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When There is No Where To Go But Up

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

These two are responsible for me being here and experiencing the Land of Costa Rica

The nightlife of La Fortuna and the beat and the vibe of this cute little Costa Rican town came through my open window in the form of music and Spanish-speaking voices. I was sitting in our rented car parked on the side of the road, alone, exhausted-beyond-anything-I-can-ever-remember and reflecting on my 4th, or is it 5th day here in Costa Rica. The days were moving along too quickly to put the number on the days.

In a couple days, it will be one week here.

Today was my toughest challenge yet being away in a foreign land. Emotions from fear to anger to panic to desperate pleas and prayers to God to save me were all present and part of my day.

It was all brought on by a mistake, my mistake.

However, Iet me just place a teensy bit of blame on my two children who tell me all the time that I could walk on water if I just tried. Sometimes I get carried away by the superlatives they throw my way and start considering that water walking might well be a good sport to take up. This experience brought me way back down to earth.

Celestine and Brian had been planning a hike to the volcano two days before. It fell through as the entrance to the hike had changed locations — as such we ended up taking a 2-hour stroll through the jungle to see Sloths.

So, today, five days into our trip, was the day for the hike. The volcano hike was disposed of and replaced with what they said was a shorter hike to a waterfall. That sounded nice to me — so I was game. I knew I could do pretty well with slow inclines as I had been doing some exercise and doing more walking to help prepare for the trip. I had lost around 50 pounds, but even so, let’s be real, I still had a good amount to lose that needed to be lost before I would feel in tip-top shape.

Little interesting facts about this waterfall hike slowly began to emerge over the following days, prior to the hike. The first thing I discovered was that this hike was stairs — hundreds upon hundreds of stairs. I told my two children who believe I can accomplish water walking, that stairs were not like just walking and that they were too difficult for me and I would have trouble with that.

But seriously, how confident are two people going to be that you can do it, if they believe you can succeed with water walking? I was assured that it was a short hike and that I could do it. I consoled myself with, “if it became too much I would just turn around.

So, along comes the day of the hike. A couple hours before the hike, the most jaw-dropping and concerning fact about this hike came to light. It’s easy to smile about that fact now, but then — Wow.

Could it possibly be that my two beautiful children just forgot to tell me that, "the hike started by going down into a "hole of sorts" where the waterfall was, and that I would have no choice but to climb back out if I went down?"

Somehow I questioned whether they had intentionally left out that fact. They must have thought it best to fess up before the hike. At this point, there was a part of me that was ready to stand up to my two cheerleaders that were bound and determined to cheer me on along to my doom. However, It turns out their cheerleading was stronger than my sense of survival, and so we hopped into the car and sped off to the waterfall stair hike.

Going down the steep stairs wasn't too terribly bad I thought. My legs felt a little wobbly as I drew closer to the end but there was no pain and I had steady breathing. My children were behind me saying things like, " Wow, Mom, it's even hard to keep up with you, and you're doing great, Mom." I thought to myself, "maybe I'm doing okay" and I kept going. When we were nearing the end, my son and daughter both started saying, when I started walking on the short flat surfaces occasionally found between the stairs, "Mom, why are you walking so funny? Or, Mom, do you know you are walking funny?" I could sense that I was walking funny but I did not know why and dismissed the comments – I was almost there anyway. "Yes, I can do this," I told myself – turning into my own cheerleader.

We arrived. Celestine and Brian sprinted on ahead of me and went straight for the waterfall. I took my final step from the stairs and started to walk on flat ground. Again, I could feel myself walking funny, but this time the realization of what was happening began to reveal itself. My seldom-used stair muscles in my legs were threatening to give way and leave me sprawling on the ground. I could barely move my legs and stand upright. It seemed every muscle in my Iegs had gone on strike from being overworked. As I carefully walked on my legs, they were threatening to give way at any second. ("Noodles" was the terminology Brian used to describe my unstable legs).

I made my way carefully to a bench, feeling I would and could solve the problem by giving my legs a rest. Celestine and Brian were oblivious to my dilemma as they happily set up their tripod and camera for pictures near the waterfall.

Even sitting, my legs felt strange and weird. It was a sensation that my leg muscles lacked any sort of control.

I did not in any given second forget that looming ahead of me was a climb up hundreds upon hundreds of stairs.

