The Climb

I remember those few moments with such vivid detail. The walls around me were bright blue. The room smelled of stale food and disinfectant and smelly feet. The music from the gym was just loud enough so that I could hear Taylor Swift urging me to “Shake it Off.” 

We all have a handful of these types of moments. The ones where every detail is burned into our brains forever. The ones that we remember so clearly later – as if we experienced them in slow motion – perhaps because our subconscious minds knew the significance of the event long before our conscious minds could process it.

About eight months ago, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I was at a rock-climbing gym. I think it goes without saying that this is not the place I would have chosen, if given the choice, for my catharsis! I was by myself in the “party room,” waiting for 

the pizza delivery for my daughter’s soccer team. 

As I waited, I tried to get into the “party spirit.” But all I could think about was that I felt so lonely. In fact, I felt the loneliest I had ever felt in my life. 

Big, fat, hot tears rolled down my cheeks. Time stood still, and I just gave in to the moment. I cried until there were no tears left – only that stuttered, post-cry breathing that I had not experienced since I was a little kid.

As I tried to recover, I thought again, what is wrong with me? Why did I feel so lonely and depressed and lost? I was alive and healthy with people who love me, while so many others lost their lives or loved ones or jobs or homes to the pandemic. Not only did I not understand why I was feeling the way I was, but I also felt ashamed and embarrassed to be having those feelings in the first place.

And yet there also was a part of me that knew that what was surfacing at this moment was not new. Yes, the pandemic has been one of the loneliest, most unsettling, most traumatic events of my life (and everyone else’s). But it also has been a catalyst to bring my “ugly truths” to the surface. 

Suddenly, two things became clear: (1) I did not want to feel this way anymore; and (2) if I did not want to feel this way anymore, I needed to make changes. 

I never could have predicted how the next months would unfold. I had no idea how deep I would end up having to dig (and continue to dig) inside myself for the answers I needed. I had no idea that I would figure out that those “ugly truths” I had perceived about myself were, in fact, my biggest strengths. I had no idea of the true power of human connection – both for myself and for those around me. And most importantly, I had no idea that there were so many others who had been feeling just like I had been feeling and that, together, we could normalize those feelings for each other.

Obviously, as I write today, I still do not have all the answers. I never will and that is okay. But unlike eight months ago, I am excited about life’s continuing journey and all I have left to discover – about the world, about myself, about others.

And finally, as an aside, perhaps it was fate that I was at a “rock-climbing gym” when I hit rock bottom (no pun intended, I swear!). Recently, and unrelated, I was researching the symbolism of a dream and came across the following: 

“[C]limbing up a wall symbolizes inner change, a transformation, self-discovery and strong development.” 

Seems like I was in the right place at the right time, after all.

Postscript: This reflection would be incomplete if I did not mention those special, strong, amazing women who have had my back all along, and those who I have not known as long, but are always there when I need them and as Denise Conroy jokes, with “ski masks and night vision goggles at the ready!” I love you all and am so lucky and grateful to have you in my life: Sarah McAuliffe, Emma McAuliffe, Mary-Alice Barrett, Jennie Blumenthal, Randi Braun, Jackie Bonneau, Barbara Catallo, Melissa Chaput, Denise Conroy, Pavi Dinamani, Dahlia Doumar, Jaime Ellis, Kate Eversfield, Cortney Godin, Alison Greenberg, Nathalie Gregg, Colleen Hennessey, Eugina Jordan, Marcela Kirberger, Patricia Kim, Julia Livingston, Tonya Long, Jane Mathews, Lauren O’Leary, Michelle Pecak, Melina Penniston, Paru Radia, Kayla Rowe, Nammy Sirur, Lisa Smith, Jen Thibodeaux and Naomi Usher.


You are not the same person I met in January… I’m grateful we’ve met and so excited to see where you’re going in this chapter of your story. ~ TJL

The number of times over the last couple of years that I have felt this way…that loneliness and being so unsure of myself and what my purpose is. Thank you for starting this blog 🙂