Sometimes all we can focus on is the few steps right in front of us. The terrain is rocky and full of roots and we could fall if we’re not careful. And if we look too far ahead we’ll just get overwhelmed with how much further up we have left to climb.
Sometimes, we’re scared of falling so we hunker down and concentrate hard on making it through the tough terrain. We’re alone and no one knows of our struggle to get through.
Sometimes it’s necessary to stop and catch our breath. We need to hold on to something to steady ourselves or we need to reach out for someone’s hand to help us up.
When we feel like quitting this is a good time to stop and absorb all the beauty that surrounds us. We need to take field notes and look back over the terrain we’ve already hiked and appreciate where we are on the path. We’re in the process of doing big, difficult things, and rest and assessment are all a part of our growth.
Sometimes we’re trying so hard we can feel our heart beat in our ears wondering if we’re about to faint from sheer exhaustion. Our muscles are seizing up and burning and we are working our body to the max. We’re not sure we can go on much longer, but we continue on anyway. We miss things along the way due to our laser focus.
Other times it’s smooth sailing downhill, our body is limber now and cooperating nicely with us and when things are level again, it’s nice to report back to others all the good spots along the way as well as all the things they should to watch out for.
Occasionally a gnat swarms within inches of our face, and there’s a switchback up ahead. We swat and sigh knowing that no matter how far up we go, we will still have annoyances like these in life. Pretty soon, and without realizing — the gnat problem and switchbacks are gone and we think, “that wasn’t so bad.”
We’ve learned we have to lean into the unknown to rise; head down mostly— our upper body, with some sort of “just knowing” guiding us into the unfamilar. We’ve learned we have to lean back into ourselves and hope our knees don’t give out as we listen to our intuition to descend.
When things get too twisty turny, the path disappears under thick brush, or a tree blocks our path and we’re not quite sure where to go next… we can always turn back around and start another day.
I yelled to some hikers as we were descending and they were climbing past us that, “we didn’t make it all the way to the top.” A woman yelled back, “There’s no shame in that! There always tomorrow!”
When we finally reached the car, I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich like the ravenous-from-playing-outside-little-girl I used to be, and thought, from God’s mouth to my ears. Sometimes, when we’re open to it, we hear what we’re supposed to hear. And that is, there’s no shame in whatever stage of mountain climbing we’re in as long as we’re trying. And tomorrow is as good a day as any to try again.
So stop. Look around. Take a deep breath. Rest. Ask for help if you need it. Grab ahold of something to steady yourself if need be. Tolerate the gnats, and laugh at the switchbacks in life. And know that there is no shame in where you are on your path up the mountain of your life.
There is always tomorrow to try again if you can’t make it to the top of your mountain today. And it’s nice to help others along our path and yell some words of encouragement from the distance.
You can do this!