Why I Decided Not to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Mountain That Took My Husband’s Life… Right Now

Written by Chelsea Dinsmore May 24, 2017

Every since that fateful day on September 12, 2015, witnessing the death of my husband right before my very eyes, I have thought about whether or not to revisit Mount Kilimanjaro. Could I finally make Scott’s dream of reaching the summit a reality? Could I conquer something that tried to conquer me?

As I was walking down the mountain nearly two years ago, I had a lot of time to think, and even moments after (well realistically probably a few blurry hours after) I thought that I would climb it again….

Originally, I had thought I would do it on the anniversary of his death. But one of the best pieces of advice I was given was not to make any big decisions for at least a year. In my opinion, this test fell into the category of a ‘big decision’ (as did getting a tattoo, signing a lease on an apartment, etc.)

Looking back, I’ve found it to be great advice because there is a reason the world operates in cycles. The ocean has a tide that comes in and out and then repeats itself. The moon has a 30 day cycle. A year cycles through four seasons. Life even has a full cycle of birth to death. The length of each of these is varying under the constructs of time, but every full cycle allows a completion of sorts. Each part of the cycle offers something different that allows the entirety of the circle to be completed. A cycle, however long it may be, allows a process to unfold. To take what was and turn it into what is. Every part matters. It all comes together to complete the whole, and then it happens again… allowing for progression, even if part of that cycle may not appear that way at the time.

While the uncertainty of not having a specific path and plan nearly broke me at times, going through a full year without deciding on ‘the future’ of my life, once completed, was a good thing. I am glad that I chose to sit in the unknown without making any drastic decisions because my motives, my desires, and my intentions were allowed time to reorganize and come back together in a new form – under these current conditions. As I’ve watched myself walk through year two of this journey, even though I am still unsure how it is going to come together, I am witnessing the same thing happening at a new depth.

Last year for me felt as though it took a lot of “hard work.” I feel as though I jumped on a train to healing and absolutely nothing was going to derail me. This was honestly for better and for worse. Better because my determination allowed me to find joy in a life that I never could have imagined, nor fathomed enjoying. And for worse because, in order to not be derailed, I didn’t allow much to enter my space, as external things could take me off my track. I was very much in a self-preservation mode, keeping even those nearest and dearest to me at arm’s length, for a few reasons:

  1. If I didn’t depend on anyone, it wouldn’t hurt as bad if they went away.
  2. I was determined to learn how to manage my emotions, leaving little space to manage others’.

Now, I fully recognize and am aware that there are better ways and I’m transitioning there now. For me, it was a year dedicated to growth and rising above, and while I am very proud of myself for choosing that path versus being derailed before even jumping on the train, I can now look back and see that while I rose above, I did so with a lot of trying. It was a lot of effort. It felt more like survival, and I’m just now beginning to turn that surviving into thriving, which presents new challenges along with new joys.

All of this just being a long way of saying, the idea of re-climbing Kilimanjaro entered my headspace again about 6 months ago. As I have learned to listen to my intuition more, I’ve used Derek Sivers’ “hell yes” or a “no” methodology, but this one wasn’t clear either way. So I simply sat with it, but then an opportunity presented itself.

I became connected with a young South African woman named Letshego last July whose husband also died while climbing Kili. We were put in touch by a member of this amazing community who asked if she could interview me for the South African newspaper and give a message to the beautiful young woman who was suddenly in a position all-too-similar to what I had witnessed 10 months earlier.

We have remained in touch since that day, leaning on each other for advice, supporting each other, and sharing what sometimes feels like no one else in the world can possibly understand.

We have talked about the idea of re-climbing the mountain together. So when I recently got a message from her declaring that she was in fact going to climb on the anniversary of her husband’s passing this July, suddenly there was a time frame.

I couldn’t imagine doing this heart-wrenching task with anyone else right now. I wouldn’t want to, to be honest. So when she asked me, I thought to myself… ‘Well I guess the time is now.’ I made sure to get blessing from those nearest and dearest to me and, perhaps naively, I actually didn’t have concerns about the emotions it would bring being back on the mountain. As I mentioned in my World Domination Summit keynote, I firmly believe that my hardest day is behind me and we would be taking a different route so I would never even touch the fated ground from before.

