I choose big mountains to climb. It’s almost as if I can’t help it; it’s a part of me being me. But I don’t always know in advance how huge the mountain is. Often I’m just scrambling up a path towards something I’m sure is easy and small.
Next thing I know the quickie no-brainer escalates into something way over my head. Unfortunately the truth comes too late. I’ve already gone too far to go back. And now I’m longing to see the view from the top.
So I keep going.
A REAL MOUNTAIN
This happened the other day, when I was on a hike. And even though I AM talking about proverbial mountains, it just so happened on this morning, I was actually hiking up a small, but very real mountain.
I was with Migo, the cutest Westie Terrier you’ve ever seen. But because he’s up there in age and I’m just getting into shape, I decided to be wise. I chose a quiet path wandering through a meadow at the base of a hill.
But the path ended too soon. I wasn’t satisfied. Then I saw another path. It was narrow and almost hidden, but it didn’t look too tough for us. So I thought, Let’s try it.
Migo happily trotted after me, sniffing out all kinds of new discoveries. And for me, curiosity and treasure-hunting instincts had me on high alert. Where was this path going?
And then it became steep.
And absolutely, gloriously drenched in beauty.
I noticed the way the sun glinted on wet leaves, sparkling like crazy. I watched the shadows move and bounce along the ground. I delighted in how the path kept changing its mood. It went from mysterious to barren to gentle wildness.
During this upward climb the surrounding vegetation stayed close. I could only see my immediate surroundings. I took photo after photo and Migo continued to follow behind me, sniffing away.
But then that moment came. The trail started feeling familiar. I remembered seeing this hike on an online map. I knew where we were and where we were going. We were on a path that takes you up. And up. It was also too long to for us to finish.
I was disappointed. All my fun imaginings about where we were headed crashed and burned. But my longing for that view from the top remained.
I glanced at Migo. He’s 75 years old in dog-years! But still, I reasoned, he’s quite youthful for his age…
Although I kept walking, my pace became sluggish. I stopped seeing what was around me as I fully engaged in figuring things out.
It would take this much time and that much energy. Would the water last? What if I carried Migo? No, that wouldn’t work. He’d hate it and I’d become exhausted.
Then I looked back and measured the distance we’ve climbed so far. Defeat sank into my bones. We’ve hardly hiked at all. We’ve hardly done anything!
The more I figured things out, the more the view from the top moved farther away. On top of that, what Migo and I had accomplished and enjoyed, became smaller. And smaller.
This is exactly what happens to me when I’m in the middle of a larger creative work!
In the beginning I’m excited. I leap into the work, not realizing I’ve completely misjudged the size of the task. Everything I create seems amazing and wonderful. But then comes the moment when I begin to make more accurate assessments about the size of the project.
I start feeling defeated. Whispers of failure echo around me. But I’m committed to the idea of the view ahead, so sheer will keeps me going at a now sluggish climb to the top.
You know, there’s a lot to be said for tenacity. A lot! But sometimes I need something more. Thankfully something besides figuring things out and tenacity happened on the hike that day.
The path enclosing me opened up and offered me a view. I couldn’t really see up to the top of the mountain, but what I could see was shocking. The bright blue sky was there. The shining sun was there. And so was my car! Parked far, far, FAR away, parallel to the trailhead.
I had no idea we had come so far.
Hope and joy returned. I would be able to get to the top. Not that day, but the next time. I’ll just have to hike it during Migo’s naptime!
A few days later I looked at the photos I shot and my joy increased more as I remembered what it was like on the way up. Then I came to the photo I took of my car when I was on the side of that mountain. I could barely see it. A bush blocked it. As I peered and looked close, something besides a camera phone clicked inside of me.
A PROVERBIAL MOUNTAIN
I’d been stuck on a huge project, a Mount McKinley-sized project! My sluggardly pace had become even more sluggard over the last month, because I’d been dwelling on how impossible it felt to even come close to finishing.
I stopped looking at the photos and went to Starbucks instead. In my hands was my cherished outline of the story I’m working on. Each scene is written out with black ink, but placed in a different colored text box, because I wanted to capture the joy of how I felt when I first made up this outline with only colored post-its.
I settled down with my Latte Macchiato and dwelled on each sentence in each colored box. I delighted in the details of the world and the characters I created. I laughed as I remembered the antics of some of the sillier characters. And I shed a tear or two when I read through a scene of my hero’s great loss.
By the end of the coffee date with myself I was restored. I no longer felt like a failure. I no longer believed the body of work completed so far was small. And I no longer felt that completing the project was impossible.
I also had a new source of strength. Before my Starbucks date I had only sheer will to keep me moving on. But now I had a reservoir of joy. It was exciting and fun again.
And you know what? It’s so much easier to climb up a mountain when I’m laughing.
May you have many good belly laughs this year, even when you’re climbing mountains! #Joyride2016
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Carla Porter writes, sings, designs architectural interiors and loves God, all in Los Angeles, California.
© 2016, Carla Porter and Whisper of Grace, all rights reserved.
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