She rolls her eyes when she says it.
“Whatever.” (Pronounced whaaatevvvverrrrrr.)
And it’s usually accompanied not only by a derisive snort but also by a look of exacerbated irritation.
As a definitely “not-whatever” kind of guy, I find myself feeling extraordinarily pissed off whenever this word comes out of my sweet stepdaughter’s mouth.
But I’ve begun to wonder whether it might be worthwhile to develop a better “whatever” frame of mind.
I had the privilege recently of guiding the first ever Special Olympian in his quest to climb Mt. Rainier. From a mountaineer’s perspective, achieving the 14,410’ summit is a significant objective: the mountain is big, steep, heavily crevassed and technical.
This was to be a barrier-breaking expedition. There had been extensive publicity.
We had assembled a strong team. We had planned extensively. We had trained with Patrick for months. We had done numerous fund-raising events. We had flown across the country with hundreds of pounds of gear. We had set aside eight days during the most favorable time of the year.
We had carried heavy loads across hot glaciers and established a high camp at 11,000’. We had had near-perfect weather. The route had never been in better shape.
On the night of our summit bid, the sky was crystal clear. The wind was light. The stars were so close we could touch them. The temperature was moderate. The snow was perfect.
The summit – victory – was near.
Although I knew the challenges of getting Patrick safely to the top and back again were huge, I was focused, single-minded, determined. I would achieve this objective. I would accomplish this goal.
I could taste it.
And then Patrick sat down on his pack. It was just after dawn. We were at 13,000’. Still more than 1000’ to go. He was spent.
Altitude had taken its toll.
I suspected I could coax him further on. The team was strong. But the terrain is unforgiving. And it was a long, long way back to base camp.
I made the heart-wrenching decision to turn the team back.
My glacier goggles hid the tears; the thin air good cover for my wrenching chest.
Back in the tent, I wept.
I had wanted that summit so badly.
I felt like I had failed; like I had let Patrick down, that I had let his parents down; like I had diminished the hopes and aspirations of the organization that so ardently supported Patrick, and his countless fans; and like I had failed the organization’s visionary executive director who had become a dear friend.
When I emerged from the tent a couple of hours later, Patrick was smiling. He was wondering when we were going to go back to the car, back to Seattle, whether there’d be a hot tub in the motel room, whether he might be able to buy a new set of headphones.
He was happy.
He had let it go.
To strive and not attach. To hold the vision and not the outcome. To be fully present and alive in each and every moment. This is the greatest of Buddhist wisdom; so easily set aside in this age in which success is valued above all else.
It is, of course, about the journey. (And this journey was so fine.)
Patrick, my great teacher once again.
I must learn to say “whatever.”
The question: How are you at saying “whatever?”