I’ve never been known as short winded - you have been warned =D
People keep telling me that I have been through a lot for my years. That I’ve ‘seen more than my time should have allowed’. But tonight I began wondering, what exactly does that mean? As humans, it seems we are written for disaster and trials; and many believe our time here is entirely dedicated to just that. That we are to prove our worth to be promoted into an eternal state of bliss. But some deep rooted instinct inside me, a seed far beyond the tether of this body containing me on Earth, tells me that their theory is wrong. I think, through all of the suffering, while we face all which must be endured, we are here to search. To find that unprecedented understanding of who, of what we are.
And these trials we climb, they come in waves.
Each breath I take here, is miraculous in of itself. I believe the beauty of this place is lost among the murk of tolerating tribulations. One forgets to breath in and recognize the perpetual sweetness that is the evolving season. The sweet fresh scent of spring. Warm floral summer. Musky age of fall. Revolutionary chill of winter. But within each flavor lies a wealth of untapped potential, of meaning and transformation, that we retract from in the name of self preservation. What most don’t realize is that while you guard your frail human mortality, you are simultaneously destroying it. You will never have a chance to taste that flavor again. It will present itself, only once.
Humans’ instincts tend to overrule common sense, leaving only animalistic, mechanistic creatures with one self centered goal: to better their standing within the hierarchy that is their society.
If I have faced ‘so much’ then believe me when I say, each climb only leads to another. Imagine hiking a daunting hill leading to what seems the relief of flat ground, perhaps a plateau. Heat so thick against you the weight threatens to shove your muscles into submission, into the sand. Perspiration has melted you into your clothing, drenching you with the fabric designed to protect you, which now only serves as an irritant against tingling skin. The exhaustion of the climb slowly weaves its way into the not-so-secure system that is the human brain, releasing beads of poison which taunt you internally. Weak. Tired. Failure.
Perhaps, you are tempted to listen to these statements, thrown at you from within. Succumb to the eternal temptation that is compliance. Allow muscles to give out, find relief in the decent. But, perhaps, if you’re like me, you search the horizon for a beacon. In my hometown, the mountain I climb through triple digit heat -and yes this masochistic habit is what I consider ‘fun’- is topped with an enormous cross, which I know is reflected countless times in the ever evolving kaleidoscope that is America. That glowing white symbol -bereft of its spiritual significance- serves as my marker, my goal. If you have no cross, no town initial marring the side of the hill, pick a rock or tree, so long as your goal is inanimate. For all I care, pick the place Luna peers over the horizon and try to beat her there. That beacon serves you every time you get discouraged, set your eyes on it and motivate yourself with counterarguments. Smother the self pitying tone with one of determination and before you know it, although your muscles will have sought to remind you frequently, you will have met your mark.
The surge of satisfaction which consumes you upon reaching the top is exhilarating. The internal celebrations are always nearly impossible to silence. And yet, they are only momentary. Before the natural high has even begun to dissolve, you turn, taking in the glorious view. A full 180 degrees inevitably changes your entire perspective.
That one flip in your view enlightens you to the seemingly endless expanse of hills, a hundred times the size of the one your trembling muscles just conquered. With all of the fight it took to get where you’re standing there are two perpendicular paths to ponder. A:you quit. You give up. Whether that’s the literal sense of stopping right where you are and ceasing to persevere, or turning back to the comfort of familiarity and returning down the once daunting slope. B: You assess the paths before you, which ones have the most turns, which seem smoothest; and analyze which will get you to the greenest grass the quickest.
Now sit with yourself for a moment. Evaluate which path you will have chosen. Stay in only what you know, or open your mind to the unchartered ground which so few have dared to conquer. I’m not going to sway you either way. Perhaps you return. And return. And return. And one blue moon you realize it’s all you will ever do. Finally, you gather the gumption within and decide now you shall pursue potential. Perhaps, you decide to work your way to your goal, slowly but surely building your endurance. But what happens when you no longer have the choice, when everything you know and love has dissolved into the chasm that is reality and your only option for survival, is to climb?