I sat there on my bench and looked at my watch. It said I had an hour to get up out of that waterfall hole I had descended into. We were supposed to be out of the park at 5:00 PM and it was then 4:00 PM.

I stood up and my legs gave way, but I managed to catch myself from tumbling to the ground. My new "noodle" legs were exhausted beyond anything I had experienced before and I wasn't positive as to what to do and panic was setting in.

My mind began imagining a helicopter having to land to hoist me up and out or rescue men having to carry me out on a stretcher. I was mortified by all the thoughts that were coming to my mind. One thought after another came to bring on further humiliation. I thought, with immense embarrassment, that it would take 10 men to carry the stretcher I was on, and they would not be too happy with me.

I had to try to climb up those stairs. I had to get started up, but how? I could barely put one foot in front of the other and with every step I feared I would end up on the ground. I wanted to cry but couldn't – there was no time. So, I prayed desperately, earnestly with a bit of faith for God to save me from such a thing as my mistake, which was supposing I could take a stair hike in the shape I was in.

I didn't know what I was going to do but I headed ever so slowly for the stairs. Upon reaching the stairs, again I wanted to sit and cry, but I knew there was no time for it. I grabbed the handrail and miraculously stepped upon the first step.

At that point, I knew my legs did not have the strength to make the ascent. I knew it was, in reality, impossible for my legs to carry my body weight up the stairs with virtually next-to-no strength in them. I continued to pray and the thought came to me, "well what do you have besides your legs to help yourself?" Following that, I remembered I had been exercising and strengthening my arms for quite some time – could my arms really be of assistance to me? I looked at the stairs and then the railing. I started out by placing one hand on the railing and then using it to help with some of the load that was being placed on my legs. I made it up a few stairs more like this. My legs still kept giving way and I felt lost and stunned by the fact I had really begun to believe that I could do this hike in the first place, and I felt foolish and sad over my predicament.

I think my hoisting maneuver should be patented for older ladies who are overweight and take on impossible challenges

One arm on the railing was not going to do it. My next moment of enlightenment made me reach over with my other hand and place two hands upon the railing. I noticed that if I reached with one of the hands on the railing and used the other hand on the railing for support, I could assist the reaching hand to propel or hoist my body forward with a bit of momentum, and leverage my body weight to create movement. I moved consistently forward with this maneuver, difficult and slow as it might have been, it was still forward.

After making it up one flight of stairs of the many flights of stairs, I could see Celestine at the waterfall and was able to motion to her that I was headed up.

She came over to see what was up. I told her I was in serious trouble – that my legs were not supporting me and I was afraid of not making it up. I don't believe she grasped how serious my situation was as she had seen me go down the stairs without much problem. The first thing she said to me was, "but Mom, you are headed in the wrong direction." I couldn't believe her until I turned around and saw the stairs heading up just behind me. Apparently I was climbing up to the deck where you could get a clearer view of the waterfall, which was only a couple flights up. Having to descend again to the bottom was almost more than I could handle at that point, but I kept it together while going back down and walked over to the other steps to climb – all while reminding myself not to cry as I had no energy to give to it.

Everyone was passing me going up. I must have looked a site and many hikers must have wondered why an overweight woman would have taken such a demanding descent for herself in the first place, but I was too tired and exhausted to feel the proper amount of embarrassment for my situation and continued on, pausing for rest and sitting at times and then moving forward with my climb. Nobody was going to carry me out on a stretcher I determined. My legs were barely managing to hold me upright, but I didn't, couldn't and wouldn't let myself imagine anymore helicopters or rescue teams coming to the rescue.

But then my amazing rescue team did come.

Celestine and Brian came when I was nearing the halfway marker. I say that matter of factly, because where were my babies when I began nearly crawling my way up the stairs, drenched in sweat, and blood pulsing through my red face? I could feel a tiny bit of anger threatening to escape, because I was so scared, but I was so grateful to see my cheerleaders heading toward me that I focused on their beautiful faces and the fact they were coming to the rescue or at the very least, to be by my side through this ordeal. Also, I had no more energy for anger than I had for crying. I wanted to embrace my two dears who looked like Superheros to me coming to save the day, but once again, I didn't have the energy for even that. However, I was certainly shedding tears inside when my daughter came and put her arms around me and Brian moved up to see how he could assist me.

