’t tell the story of what we are careless about, they tell us the story of who we are, what matters, and the values we are made of.
And so when the alarm clock goes off at a god awful hour on the one day I have to sleep in, I get my ass out of bed, grab a cup of coffee and head out towards the open space of some adventure in the backdrop of my choosing. I let the flow of nature and creative living, a connection to something greater, sweep me up and carry me off somewhere extraordinary.
You see, sometimes the adventure of moving towards what calls you is more important than trying to figure out how to leave behind or change the things that are no longer meant for you. And most days that adventure will require you to make compromises. But often times the compromises you make become your unique path to being more clear about the values you are made of.