Balancing Life and the Mountains

Balancing Life and the Mountains

By Tyler Marshall

The two most important aspects of my life are 1) family, and 2) the mountains.

My time in the mountains is sacred. Perhaps this is because it comes at a high cost.

In my personal life, I’m currently a non-traditional student. I work. I have a spouse, and two young children. I also try to spend time moving in the mountains each week. This time can be quite practical. It gives me a recharge. It allows me to be more patient, and also a happier person. It also provides a healthy outlet.

However, balancing these unique parts of life can be challengingand quite draining. 

If I could, I would spend time in the mountains everyday. They provide an escape from emails, texts, and social mediafrom traffic and noise. Most importantly, being in nature emancipates my soul. The mountains are a place in which I engage with myself. My ego is stripped away while in the tranquility of nature. What is left behind? That’s up to me to experience in the moment. I find a resilient peace in being confronted with open space in the mountains. I love it. I’m often left with nothing but a trail to follow, and my inward thoughts. Running in the mountains is meditation set to the beat of my feet. This cadence, pursued on a narrow dirt path, forms a liberating constraint. Structure promotes creative thinking and expression. To me, this process is one of life’s great joys.

But what is the cost?

My life is dominated by the needs of my small family. I recognize that not everyone shares in this experience, or even has the desire for it. However, all people are stretched in a variety of directions.  

Each week, I try to set a rough plan for when I’ll get into the mountains. I plan my time there based on my little family’s schedule. When the weather is warm enough, I try to run before my kiddos wake up for the day. In other instances, I seek to run during times that my family isn’t able to spend time together anyway. Unfortunately, this system isn’t airtight. There are often times I get up on trails while my family isn’t busy. This is a sacrifice on their part. Sometimes I carry feelings of selfishness and guilt. However, I think that pursuing balance in how to spend one’s time is a vital aspect of life. Each person has desires. They have likes and dislikes, goals and dreams. I think that healthy relationships rely on an appropriate give and take. The level of this give and take is based on individual circumstances, and also on the current time and place.

I think that the most important part of this balance is being conscientious of others’ needs. I want to put others above myself. I think that the system works when those around me feel the same.

I hope my children recognize that my time spent in the mountains is an opportunity for self-improvement on my part. I hope I can teach them the value of pursuing goals. I want them to value their health, and to see the capabilities of their bodies and minds. I want to show them that doing difficult things is good.

Sometimes, it’s not so simple. Sometimes the right move is to show my family my love by forgoing mountain time. Some days I find myself dying to get out and move, but our lives don’t allow me to make that time. It’s important I do this with a smile. I want them to feel that they come first. No questions asked.

It’s vital to have a list of priorities. What’s first?

It’s so hard to balance time. One way I find comfort in the juggling act is through showing my family the places that are meaningful to me. I take my kiddos on hikes. They love throwing rocks in creeks. They take great pleasure in simply climbing rocks and logs. To their energetic minds, the mountains are a palace of exploration and of excitement. I suppose that it’s the same for me! I show them the places I love, and this allows me to combine my favorite aspects of life. I find fulfillment in little excursions. I worry about what will happen as my children age out of simple joy.

Importantly, I still need that “me time.” Prioritizing my own health and needs is critical to living a healthy life. The mountains are my space. One of my favorite things to do is reach a summit. I love the challenge of a stout climb. I love the sensation of air thinning out steadily. I love feeling my legs tire, and my lungs and heart work. I revel in the serenity of nature. After arriving at the top of a peak, I look forward with giddiness to the descent. These jaunts down mountains are special. They require focus. This precludes me from thinking because I am diligent in watching the trail as I pass over it. Time passes quickly. It’s a trancelike state. When I return to the parking lot, I’m a different person. I’ve stopped thinking about everything for a period of time. When I return to processing daily life, I can now do so in a better way.

One final aspect of mountain time I love is the social component. Because of my time in the mountains, I don’t have time to see people who aren’t my family. Thus, I love running in groups. Sharing these amazing experiences with others enables me to find deep meaning. I love connecting with others. Time in the mountains with loved ones is unlike anything else.

After each run, I return home and embrace my identity as a dad and husband. I answer a million kid questions, do chores, give attention, and listen. The aspects of my life blur together, and I’m glad that I wear more than one symbolic hat.

Balance is difficult.

Life seems to pull me in dozens of directions at once. I don’t have a real blueprint for how to handle this well. For now, I seek balance each weekeach day even.

I’m grateful for loved ones who support my mountain time. Everyday’s a new opportunity to pursue hopes and dreams. Figuring out how to balance these dreams in a family or group dynamic is a constraint that promotes creativity and joy.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.