Additionally, since Scott’s passing I’ve been back to Kilimanjaro. I’ve been to the top of other mountains, and while not as extreme, I’ve have been in situations that reminded me of the actual physical effort of climbing the mountain. I know it would bring up emotions I cannot foresee right now. The past year and a half has certainly proven that to me time and time again! But a week of ‘reminders’ seems like nothing compared to walking through my days with the endless reminders I see that Scott is gone.  

So for me it wasn’t a matter of whether or not I could do it.

Note: I’ve found this to be a very powerful practice. When we eliminate the idea of not being able to do something, believing that you actually can, it opens up some space to dig into it deeper… It’s the idea of being curious about whether you can do something rather than assuming that you cannot – and then seeing what comes up from there. Because as we all know, there are many ways to reach a destination, but you’ve first got to believe that you can get there, you just don’t quite know how yet…. What if you really could do that thing that you think you can’t? There’s no room for anything more when we shut something down from the get-go. So when we visualize that we can (we just don’t know how yet), it’s often very interesting to see how many possibilities come up… Just some food for thought!

Anyway, I put the Live Your Legend principles into place and asked myself:

“Why do you want to do this?”

I know that my main motive would be out of love and honor for Scott. He dreamed for years of being on the top of that mountain. I envisioned myself proudly holding the LYL flag that never made it to the top last time. Snapping an epic picture. Spreading some of his ashes there on the summit, his journey finally complete. Catharsis.

The thought of taking those final brutal steps to the summit and hugging my fellow warrior woman does bring me to tears. There’s power in that statement. The act of love. The underlying message behind it: WE TRULY ARE LIMITLESS. That tragedy does not have to be the end of your story. You have the choice to write your own ending – and wow what an ending that would be to the book I am currently writing!

But there are many ways to love and honor Scott. Was this the best way? While supportive, did I really need to put family and friends through a week of agony and angst to honor Scott?

I had moments where I was certain I was going to do it. But then I found myself questioning my intentions. I would think to myself, “Gosh, do I really have to climb 19,000 and something feet to get that outcome? To honor my husband, to prove to myself and others that we are limitless?”

While Letshego’s experience is different, my reality is that I never actually really cared about going up that mountain. I did it to support Scott and his dream. There is no blame here; I very intentionally made the decision to climb. I wasn’t forced to go. I agreed to it fully and wholeheartedly to support him. And while I clearly would have preferred another outcome, I truly have no regret. I am glad I chose to be by his side as he was living out one of his biggest dreams.

So I found myself still stuck in indecision, with nothing feeling quite right. I became really curious about this questioning because it was coming up for a reason against the moments where I felt so sure. Therefore, I employed one of the better practices I’ve ever learned from my near and dear friend and mentor, Jadah Sellner.

I asked for more time.

I simply acknowledged that I was not ready to make a decision yet. I asked Letshego when she needed to know? I asked the outfitter and also a person who presented me with an exciting opportunity to do an LYL workshop on the dates that would conflict with the climb. They both gave me their parameters.

The presenting deadline approached first so I kindly declined and sat in indecision a little longer to see what else would reveal itself. And since I am all about full disclosure with this amazing community, I might have asked for a little help from the universe as well. 🙂 I hoped I would wake up to find an article in the newspaper (which I don’t even read, by the way) about either the horror or the beauty of Mount Kilimanjaro, and BOOM, my decision would be made.

No such luck. (Or maybe I just needed to actually pick up the paper, ha!)

Instead, without the pressure to make a decision, I was able to let go of all of my racing thoughts and dig deeper. I was able to stop seeing what was right in front of me, so that I could see the whole picture. In that digging, I realized the only reason I felt compelled to make a decision was because of timing. If my dear friend wasn’t climbing the mountain this summer, I would not be pulled to do it right now. And, well, timing alone is not a great reason to trudge myself across the world to the top of a massive mountain. I have a feeling that Kilimanjaro isn’t going anywhere any time soon…

So, I simply said to myself, I am not climbing… right now. And those two words “right now” can make so much difference in our lives. They keep opportunity alive, but allows us to surrender to the how and when so we can let things unfold with the grace that only our hearts can dictate.

