Reaching a Crest

The 24th leg of the Camino.

Rather than denying or ignoring them as hindrances, limitations can lead us to possibility just as the planks of a bridge support our ability to span a gap.

I’ve had some uncomfortable conversations this week. Children say the darnedest things. I think about that joke that someone’s therapist knows your secrets. But they know secrets about you that you don’t know. Because no one view is the right view – we are all looking through tiny lenses at images that we flip in our heads to make sense of them.

We make sense in conflicting ways. We exist as paradox, all of us. And I am not sure I want an omni-view.

Kaleidoscopes nauseate me.

Today our guide asks us to contemplate failure.

E. is my running partner, but it isn’t always easy. He finds it motivating to say – “Only x – miles or meters left”. But that thought stops me dead in my tracks. If I consider how far I’ve come, or how far I have to go – I’m pulled out of the moment of living.

The fact is – I do like mileposts. I like having them take me by surprise. Like the flash of a white deer tail. And goals. I like goals. Until I reach them. And then they nearly always feel like failures.

This is why I try to cultivate a stoicism. I have no explanation for my innate optimism. Most people think of optimism as a good thing. And, I admit to the role it plays in resilience. But I think people underestimate the pain it can cause.

So maybe it is surprising that I am one of the people who will run back and forth across the street in front of my driveway several times until my GPS records the 5.0 kilometres for the day? Damned random optimism: the sky will open and  I’ll glimpse some kind of unimaginable joy.

A subconscious view of Nirvana is the mirage that motivates every effort.

How old were you when you realized all those beautifully wrapped boxes under the display Christmas trees at the department store were empty? When a goal is a pretty promise, it is always a disappointment. And I think I have a  habit of reaching for pretty promises. Maybe it’s all just a consequence of consoling myself when I fail: it wasn’t that big a deal anyway.

The summer after E. and I first began dating we hiked to Kjerag. We packed a lunch and headed up the smooth sheepback. The incline to reach the “bolt” is steep and studded with chains. And I pulled myself now and then with an eye on the crest, and the anticipation of a horizontal trek, and a picnic in the heather. But just as we reached the crest on that first climb, a second appeared. Then a third. Eventually, I just stopped anticipating, and put one foot in front of the other.

When we finally got to the top, it was knee-deep with snow.

So, you see, failure is definitely just a point of view.

When I think about the failures in my life they have never been associated with times I pursued a goal and missed the mark, or chose not to press on. I consider my failures the times when I’ve I set a goal and then wandered until I’d lost sight of it. Failures are lost keys and burnt casseroles. An unfinished play on the hard drive of a discarded computer.

The good wife.

The good mother.

I’m going to go for a run.





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