I had the good fortune of spending time in Greece a few Summers ago and was given the incredible opportunity to hike Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. In Greek mythology, Olympus was regarded as the home of the Twelve Olympian gods of the ancient Greek world. It formed itself after the gods defeated the Titans in the Titan War, and soon gods inhabited the palace. It is the setting of many mythological Greek stories.
My encounter was nearly a Greek tragedy. Yes, I am a trained actress, but I am not being dramatic at all when I say that I thought I… was going… to die. I sincerely thought I would plunge to my death or have to be carried off the mountain. It was the most challenging thing I have ever done.
Once I returned home, I gave my nearests and dearests the play by play. Every grueling detail, every terrifying nuance. Believe me, it was not a heroic tale. I was completely satisfied with my story of, “Man, that sucked, but I did it!” My dear friend, Oksana patiently listened to my account and then laughed at me. She asked, “Where is the Lisa Adams I know on the face of this mountain? You seem to have left her out of the story altogether. You must mine this experience for deeper meaning and find out where she went.”
I knew she was right. I am a leader. I embrace challenge. I thrive outside of my comfort zone. I can think, dream, chant, pray, coach my way out of any not-so-great situation. I am healthy and able bodied. I seemed to have left all of those qualities at the bottom of the mountain because on that day, I was stuck. I chose fear nearly every step of the way. It is a wonder I ever made it down to write this.
1. I kept looking to the top and honestly could never see it. It seemed so unattainable. Until my dear friend, Cassie, with whom I was hiking, said, “Just put one foot in front of the other. That is the only way you’ll ever get there.” Up until then, that was only a reference to a 1970 Rankin/Bass Christmas Special. I learned to stay present, stay in my own lane, walk in my own shoes. Most times we cannot see the destination, we need to hold the inner vision.
2. Contrast and extremes are necessary to fully experience life. One of my favorite subjects is contrast and I reference it all the time - when I am not teetering off the edge of a mountain! We must have a perceived negative to balance out the perceived positive. There is a whole variety of extremes on Mount O. - temperature, weather, altitude, ease vs. difficulty, fear vs. belief, comfort vs. pain. I see now, safely typing from my home, that the extreme positives of that day are so much sweeter for having navigated the extreme negatives.
3. Not showing up for myself allowed me to receive. Typically, I am a wizard at giving, but that day I was a master at receiving. That dear friend, Cassie, was given her own occasion to rise. She led me, coached me, turned all the affirmations I had been showering on her at the beginning of our trip back onto me. She was kind, patient, generous, and ultimately loved me up to the top. I developed shiny new muscles on Mount Olympus - humility and surrender. And I strengthened my favorite muscle - gratitude.
So where did I go that day? Why did I desert myself in my greatest hour of need? (Oksana, I still don’t know.) I think that the climb was an out of body experience. I don’t even care how ridiculous that sounds because that disappearing act cracked me open. I am now even more available for my own personal summits.
More than anything, I was reminded that I get to change my story - not just in telling it - but in the living it. I am going to restate that for all of you. YOU get to change your story. Not just the telling of it, but the living it. Yes, sometimes our situations are not ideal and we sit in complain-mode, worry, or self pity. We may not be able to control our circumstances but we get to control how we react to them. We have a say in who we will become in the face of adversity. I could have changed my story during the actual hike but I held on to my fear instead of choosing to love myself, to love the Mountain, to love Cassie, to love all of it. I invite you all to throw some love on your situation and become the hero of your own story.
Thinking back to that incredible summer, some of my fondest memories are of the Greek cuisine! I found these Gigante Greek butter beans at my ethnic market recently and knew I had to create something with them and revisit this story. They are an extreme bean. Large in size, large in creamy texture, large in earthy flavor.
Mount Olympus Gigante Beans
- 3 cups dried Gigante beans
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- 1 cup finely diced red onion
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
- salt and pepper
Place beans in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain in the morning, rinse. Place in spot and cover with water again. Add bay leaves and salt to the pot. Over medium heat, bring beans to a boil. Simmer for 2 hours until the outer bean is firm but the inside is creamy. Drain beans, remove bay leaves, and place in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let marinate for at least one hour before serving.