There’s only one way, and that’s through. And you are not through until you’ve climbed that steep incline, one step at a time.
Such is the case with my morning walk. Part of this daily ritual entails climbing the steep driveway that leads away from our house. I’ve probably traversed this grade hundreds of times, but no matter how often I’ve trekked that hill, there inevitably comes the same feeling. Somewhere about half-way up, when the stretch really begins to pitch at its most severe angle, there’s that familiar sense of dread.
I’m accustomed enough with this hill, as is my body, not to feel completely overwhelmed (usually) in those whispers of weariness. Though it’s typically just a hint, it’s there nearly every time. That little spot of discomfort that seems to start the subtle dialogue of doubt.
“Uh, this hill is a hard climb.”
That thought is the password at the speakeasy, enough to get the whole mental conversation going if I let it. Because as soon as it’s let in the mental side door, the rest of the sabotage suggestions come slithering in like snakes.
“You know you don’t have to do this today.”
“Your legs are sore? See? You’ve heard ‘old’ people talk about body aches. I think you’re joining the ranks of the aged.”
“Man, it’s hot! That sun is just beating down this morning, isn’t it?”
“This hill is never-ending!”
With every negating notion, I feel my body grow heavier. These dissenting thoughts never making the climb easier.
So what do I do when they start to seep in and I’m only two-thirds of the way to the top? I look for respite in the real. Narrow it down to the most simple things I can find, which in that moment of ascent are the following:
When I’m focused there, only one truth remains:
Keep climbing the hill, one breath, one heart beat, one foot step at a time.
Clichés sometimes work in a pinch:
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
“Just keep moving forward.”
This hill is a metaphor, paralleling the human challenges that present themselves in the day-to-day. Specifically, I see similarities with art and writing.
The artist practices their craft with dedication. There may be vertical terrain, a lot of sweat and aching hamstrings. One may encounter a swarm of slithering snakes at the side door, tongues flicking fear and doubt in all directions. But I think there’s power in the process. A conditioning that’s created when the artist chooses to continue on, despite the reservations. In fact, it seems to me, some of the most ‘alive’ work comes when it’s been forged in the fire of fear. The Phoenix from the ash, if you will. Some arcing beauty that rises from the journey through the lowlands.
I’m not suggesting that anything monumental will be birthed from the morning treks up my steep driveway. And these daily posts to the Archives are merely my simple odes to the ordinary. But I sense that there is something significant in the practice of patiently forging on, one keyboard letter at a time. Here is my exercise in snake charming, perhaps with profound effects (however subtle or personal).
We’ve all got our gradient hauls. And I suppose, there is always the choice to turn around, mid-way. But isn’t the world so magnificent with all these vibrant birds? The ones that were willing to burn through, now fluttering high from smoldered flames, beckoning all of us to join them in the Flight.
I say to all the artists and the dreamers and the trekkers, keep going! I hope you’re so inclined.