Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice, between what is right and what is easy.- Albus Dumbledore
Its week 6 of this adventure and I am sure I don’t need to tell anyone that it has been a dark week, I think my non-contribution to the blog says that almost louder than admitting it here does. I wish that I could write down the reasons it has been a rougher week than usual, but they seem to elude me or are difficult to find when peeking out of the shadows as I have been.
My week started out with a challenging hike up the Manitou Incline with the hubs. And while I think he has confused my love of roaming the woods with my dogs with his love of a challenge, I’ll say I had a pretty good time. Anytime spent with Jay is a good time, accomplishing the incline is a great reminder why I work so hard at all I do, and with the small exception of our dog being attacked by another dog it was a lovely day (no worries, Opie may look small but he can hold his own, all the blood on his white coat was not his, so he gave better than he got, and I am strangely proud). But I walked away from it feeling like there was a piece of me missing and that feeling has continued to linger throughout the week.
As I look back on the two photos we took from our hike I am beginning to think they might hold some clues. Not out right answers mind you- that would be asking to much- but clues as to who I am and why I am finding this particular juncture in my life so filled with roadblocks and hurdles.
When we finally made it to the top of the over 2000 ft elevation gain of straight up vertical madness, we took our pictures to celebrate the moment and the accomplishment. Look at the picture of Opie and me; we look tired but happy. We are hiding, no recouping, near a boulder under a tree and I am clinging to his blood stained fur like a life line. I’ve just reached the top and all I want to do is magically be transported back to the car. Now look at the picture of my husband. Notice anything different? He is standing on the edge of the world it would seem, king to all he can see, open and ready for the next adventure. The man has literally placed himself on the tallest boulder on the furthest edge. All I could think of was-
If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.
So maybe that is my problem. Maybe the huddled mass of sweat and held back vomit hiding under the tree- I mean recouping is really just taking up too much space in life. I’m thinking too much, analyzing too much, planning too much, doing too much, taking on the weight of the world because I am too far in the trenches to say no or just let it ride. Maybe I need to learn to live right out on the edge with my toes hanging over and the wind whipping my hair into my mouth as I grit my teeth and ignore my discomfort. Because I have to tell you, I’m just as uncomfortable under the tree hiding as I would ever be living out in the open very intentionally. And there is always the chance that out there on the edge I’d actually have more space and freedom since there certainly isn’t a crowd (unlike the incline where I am fairly certain I have now been up close and personal with far too many strangers due to lack of space).
For this whole journey of finding Zen and happiness I’ve talked about living intentionally (because I really believe this to be the best path to happiness and Zen) and I think I may have led some of you astray by not remarking on exactly how difficult that choice is. To live intentionally you have to ignore what society says is the “correct” way to live and you have to favor just living authentically making choices that are right for you (and your family), not right for the herd of nameless others. That is a huge feat, a great accomplishment, and something I think I only truly do about 20% of my life, and even that is a struggle. I’m beginning to think that my husband actually is doing this more like 80% and the man isn’t even intentionally living intentionally (say that 5 times fast, or slow. Whatever), he is just being himself, right here, right now, with no apologies or regret. I envy him this ability and I am lucky I chose someone like him to remind me of all that can be done when one lives like Jay.
I think by default our culture here in the US makes it hard to live intentionally. There is only one acceptable path and with everyone on it struggling, it can be difficult to get a footing or even to maintain that footing, forget stepping off the main path and following a side path, it’s too confusing and the fear of ending up sliding down a mountain side or hurt is too high. This metaphor is strangely a great reflection of the incline itself. The incline is a narrow, steep path that consists of railroad tie stairs from the base of the Pikes Peak Mountain range up to the top. There are two false summits (people will tell you there is only one, but don’t believe them) that fool you into thinking you have almost achieved something only to laugh straight in your face when you reach them and realize the hell is really just going to continue.
