I’m climbing and it matters little what others might call me. As I claw at the dirt and rocks, I’m learning the best places to grab a handhold or position my foot. Sometimes I clamber quickly and cause rolling scrabble and then I turn to watch it after I reach a plateau.
“Watch out below!” I should holler in warning because there are others on this journey up the mountain. My avalanche might cause them added distress but I don’t call out and I don’t know why exactly. It simply seems that rolling rocks are just the nature of this trek which is profoundly an individual struggle.
When I find a flat rock on my new-found plateau, I gaze out at the panorama around me and breathe deeply of the air, clear of the dusty cloud. Ahh! And I sit gulping the beauty into my soul.
Until someone screams below, “Hey you! Help me!”
And I look down. Well! Ok, that is definitely a precarious ledge they are on. I was on that one not too long ago. And I wonder what they were thinking to end up there. But the same could be said of me. What was I thinking when I landed on it? Ha, ha!
Eventually, I made it past the impassable. Surely, they will too. And I had no one to yell at above me. So why is he yelling at me now? What am I? His Savior? And I chuckle to myself with the irony.
Straightening my resolve, I say, “Dude, put your foot on that rock there. See it? Yeah, I know it looks small from your vantage point, but it’s not. It’s bedrock. Trust me.” And so, he does.
When the stones finally stop tumbling, my new friend is standing safely on a firm ledge.
“So, how ya doin’?” I yell down at him.
“What the ^$%#*!! I’m standing on a ledge! How do you think I’m doing?!”
And my silent chuckle returns because he’s yelling at me. It seems funny that I just saved his behind from landing in a dead pile at the bottom of the mountain but he’s yelling. If only he knew how hilarious that is. I was standing in that exact same spot not long ago. But I’m alive and he’s yelling at me!
So, it seems that I should stop finding humor in his behavior because while I chuckle I feel strangely detached from his circumstance. However, I’m sure he’s going to be fine as long as he stands still for a minute. And I’m guessing he’s too terrified to move anywhere anyway, so I think I’ll enjoy the view for a minute. After all, the panorama is amazing from here.
“Hey, screwball, what are you doing?!?!” he screams up at me. “Having a siesta?!?! I’m still standing here on this sliver of a ledge! Don’t you think it might be a good idea to help me?”
I cock my head a bit at his abrasiveness and wonder why he hasn’t considered being nice to the one who has the key to his next step. Well, panicking people aren’t known to be very stable.
“Dude, just calm yourself a bit. You can’t make it to the next level unless you rest there a minute and catch your breath. So, CALM THE HECK DOWN!”
His eyes are as wide as the fullest moon on the horizon. He can’t speak now and suddenly realizes that I hold the clue to his success and he isn’t sure if that makes him more terrified than the expanse below.
Suddenly those huge, terrified eyes pull great amounts of compassion from my heart.
“You are OK. I promise. You are fine. Stand there. Breathe. Breathe! But for goodness sake don’t hyperventilate. Seriously, man, you have to calm yourself.”
And I watch him as his eyes change into tiny slits with huge tears.
“Come on, now! Don’t do that either! You’ll lose your perspective! Come on, dude, breathe and relax. Breathe and relax.” I wait a moment and then, “Tell me who’s at home.” I lead him to think about something else.
I can see the gradual change of his emotion as he considers whoever is at home and then struggles to regain composure. Suppressing emotion, his hands hold and his feet stand. And I watch him regulate his breathing and swallow. His nostrils flare. His resolve solidifies. Then he sees the mark, the goal. The solution registers. His back straightens and his breathing slows. Finally, he knows the next step.
And it’s his.
He’s going to make it at least as far as I have come because he’s going to listen to my clues now. Whereas, if he had continued to reject me, I would have eventually turned and continued my journey upward.
Climbing is a compulsion. A race within us to continue upward. Each level holds a prize, a respite. But without a clear vision of what lies ahead, the race is lost. Humility vanishes in favor of panic, and the key is out of reach.
There is no magic that will save the unwilling. They have to begin again.
So, no, it doesn’t matter what I’m called on my way up the mountain. This journey is solely mine.