Maybe I will see the top of that mountain one day. Maybe I won’t. But if and when I do, I know it will be a decision from my heart, not for any other external reason. I recognize the impact summiting the mountain would make. The people it would inspire. The major motion picture ending it could create. The feeling of accomplishment.

But making the conscious decision not to decide right now is actually the only decision that feels right. So that is my decision. Because, intuitively, that is what is right… right now.

As I have watched myself walk through this past year and a half, I can see the cycles that started, then restarted again. When Scott first passed away, the only way I knew how to love him was through the pain I felt of him being gone. It was my body’s natural reaction to loss. Then I watched myself learn to love him by living almost solely out love and honor for him, taking over his business, living the way he would live, etc. But then pain (in the form of feeling out of alignment) began to reappear because I wasn’t expressing my full potential by living out his dreams.

And even though I was doing so out of an act of love, what I am beginning to see is that I wasn’t expressing the purest form of love – which is not to just give it, but to actually live it. To do what matters to you, because when you own your truth and fully embrace and express what you love, you can’t help but effortlessly share that love with others.

I am very much still a work in progress but I’m learning to transition out of living out his and our dreams, to now living out my dreams (and what they are now becoming without him). While it comes with its own challenges ie. feeling selfish, being forced to face myself head on, owning up to the responsibility to live my best life, even though it may impacts other people’s plans of how I fit in their lives.

But I truly believe that the deepest way to love all those around me, is to be my best self. Because when I am that person, I simply cannot help but share that love with everyone I come in contact with, those within my inner circle and beyond.

So, in a way, choosing not to re-climb Kilimanjaro right now actually feels like a deeper, more pure act of love, because that statement says because I love you, I choose to shine the light that is me. Because I love you, I am going to let go of what should have been or what could be, so that I can fully embrace what is…

And through this experience, I’ve things learned a thing or two from my decision to not decide.

1. It is not only just ok, it is eye opening, to ask for more time!

“One option is no choice.  Two options is a dilemma.  Three options is a choice.” – Tony Robbins

Your intuition is a powerful place to make decisions from, but sometimes time helps you to quiet the voice in your head, so your heart can be heard. There are never just two options (yes or no, etc.). There is always another way, even if that means not to decide, right now.

2. Try adding right now to the statements you hear yourself say often…

This is a simple yet powerful tool to not get stuck.

I am not X…. right now. (I am not location independent, right now.)

I am choosing to X… right now. (I am choosing to stay in my current job, right now)

I am X… right now. (I am unsatisfied, right now)

3. Whose dreams are you living? 

Sometimes we use “love” as a reason not to live out our dream – because it’s an honorable way to do so. But if you are living someone else’s dreams, while from a place of good intention, you may in fact actually be doing the exact opposite. While we are all about doing things for a reason greater than yourself here at LYL, it has to be in alignment with yourself. Yet, sometimes we do things for others (because we ‘love’ people and want to make them proud, happy, etc.), but if that love is causing you pain or to not enjoy your days, it is likely causing others pain too…

Perhaps choosing to follow your own dreams may in fact be the more direct path to loving those around you… Because love, by nature is not a painful emotion, yet sometimes we put rules around it that make it so. However, the reality is that true love is expansive and embraces all circumstances. And if that love is causing you not to be your true self, in the end, no one is better for it. And the cycle repeats. Again and again and again.

And, it’s amazing how things unfold when you do decide to follow your heart. Next week I will share with you the opportunity that came as a result of this. By choosing not to live a dream that wasn’t my own, a dream that was my own came to be. Tune in next week to learn how I got an opportunity to spend this summer living and working at a yoga retreat in Italy (which I couldn’t be more excited about)!!!!

Here’s to a continued journey… and, to each and every one of us reaching our own peaks,

Chelsea Dinsmore

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