Nothing Really Has Changed At All

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I’m not a winter person. And not being a winter person, I don’t go out when it’s cold and experience the day. But now that the warmer weather has come and we were in Vermont for the first of it, I found that I had missed being outdoors tremendously. And so with that being said, I chose the first day it stopped raining in awhile, to venture out.

There is a mountain in back our hotel that is quite monstrous. It is a skier’s mountain but people hike it in the summer. They have accommodated hikers by making switchbacks — those criss-cross patterns that make it easier to scale upwards. Almost 20 years ago, in the late 90s, my husband, our 3 daughters, and I hiked this mountain attempting to make our way to the summit. We were “hikers” then, having the equipment (backpack, water, flashlights, trail mix, etc. etc.). I was also 40 lbs lighter. This hike, so many years ago, resulted in our ending up depleted of all water and food, and exhausted — a couple of miles away from our hotel. This was nothing new. Almost every hike Tom and I ventured on usually ended oddly; this time, all 5 of us were depleted — laying out by some gated-community’s pond, scrounging for bits of peanuts found at the bottom of one of our backpacks.

But this time, I looked up at the switchbacks lazily meandering through the greenery and the wild flowers, and thought “why not?” And so I did. Or attempted to. It looked so easy when I was on the porch of the hotel looking out. I started off by walking up the steps, which in the winter would take you to the base of the ski lift, and wished I had a Fitbit on; I would love to know just how many calories I was burning since my heart rate had picked up quite substantially.  From this place I chose a path – they were well-marked and the green one looked right for me — and so I started the climb. What I had forgotten when looking out from the porch of the hotel, was that switchbacks, while appearing meandering and mild, were not so. All the while you are climbing, climbing, climbing.

My throat quickly became dry, my lungs started to burn, and what was that pain in my hip? That was new. I stopped often to take a drink, take in the view (which spanned over the valley), listen to the birds, and take in the smell of the sweet air.  I forgot how rejuvenating this was. I could “feel” the gentle tug of the earth wanting to pull me backwards if I didn’t continue pushing forward. It was a little unsettling because I really do have enough trouble with my balance on a good day, never mind adding in this level of gravity. I looked down at the walkways around the hotel and they were a bit far away — but I knew I could go a little further. There was no danger of getting lost at this height with everything still in sight. A few more switchbacks and I was ready to call it a day. I felt the satisfaction of having done something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I looked up at the rest of the mountain and remembered our almost 20-years-ago selves climbing up even further. I remembered the sweat, the steep incline. I looked down from my position on the dirt path, having just crossed thru a stand of trees and over a small stream.  My satisfaction took a turn; I was only 1/4 the way up. I hadn’t even made it off the base of the mountain. Not even scratched the surface.

But … I was happy with that, I had decided. I’m still in awe at the way the switchbacks look so calm and gentle from the porch of the hotel. I’m amused at how hard my heart was beating and how ragged my breath was at the small beginning of the climb. And so, almost 20 years separates me from where I once was, and who I once was, and where I am today. It would be a nice, tidy end to this story if I summed it up by saying “oh yes while my body can’t do the climb any longer, my wiser, stronger emotional self meets challenges everyday with strength blah blah blah.”. But this is just not true. What is true is that I’m still learning everyday how to meet the challenge of the day. I am still learning everyday how to adjust my sails to meet the winds. I am still learning everyday to embrace my limitations and to live within them. And I am still discovering who I am (since I don’t seem to like the same things I liked when I was in my 50s). So … I suppose all I can say after all is said and done is … nothing really has changed at all.

In Truth, I Am More Than A Conqueror

DSCN0133This is a truth I’ve learned: our lives are like a house built upon a foundation. And as the foundation is, so is our house. This foundation holds all our beliefs; all that we deem to be true. And as such, out of this truth comes our behavior; we act upon that which we believe to be true.

This foundation of ours is powerful for that reason. There are beliefs and truths here that bring us goodness, health, and solidify our faith. And there are things here that bring us self-injury, harm, and fear. The good news is that we get to choose what is in our foundation; we get to re-examine and throw out some old beliefs and truths that actually turned out to be lies, and replace them with some new thoughts, beliefs, and truths that we know to be valid, every single day.   So the question remains: What truths have we built our houses upon?

I have had some pretty damaging truths in my foundation: I have believed that I was the super-hero in my own story and that I could save my own little world. I have found out, through the years, that this is a lie. I am no super-hero; I cannot save anyone. In fact, I can barely take care of my own little problems in my own little corner of the world. When discovering this truth, I found I could breathe!  I could turn it all over —  it was ok to fail and make mistakes and not have the answers to every little thing. It was ok to just say: I don’t know. The world didn’t fall apart — it kept right on spinning! What a relief. My new truth: its ok to fall down. Its even ok to stop for awhile.

Recently, I did just that: in my mind’s eye I saw myself sitting down in the middle of the road of my life’s journey. I told a friend how concerned I was about this. I had never seen myself sitting down in the middle of the road of my journey before. I was always on the front lines of my battlefield, armed to the teeth and fighting — with sling-shot and rocks ready to take off heads. But God had been prompting me, over the last couple of years, to examine this behavior. And now, here I was, last winter, sitting down in the middle of the road on my life’s journey. I told this friend: “I don’t think I’ve taken off my boots though”. That was good. Because that worried me; if my boots were off on the long road of my journey then I was in trouble. That probably would mean I’d given up, or was in a depression. So I studied myself in my mind’s eye to see if my boots were still on …

This sitting in the middle of the road and taking a pause was actually the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long, long time. It was a form of surrender, a form of “giving-up” my old beliefs, my old truths. Talking it out with friends, I discovered that I was sitting and waiting because I really didn’t know what the next step should be, in what direction I should go in. It reminded me, in a way, of Dorothy when she asks the Scarecrow about directions and he points in opposite ways; it was like that. So I sat down and waited.

It was at this point that I sensed there were more things in my foundation that needed to be cleaned out, but I didn’t know what they were yet. I had paused my life, and was waiting in the middle of my dusty road, knees pulled up to my chest, for God to show up. This was one of the scariest moments in my life because it was so out-of-character for me. So I continuously checked in with myself, with family, and with friends. No, I wasn’t depressed; I didn’t feel depressed, but I definitely felt different. Waiting, pausing my life, without being depressed. This was new.

As it turns out, this sitting in the road only lasted a few short weeks. Enough to give me a breather. A new pathway did open up — one that I didn’t push or make happen; one that just emerged, not all at once, but one step at a time. It’s still emerging that way — I cannot see the whole thing; God is only giving it to me one step at a time. My job is to walk it out; and so, eventually, I stood up and took a step … and found my boots were still on my feet.