“When do we reach the top? The hills never end.”
I heard the plaintive voices of my sons. As we crested, what appeared to be the last hill; another loomed on the horizon. The dry air wheezed into my lungs as, slow and steady, we continued to hike on a bright, seventy-four degree New Year’s Day. We were on a family dog walk, amongst the hills we call home; cheerily wishing passerbys New Year’s tidings.
“That’s life,” I answered in response. Just when the trail levels and you think you’ve figured things out; another hill appears before you. In my twenties I ran up hills; trying to outpace my peers in reaching the top. In my thirties I accumulated things; getting weighed down. After three pregnancies the marathon running slowed to quick bursts of speed; chasing kids most days and crashing at night. I wondered if I ever got there; to the top.
Most days I feel like I’m still climbing.
But I’m learning to slow down my pace; to appreciate the scenery. On our family walking excursions I choose to take the rear; to account for my boys as the hubs takes the lead. Whether we are traversing the John Muir trail or ascending our community hills we have always assumed our walking order. My eyes normally stare into my husband’s back; peering over the boys’ heads. Now I am only taller than one of these sons and my heart did a tiny flip; realizing the passage of time. I mentally counted how many more years our family of five will actually walk together.
I smiled, taking the whining in stride. They eventually quieted as they, too, began to appreciate the view. The dog and kids enjoyed the thirty minute diversion at the very top as the hubs and I chatted with the elementary teacher and husband; also walking their dogs. The youngest decided he was a dirt angel; dust rising. I grinned wider. Not long ago I’d be worried what a teacher would be thinking. Appearances aren’t everything. In fact; they’re quite deceiving. Let her think what she wants.
In recent years dissatisfaction has resided within; leaving me to wonder, is there more to life than this? I’m learning to let this go and to go with the flow; to embrace the life paths I walk. I sat, reconnecting with my girlfriend as we both discovered we shared similar thoughts. We live parallel lives, two miles apart from one another. It is only in the good times that we want to socialize. It is in the bad that we handle our uphill battles; alone. The times when we need our bonds of friendship; the most.
When we finally descended we arrived at our half-way destination. Still waters run deep. On the surface things look deceptively calm but one never knows what lies deep within our hearts. We all live parallel lives. There is the life people are allowed to see; the lives we desperately want. If only takes hold; tricking us into believing that if we crest one more hill the verdant valley lies ahead. The grass is always greener on the other side. It is easy to enter our four walls of self-importance and shut the doors. Life isn’t how we live it on the outside. It is what goes on inside that matters the most.
And so I begin to open my doors again, in hospitality. I am not the only person in the world going through this; much as I’d like to believe. Self-pity festers in our minds; for days, years. When we build walls in defense; we are only hurting ourselves in the end. We are isolated individuals leading parallel lives.
I considered my resolutions on the eve of 2013’s end. Before me lay a plethora of food which I found myself reaching for to pass the time. I wasn’t hungry; nor bored. I reasoned, it’s New Year’s Eve. This is the hubs’ family tradition; to make tamales and gorge on the Christmas cookies, amidst the blaring sounds of an action DVD; until the meat-filled husks of lard and corn meal are ready for consumption. It takes mental discipline to not eat the abundance. Our ancestral brains are hard wired to feast on the food before us; to store calories until the next meal is caught. My hand hovered as I waged the mental battle within. The aunt laughingly observed me; understanding my plight. She acknowledged my hesitation as she walked outdoors; sheepishly flashing her Salem cigarettes; how she beats the battle of the bulge.
It’s easy to distract my focus. I am trying to be a good disciple; spreading good cheer and a listening, non-judgmental ear. Staying focused on what’s important; blotting out the white noise. Watching my words. Remembering to Whom I am a disciple for. I am teaching myself to step outside-the-box; my comfort zone. It is the mental barriers that box me in; rigid rules and preconceived notions. I am learning to take strides and to stop waiting for something that will push me out the door. It is all in my mind. I need to push myself.
Discipline. noun. training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character ~ Merriam-Webster.com
Hubris is my own worst enemy; excessive pride and self-confidence. It is when we think we have it all together that we deceive ourselves. I’ll never have it all together. But I’ve recently had a few A-ha! moments; the signs always there but my mind not allowed to process them. I was too busy trying to have the perfect life, be the perfect wife and mother; distracted in the fast pace for fear I’d fall behind. Catching my breath. Building walls so others can’t see the flawed person within.
But now I can breathe deep; standing with two feet planted. I throw my arms WIDE enjoying the long view in the present moment. I have no control of the past and much as I’d like to plot my future it is the NOW that allows me to get there. Changing one small thing really can make a difference. I’ve realized my tipping point is in being hospitable; mastering the connector that lies within. I yearn to become a maven; a connoisseur of life.
I used to imagine far flung places of travel; exotic foods and aromas amidst languages I didn’t understand. Art at the Louvre. A walk along the Great Wall. Climbing the steps of Giza. A pilgrimage to Mecca. It is in the mastery of the every day and finding joy in the simple things; that are my life. The hot cup of steaming coffee, the the posed smiles of sons in a video arcade before the movies; the stubbly kisses from my mate. I don’t file away the far flung places I travel; snapshot photos do a great job of this. This leaves mental space for the little details…the twinge of sadness at the passage of time, the joy of discovery that only experience brings. The sharing of the daily battles of our every day lives. But our paths are converging as I refocus my lens. You can begin to live the life you love with those, you love, right alongside you.
Outdoor strides. Keep walking. Be a good disciple.