They had been having fun, enjoying the waterfall – taking pictures and frolicking about, when Celestine sensed something was not right, leading them to quickly try to find me.

I was majorly glad to see them and immediately took great comfort in their presence.

Their cheerleading began in earnest when they arrived. Ahh! Cheerleading can be as annoying as anything when it takes the form of rah! Rah! sis boom bah you can do it! Go! Go! Which was what my cheerleaders had for me upon arriving. My annoyance over their well-meaning cheers was zapping precious energy and so I firmly asked them to stop. But then my daughter came up with a little gem to hand over to me which caused me pause, reflection and changed the trajectory of my thoughts. Whereupon, Brian, himself, handed over a well-worn adage that was priceless and needed at the time.

After driving me nuts with their sayings and rah! rahs, Celestine solemnly said, "Mom, sometimes you are thrown into a situation where you are asked to be strong whether you want to or not."

Brian then added, "Take it one step at a time, Mom, and don't look up."

With both sayings running through my head and into my heart, I felt fortified and inspired by my inspiring Children.

It was tough to decide if breaks were worth it. I needed it, but at the same time every time I stopped, it was harder to get going

Brian and Celestine would have gladly walked up for me if they could have. However, this climb belonged to me – and me alone.

This was a fight I would physically have to make on my own. I had not felt such a demand on my body to perform before and not being prepared for such a fight was excruciatingly hard.

There was no easy way for me. "One more Step, Janice, just take one more step. Don't look up, don't look up." Being thrown into this situation, albeit by myself, was definitely an ask for me to be strong whether I wanted to or not.

My children's words were playing over and over again on repeat.

And at times I looked to the sky for a helicopter ride – kinda, sorta hoping that someone passing by would report the crazy overweight woman hoisting herself along the railing, struggling to make it up, attempting a climb that was impossible for her. I didn't really want that, but then again, I really did want that at various points along the way.

I never truly believed I would make it or even could make it to the top. Instead I put my faith in God being able to help me make the one step, the next step. And in being asked to be strong even though I didn't want to be necessarily in this situation or to be strong.

So much time seemed to pass.

Celestine suddenly scampered ahead and disappeared around the corner– coming back with a broad smile on her face. After being questioned, she divulged that I was way close to my goal and emphasized "way close," flashing her signature smile.

My daughter who always has her camera ready, captured my final couple of steps up

I refused to believe it until I, myself, turned the same corner as Celestine and saw the landing up ahead above one more menacing flight of stairs. My mind and body wanted to fly up those stairs, but the earth's gravity still had a firm grip on me, so I painstakingly continued one step at a time until I stood on the landing. Following not too far behind us was the Park Ranger. He informed us we were the last ones out of the park -- but we were out. I marveled that I had really made it. My legs shook with tremors and at that point really wanted to give way. With Celestine and Brian's help I made it to a bench and just sat.

Just sitting after a tough and good battle is quite gratifying. The hardness suddenly falls away and you're left with a peace. There is nothing left in you to feel, so peace settles in.

Maybe the toughness of the battle determines the peace

-- A battle so tough that you've given all you had to give. You've extended yourself and faced yourself and seen your shortcomings and used up your strengths.

– it's the kind of battle where you need to go beyond your capacity – stretching and reaching for God's hand, because you by yourself is just not enough.

Peace is the end result of such a fight.

Such a fight is worthwhile to me, even if it springs from a mistake in judgment or silly circumstances. People aren't creatures of perfection.

I barely had a chance to see the waterfall as I was too busy climbing – but what a climb it was – watching my impossible become possible.

When there is no where to go but up, you go up -- where possible is.


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Jun 25, 2023

Janice, I cannot think of the words to express how much this means to me. First of all, I am so proud of you. Second of all, I can relate to so many things in this post, which helped me realize things inside of me that make me feel so good. I love reading what you write, don’t stop. ❤️


Jun 13, 2023

Wow! I could feel your whole journey to and from the waterfall! It was as if I was with you. You shared such beautiful imagery! What a powerful experience you now have as an inspiring story forever!


Jun 02, 2023

This is such an inspiring story! So symbiotic of our journey through life. Sometimes we are stronger than we realize with the Lords help. This was not your first uphill climb in your life. You have conquered other mountains and theLord was there for you then too. What a great reminder that we don’t need to fear the future because we can do amazing things with the Lord’s help, love Mercy and grace ❤️

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