I Stopped at the Mountain

Yesterday I drove to the mountain. I drove to the literal mountain. I wanted to see the expanse. I needed a view that was over 20 meters from my front door. I needed to be in the sun, even if that meant from the driver’s seat of a car. I needed the warmth being in that vehicle would bring.

I drove to the mountain. I looked at the map and dropped a pin. I saw the travel distance required and it met my needs. The kids needed a nap and I needed a break from a meltdown.

I drove to the mountain and got on the highway for the first time in months. The fast pace of the road rattled me. The music calmed me down. This journey beyond my city felt familiar. I’ve been on this path before. Every new building and scaffold I passed made my heart skip a beat. Every twist and turn of unknown land filled me with both excitement and worry. Was I ready? Where was I going exactly? To the mountain, that’s all I knew.

I got to the mountain, or so I thought. I came up a residential pass and was not expecting that barrier gate. I was not expecting a STOP sign. I had six more miles to go. To where? I wasn’t really sure, but I knew from my GPS it was six more miles to There, that random pin-drop. Six more miles to the destination. I didn’t want to be in the parking lot.

I came to the mountain. I saw a STOP sign. I put the car in park and waited for my expectation to catch up to reality. I hesitated. I turned around and left.

It took several hours later to realize how significant that was. While I drove to the literal mountain and left, metaphorically it meant so much more.

So often I get myself there, that magical place of There in my head that I believe all the good stuff lives, only to stop shy of the finish line, or the front door, or the gate. I saw a STOP sign and I believed it. I didn’t press on. I didn’t go further. And more than that, I didn’t bother to ask. I didn’t bother. I was too deterred to ask why there was a gate and if I was allowed past. That’s how so much of my life has been. And, I can’t take it anymore.

I began to tell myself that what was beyond that gate was not for me; that I wasn’t really prepared anyway. That’s how fear feels. Despite your best intentions and motivations, it finds a way to try to keep you safe. I recognize it’s a conditioned response to protect me even if there is no real threat. I know I can’t abandon fear, I know that it will return. But I am tired of selling myself short because of that fear. I am tired of saying I want to do a thing and not going all of the way.

As I turned the car around and headed downhill my mind already began to justify its exit. I got what I needed. This is just as nice. Plus, the kids are waking up anyway. You weren’t really prepared, what if something would have happened? Did you really want to be stranded? Yet later that evening, and now, I am left with that feeling of disappointment. That realization that I came so close to what I wanted to do but backed away because I was afraid of what might have been and I was too afraid to even ask.

That’s what kills me the most and it’s something I’ve been aware of recently. I’ve been noticing how often I don’t even ask. I just assume it’s a NO. I just assume it’s not for me. I just assume I don’t belong. I take myself out of the equation before I’ve had a chance to see the whole problem. God, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting because I’m left with that feeling and realization that I played small, again. Again and again, I’ve played small and I am so over it.

And yet…

I know I won’t get it right all of the time. Ok, I am working on remembering I won’t get it right all of the time. My brain still likes to think I can, I should be able to, and if I don’t it’s because I didn’t try hard enough. That’s no way to live either. Did I mention I’m over shoulds, too?!

But here I am and there I was. At the base of the mountain and feeling stuck. Unsure what to do next. Proud that I made some distance and disappointed I didn’t go all the way.

I didn’t want to be not ready to go. I wanted to see green not red. I said where I was going, believed I could do it, and I was surprised I wasn’t there yet. I was blocked. Partly by my own doing and partly by the reality that that was as far as I could reach at that moment. Either way I didn’t like it.

Maybe that’s all I need right now. Maybe this is where I need to sit and view.

Because my There is often unclear I have no measure for my growth. I expect perfection. I expect I should just be able to do It because I said I wanted to, because I said I could. I’m slowly learning, even as I type this, I cannot will myself to be more ready than I am. I cannot will myself to be better, higher, faster, beyond where I am. I was at the mountain, on the base, and that’s going to have to do. For now.

That’s where I was. That’s as far as I could make it yesterday. I couldn’t have done more, because if I could have I would have. This is the teeter-totter of grace and growth. Thinking I can, knowing I can, planning I can, and ultimately accepting when I can’t, at least not yet. But next time, yes, maybe yes. For sure. Yeah.

I was there yesterday and I am here today.
My vista is always changing and with each look I gain and grow.

I leave myself, and you if you are here, with some offerings:
1. You can climb the mountain. Yes, you are allowed.
2. Let yourself climb the fucking mountain.
3. Just do the thing. It will feel so good.
4. It’s OK if you don’t get all the way “there.”
5. Give yourself grace for how far you got.
6. Every step matters.
7. Be proud you even got in the car in the first place, that you acted on the original idea.
8. Next time you’ll go further.
9. Because you will climb the mountain.
10. Even if that means at your own pace.