Will you doubt your previous decision? Thank yourself for building strength slowly? Or will you already have escaped the threats that pursue you?
This is life itself. This is the endless assault of challenges that will inevitably present themselves in no timely or controlled manner and within seconds you will have to make a decision which, no matter how seemingly minute, will alter every single mountain approaching.
What people forget is that every single being around them is also climbing. Constantly. And each set of eyes -light with the joys of luxury, or aggrieved with an agony you may never understand- looks through their own perspective. Their climb is theirs alone. Nobody will ever see it, or feel it just as they do. Each bead of sweat burning across their flesh will tear scars which can be seen by no irises but their own. We so often forget to look behind the mask that is seared in place by society’s requirements, into the journey – the climb- that has led them to that place. We are so quick to make judgements of how another sets their footing – upon which rocks they decide to test their weight- that we forget how direly we would desire the open, outstretched hand of another if we were to slip. How desperately we would beg for someone to help us heal the burns left from a brutal fall through jagged stones, thorns and gravel.
In my experience, the firm grasp of a stranger’s hand when I was in peril, gripping me so tightly no bones could crack against the sand, changed my perspective. I looked to the trails of those who had decided to climb before me; and stepped in their tracks, admiring their perseverance. Their determination to get through this sweltering journey that is life. My eyes surveyed where they had clearly slipped themselves, wincing at the scars left when nobody was willing to catch them, nearly buckling where I saw the small stone marker of those who could not make the climb. Of those who arrogantly dared to foot it alone.
As humans, we are all one. To harm another is to harm thyself. To judge another without stepping through the barriers and staring through their smoldering eyes, is to bring the harshest retraction back to you. When, inevitably, you have no choice but to flee your safe harbor and you are too weak to continue on your own. When the blisters and bruises have penetrated so many facets of your flesh that the once smooth surface is unrecognizable, even to your own eyes. When all you know has vanished in the distance and the daunting, unpredictable journey ahead is all that remains, with no one to heal the oozing sores across even your most dependable muscles, you will understand how much the simple action means of stretching out your hand.
It goes against our nature to forgive those we don’t understand for decisions and paths we would not have taken ourself down. But who knows what oasis they were searching for. Who they were trying to protect or lead to safety. Everybody makes mistakes, particularly those who have nothing left, and no hands stretch out to keep them from falling. As you look down into the afflicted eyes of a burning climber, do you reach your hand out to pull them up, or leave them to fade into the sand?
For a moment, do you remember to reflect on what you would be thinking, on what you would beg for if it was you blistering in your climb, parched and abandoned to the desert floor? What would you pray that passerby would do? Justify their entitled judgement -for you led yourself to that challenge. Didn’t see the stone which made you fall- and accept your fate? Would you think back to all the times, you could’ve helped the bleeding or the dying? Wish that just once, you’d knelt down to give them water? Help them up? Perhaps give them a bite to eat, to re-nourish them so they could continue against the mountain. Maybe that young man you left to bleed into the sand – young enough to still be a child in many eyes- once healed, would’ve had the strength to carry you now, as you are suffering.
I know because it is the faces of those I judged that haunt me now, when I need help. When I can not continue this path alone. Those I left behind are the same that would’ve hoisted me up and carried me to safer, ground, where the shade again cloaked a soft bed of grass to rest in, and lay me down.
Oddly enough, one such boy I passed judgement on has done just that. Despite the fact that I rejected his cry for help as he shriveled away. Miraculously, through the hands of those more forgiving than myself, he survived long enough to see my resigned eyes, which had accepted whatever poor fate could come my way, and still knelt down and carried me to safety.
Who am I to leave another behind?
Carry your brothers and sisters through this time of hardship. At some point, you will need them too.