Living Vertical: Diabetes on the rocks

We all know this: I love rock climbing. A lot. I credit the fit of my wedding dress to a strict regimen of yoga and rock climbing during the month prior to September 24, 2011. But here’s the question: Would I be interested in climbing 365 days of the year? Probably, but lets be honest: I’ve got a motor home to work on.

For Steve and Stefanie Richert, rock climbing 365 days of the year is reality. About a month ago, Sean and I were e-introduced to the couple, who together is “Living Vertical,” meaning for one entire year, they will climb every day. They define climbing as simply, “going up.” Some days, it’s more low key—other days he’s climbing things that are taller than the Chrysler Building. After selling all their possessions that wouldn’t fit into their car, they embarked on a journey to show the world that anything is possible…

…even with diabetes.

You knew there would be a kicker, didn’t you? Steve has had type 1 diabetes for 13 years, and Stefanie recently dealt with her grandfather’s passing, and how difficult it was for him to live with type 2 diabetes leading up to his death. These personal experiences with diabetes and a mutual love for climbing inspired the two to live simply for a year in a project they call “Project 365.” In other news: They might be one of the cutest couples ever. This photo makes me smile:

Climbing every single day—how crazy does that sound? I guess considering the things Sean and I do, it shouldn’t be crazy to me at all… in fact, more than anything, I admire this couple for their strength, courage and physical stamina. I can’t imagine how physically fit I would be if I did something like that. It’s surely a different sort of “fit” than skiing or snowboarding requires. Lots of bumps and bruises—I know that from personal experience. Couple that with Steve’s diabetes, and it’s like a whole new ballgame.

A shot of insulin on the rocks (see what I did there??)…

I think the best part about their project is the blogging and photos. They’re filming a documentary, but in the meantime leave blog posts and short videos for the public to follow. Steve has a way with words, and his honestly is palpable. He had a revelation after climbing Moonlight Buttress a while back. (That’s the climb that was taller than the Chrysler Building.) He said:

The past several days marked not only the passage of the first 25% of Project 365 but also a shift in my mindset in terms of what I believe is possible for myself as a person of average athletic talent. Do you know what it’s like when you can feel something is changing and you know it’s big, but it’s so big that you can’t really wrap your head around it? I think that’s where I am right now and while it is exciting, it is somewhat disorienting too.

He goes on to comment on how diabetes comes into the mix after reading other people’s Facebook posts about how life is hard with diabetes, and woe is me sort of banter. His mindset in this next quote is so similar to how Sean and I feel that I just want to hug him. Go Steve.
Having diabetes is hard. Yup. So?  What, you want a low carb cookie? There isn’t a cure, just effective treatments that can enable you to live an amazing life if you’re willing to step away from the computer, quit complaining and go get after it. Life is suffering, hardship. Accept this and you can deal with life. Embrace it and you can create something beautiful. Few things provoke my ire like hearing people complain about having this condition as though it is the end of life itself, or a curse. No one gets out of here alive. Death and suffering are not optional. What you do with your time and what you make out of your hardships are choices that you get to make again and again and that is a huge privilege–a gift.
Whether we have diabetes or not, I think we can all learn a little something from that gem. For more, visit livingvertical.org (they’re a nonprofit too!).

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