The sapling in my hand pulled loose and I tumbled back down the hill. I sat on my rear, commenting on my luck and brushing dirt off legs and palms. Then I tried again. This time I scrabbled my way to the top. Alternating sun and shade, the path led me to a rocky crest and the Berkshire Mountains rolled on for miles, dressed in their fall wardrobe.
I feel like I’m climbing that slope again, except I haven’t made it to the top and seen the view for which I’m striving. I’ve celebrated bits of progress, fallen on my rear and slid down the hill again, over and over. Then I’ve screwed up my determination and climbed again.
In early January, I tumbled down the hill again and landed on my rear once more. I’m still on my rear at the bottom of the hill. I reduced the steroids I was taking for asthma. For a brief time, life was easier. My breathing has improved with fewer steroids, but I don’t have the same energy I had in December. This stinks. I replaced bloody noses, racing speech and other side effects with reduced, unpredictable stamina. Lousy options, but the right choice. Now I need to practice patience again, recalibrate my approach to life, and figure out the “new normal.” Dang. I hate being patient with myself and not being able to do what I want!
More than health issues land us on our rear: unemployment, management decisions beyond our control, relationships, ageing, the death of dear ones…“let me count the ways” (My apologies to Elizabeth Barret Browning). We pick ourselves up, brush off the dirt and try again. The peak for which we’re striving challenges us to keep trying.
Sometimes, though, as we sit at the bottom of the hill yet again, we ask questions: Should I climb a different peak? Shall I take a different path? What if I’m never able to reach this goal? Shall I enjoy, instead, the view from right where I am, celebrating my having made it this far? What can I learn from the fact that I’m sitting at the bottom of the hill again with skin scraped raw? Not all wisdom is found on mountain peaks.
Sitting on our rear in the rubble, we finally ask: If I work in a different job, change fields or create a business from home—is that really a bad thing? If I downsize my living space, possessions and lifestyle—is that really a bad thing? If I turn my attention from climbing to the top and turn it towards relationships, church, volunteering, and nature—is that really a bad thing? If I rest often and accept limitations—is that really a bad thing? There are seasons of life to strive for mountain peaks, seasons for level paths, and seasons for sitting as we listen to others’ stories. The meaning of life is lived in different way in different seasons. Certain wisdom is found at the top of the hill, but some of the deepest wisdom lays in the uprooted saplings, dislodged rocks, and scraped knees in the rubble at the bottom.
Right now I’m still sitting at the bottom of the hill, pondering these questions. I hope my body adjusts to the decreasing amount of steroids. Whatever happens, who will I be and what will I be able to do? How much of me was the medicine and how much was me? I don’t know.
Learning: God of our lives, you are always calling us to follow you into the future, inviting us to new ventures, new challenges, new ways to care, new ways to touch the hearts of all. When we are fearful of the unknown, give us courage. When we worry that we are not up to the task, remind us that you would not call us if you did not believe in us. (Opening prayer from worship, 1/23/2011)