Redemption was plastered on the face of every stranger. Every unfamiliar language, unspoken word, and half-dreamed ideal sat behind a common goal. We were all there alone, but all there together. It was dark, but the road was lit.
I climbed a mountain a few days ago. It’s fresh in my memory because my body is so sore I’m having trouble doing much at all. But the pain is good. It reminds me of the struggle, and it reminds me of all I achieved.
And I remember as I began the ascent how exhausted I felt. I remember how my body ached and my lungs strained to expand. I remember how it hurt.
As I looked up, from that early point in the journey, and saw the heights I was aiming for, I remember how impossible it seemed.
I’m not so fit, not so agile, not so strong, not able…
My mind churned, creating a shady grey and murky mess.
I stopped and breathlessly muttered, cursing my faults. I came down on myself for how little I had pushed in the past. I criticised myself for not ever caring enough before to climb mountains.
And in the darkness, I heard something behind me. I spun around and scanned the shadowy shapes, searching for something. I found nothing but my fear.
I kept walking. My heart beat faster. Not so many minutes passed before I was forced to stop again, tired and breathless. My mind began to race, quickly dragging in all the reasons I should quit now. And as I began to battle with it I again heard something behind me.
This time however, I didn’t need to turn to see what was there. I could suddenly hear my breath. Silence filled me. I felt overwhelmed by a sense of peace. I felt myself begin to fill with determination, and drive and will. I dug deep and tried to enjoy the feeling of my lungs expanding. I tried to enjoy the pain. And I tried to be kind.
I felt my senses heighten, the way they often do in the darkness. I walked on, letting nature carry me. I noticed the leaves, the grass and the way the moonlight flickered between the shadows.
Each step was a step closer.
And I found that although it was okay to occasionally glance at my destination, it was better to just focus on the step I was taking – and the one after that, and the one after that. I’d already set the goal, now it was necessary to focus only on the action required to get there.
Silence consumed me. Each ragged breath measured another step. Each bead of sweat that fell down my back drew me a little closer. I stopped many times to let my body recover for just long enough to push on.
People passed me on that track, and I passed other people, but it was irrelevant and pointless to gauge my progress against anyone else’s.
Everyone was on their own journey that night.
Hours passed and the incline grew steeper and steeper. A man stopped and smiled at me.
“Shame you’ll miss the sunrise,” he said.
“You’ve still another hour and a half to go.”
I smiled back wearily with cheeks flushed and moist.
“Oh well,” I said,
“We can only do the best we can do.”
“Better luck next time,” he smirked as he proceeded back down the hill.
I said nothing and continued.
So, I’ll miss the sunrise. No problem.
I continued on. The further I went, the further I felt capable of going. The closer I came to the top, the more energy I felt.
The air was getting thinner, and colder. My throat felt raspy and sore. My legs were long past worn but they continued to hold me, continued to carry me, and continued to support me. And my mind, which had tried to trick me into giving up long before, was now silent. I was being driven by something deeper, something stronger and bigger than my own rationality.
Finally I reached the final section of the track. The air was chilly. My back felt cold with sweat. I tried not to look down as dizziness threatened to spiral me back to the beginning. I continued. It was quiet. I could see the glow of red across the horizon as I took the final steps. And it was there I let my shaky legs rest. I sat in silence. My mind had nothing left to say. My body ached, it thanked me for the rest but with a quiver it promised it would carry me further. The depths I had reached within myself were unchartered, and the mountain I had climbed was higher than any mountain I had climbed before.
I felt real, and I felt very raw.
As the first rays of sunlight spilt over the hard edge of the mountains spanning the horizon, a bell tolled. Buddhist monks began a deep and beautiful chant resonating at a frequency that seemed to replenish my soul. A lone drummer wove through the small crowd and began the descent.
That sunrise was my reward. I had reached my goal when at the beginning it had seemed impossible.
It was a long road and it was a hard road. But I walked it and in the end, it carried me to where I needed to be. I realised at that moment that my mastered art of procrastination had come between me and many goals I had set in my life. And my mind was such a well-trained expert at providing justifications and reasons ‘why not’ it had prevented me from pursuing many dreams.
Hours later when I collapsed in a sticky mess sick with exhaustion, I felt elated in a way I had never experienced before sober. I felt proud. I felt strong. I felt able.
I realised then, why I hadn’t needed to see what it was behind me as I began the ascent. What was behind me was myself. That second was the defining moment I backed myself in my struggle to the top. And it was also the difference between continuing on, and giving up.
So no matter how big that mountain may seem, dig deep, back yourself, focus on the action you need to take at this moment, and never give up ~ even when someone tells you that you won’t make it.