View from the Plateau

Dawn touches Mount Rundle, Banff, Alberta.

A few years ago, I went to Vancouver to see my sister and start a Rocky Mountaineer train ride through the mountains. We stopped in Banff and Lake Louise – two of my favourite places. The morning after we stayed in Banff, I was sitting on the hotel patio with a tea. It was just freshly September, but that early, at that elevation, my breath was visible in the cold air. The sun was just coming up, and I witnessed the Dawn Mulligan. In the mountains, sunrise occurs when the sun breaches the horizon. But then a different mountain presented a different horizon, and a different sunrise. I watched the sunshine creeping up the side of Mount Rundle, lighting the peaks as the sun broke over a horizon I couldn’t see. The snow caps glowed in the new day’s light. Then the light crested an unseen peak and the whole side of Mount Rundle was no longer in shadow. It was magnificent.

Fast forward 2 years. A fellow named David Brooks wrote a book called The Second Mountain: Quest for a Moral Life. He postulated that everyone is climbing a mountain – school, career, whatever, and eventually, you’ll be far enough up the mountain to see that your mountain isn’t all there is. There’s The Second Mountain. This is the mountain that you climb for someone else – for your family and relationships and community, for a meaningful life. You get to a plateau. Then you realize that there are other measures of success. Sure, hard work and building the foundation of a life based on personal advancement is good, and all, but measuring your life by your progress up the first mountain isn’t ALL there is. And sometimes the path from hither to yon is hard. Sometimes you can’t even see the path forward. But you step forward trusting that you’ll find your way.

I’ve been doing the Noom weight management program since October and around the start of the year, I hit a plateau. I wasn’t worried, I get that this will happen. The scale isn’t the only way I measure my success. But plateaus are still sucky. And it’s now been over a month that I’ve been gaining and losing the same 3-4 pounds. I haven’t fallen off the program, so I don’t what’s with the stall here. The rational part of my head gets that plateaus happen, and 15 pounds in 2 months is a good start. But zounds, it’s frustrating to not see any progress on this single data point for a month. Boo! So this week, I went into hardcore Plateau Busing mode. I read some articles about conquering plateaus (4 ways we hold ourselves back! 3 ways to liberate yourself! 7 ways to challenge a plateau!) I’ve got a plan – a little more activity, and no tracking my weight, water, food, or activity for a week. Then, we see. I’m still *doing* the program, I’m just not tracking it.

I was writing some things into my calendar (that I’m totally not using for tracking… I’m writing down some Asana Rebel videos and Craftsy courses and Participaction fitness breaks that I wanted to pace out over the week. And know what Thursday is? It’s Fat Thursday. It’s the Warning Order for Lent. That’s exciting news, because that means that one week hence, thar be pancakes on the menu! w00t!

It might seem incongruous that I’m excited for Pączki and pancakes and still pouting about a plateau. But I will not be one of those miserable “DOUGHNUTS ARE BAAAAAD! I’M BAD FOR EATING THEM!!” people. No, M’am. I will enjoy what I want to enjoy, because that’s how life is. No one likes a judgy diet zealot. It also doesn’t mean I have to fall Pie-hole first into a flat of Pączki.

I’m kind of glad that Lent is so close, because honestly, my RC Kid muscles feel a little atrophied. I haven’t attended mass (save for one funeral mass) in a year. I do breathwork to bible verses (Seek the Lord while He may be found; search for Him while He is still near), I pray daily… mostly. I even follow Pope Francis on Instagram. I miss having a spiritual adviser, and my religiosity (as separate from my spirituality) has also hit a plateau. But that’s what a Lent practice is for, right? To fast, pray, and share in order to be a better person than I was when I started the process.

If you’re on a plateau, let go of your frustration. Acknowledge how you feel – identify negative feeling. If you understand your limiting attitudes, you can reframe them and use them as opportunities. Look at how far you’ve come – you are making progress. Accept that you’re on a journey, there will be delays and blocked paths and yes, plateaus. Eventually, you’ll view the obstacles as opportunities. So be patient with yourself.

So what plateau do you find yourself on? Certainly, take stock of where you are. The vistas can be stunning, but there is more to do. So here’s to conquering our plateaus, friends. May we all find excellent measures of our success.

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