The Oracular Advice of the Morning
When I was in Arches National Park in Utah last year, there was a strenuous hike on a challenging trail that I wanted to do. I couldn't do it, even though I wanted to. I got halfway along that journey, then I had to stop and rest for awhile, and turn back. I very suddenly ran out of steam, which can still happen. I sat in the shade of a dramatically wind-shaped tree (which I later made photos of, and even later painted a portrait of) for awhile, feeling sorry for myself, while both younger and older hikers hurried past me in both directions, in the 106 F degree heat.
And I imagined a dialogue with a younger, stronger, healthier man—perhaps from that couple in their 20s going by right now, perhaps a younger aspect of myself—in which I had come to some sort of peace with my journey. The younger asks the older if he can make it to the top, and the older says no, go on without me. The younger, who expresses concern, asks if that's really okay. The older man, who realizes the truth even as he speaks it, says: I was sick for over twenty years. I almost died. That I managed to hike this far up this mountain, even though I didn't get any further, is a miracle. That I'm here right now, even this far up the mountain, only halfway along this trail, is amazing. I am amazed that I have come even this far.
And that's true.
I constantly deal with feeling impatient about how little I can do, compared to my friends. I still have days of suddenly having no energy, for no reason, like I used to when I was sick. (Like I did yesterday.) I still have to remind myself that I might now at last have the strength for "normal" activity for a few days in a row, but then I must rest. Oracles aside, today has to be a rest day. I don't have a choice.
Yes, my garden looks ragged (any friend who wants to come visit and help me with that will be treated to a fabulous meal as reward), yes I have some paperwork and other mentally-engaged work to do this week that takes me twice as long as anyone else to get done, and so on, and so on. Ironically I am being told to take a break, and all I can do, despite brain fog, is worry about what I am not getting done.
Yes, I know, waste of energy. But before you throw more new age positive thinking aphorisms at me, well intended perhaps but clueless and ignorant of what I've actually experienced, just remember: YOU don't have to deal with the aftermath of a lifelong illness that almost killed you, so shut up about what you think I should be able to do. That I'm here at all is a miracle. That I've climbed even this far back up that cliffside trail towards something you call "normal life" is nothing short of miraculous. (I say this not only to the well-intentioned friend, but also to the voices in my head.)
I'm just going to sit here for awhile, sip my tea, and enjoy the view.
Maybe I will never get to the end of that trail. Maybe I will never be able to see the view for myself from on top of the mountain. Maybe all I will ever be able to see is the view of the opposite cliff from my vantage halfway up the canyonside trail.
And that's amazing. Look at those rock shapes! And see over there, you walked right past those windflowers and petroglyphs on your rush to get to the top! I'm stopping and taking ten and looking around me right now. I might never get to the top of this mountain trail. And someday I might. Just not today, maybe not for a few years more.
Meanwhile, the view is pretty amazing from right here.
Now, hike on, and leave me in peace, right here, right now.