So like the incline, I guess I have realized that there is no top of the mountain and that life is just full of false summits. Goals and milestones that I set unconsciously thinking that this time, this goal, will lead to the top and I will finally be at peace. And once I reach that goal and I realize it was just a false summit, I set a new goal, look up and head to what I think is the real top… again! Seriously, I have been repeating this pattern most of my life. Why am I still confused by the false summit? Why do I still keep selling myself the lie that each new goal is the one that will set me free and will be the start of the first day of the life I was supposed to be leading?
I’m not fooling anyone, least of all myself. Even as I go through the motions and check the boxes off the list I already know in my heart that the list will continue, that I will not reach the top and that I am supposed to be finding the happiness in the trek not the peak. We’ve all heard this concept in one shape or another, why are we still surprised by it? And why does my husband not seem to notice this at all? He reached the top of the incline and all he saw was more blissful opportunities ahead, all I saw was a long walk back to the car. So week 6 I had no goal, not really. I just wasn’t fit to strive forward toward a disappointing false summit.
It felt more honest and intentional to take a step back, let it all go and listen to a body and mind that just wanted to hermit up and take stock.
I remember my sister once said to me “Maybe that is just life, one thing after another. Maybe there is no finally everything is perfect. Maybe you just fix the one thing, then fix the next thing, then the next. Maybe that is life.” Clearly these are dark words, and given the fact that she took her own life, it should be easy for me to take the wisdom and use it as an excuse to check out myself or simply stop caring since apparently the journey is a futile one.
However, I think instead of seeing her thought as the resignation into a life that happens to me, I want to change the interpretation. Yes, life is one thing after another, the things will continue to come but not all of them are bad. I think her words could just as easily be seen through the rose-colored glasses of “Wow! Life is just one thing after another! How awesome and amazing that I get to keep experiencing new things and creating new moments with so many opportunities to do it right or make things better.”
So just like my husband who reached the top, took a victorious cleansing breath before continuing to his next adventure- a very impressive water fall I might add- I make it my goal to live closer to the edge viewing everything that comes at me as an opportunity for adventure. Maybe then I can stop looking for the finish line or the moment when all will be right in the world and I can finally focus on what is all right or grand in the moment.
So for the remainder of week 6, and for every moment forward, I’ll take that risky, shaky, step out closer to the edge so instead of only looking up to the next great summit, I will get a chance to experience the thrill of the now edge and the sense of accomplishment looking back at how far I have come.
Low Points: Being sore all over from the hike, dog attack, too much ice cream, reading the news (my gods, why am I doing this again?? I swear there is only negative to be gained from being informed), collecting little boy poop samples, Missing the gym twice (I think it was a smart move given my disposition, but I could also argue that had I gone I would have a better disposition)
High Points: Being sore all over from the hike, getting alone time with my love, sneaking pizza I haven’t eaten since the gluten-free journey began, too much ice cream, confirming my youngest has no allergies to food, finding a gluten-free pizza crust, finding out who my friends are by their generous spirits
What I’m reading: I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. I know its mindless fun, but I’m beginning to think that is what all aspects of life should be.
What I’m also reading: Manic by Terri Cheney. Memoir about bipolar disorder. Not a light read, but it piqued my interest. I’m too far in to quit reading it, but I have realized that I shouldn’t read books like this in the future. I love it when a book makes you realize something about yourself, even if it is just how much a book can influence your thoughts.
What I’m listening too: That stupid Robin Thicke (#THICKE)song (#blurredlines). Seriously, I hate this song and yet when it comes on the radio and I reach over to switch the station, I somehow just end up turning up the volume instead. Curse you snappy rhythm. Curse you! It reminds me of the old show American Bandstand, it has a catchy tune and you can dance to it- the only recipe one needs for a sure-fire hit.
Inspirations from the ether: Migrating to Australia. I just found out my company has a location in Australia. I feel like destiny is calling me. What could possibly be more intentional living than to move my family to the place I have always dreamed of living? Something to ponder.
What I watched: Orange is the New Black. We watched all 13 episodes in less than a week. Not too shabby for working adults with two kids. It was excellent. Looking forward to SOA next week