All words are metaphors.
The A to Z blogging challenge continues, and I’ve noticed a drop off not only of comments on my blog, but in number of posts from the blogs I’ve engaged with. I am sure I’m missing out on thousands of other great blogs and need to do better at finding them.
I’m struggling as well. The first week, I was excited and motivated. I posted, then spent the next two hours reading and commenting. I feel that determination slipping, and we are only on the letter M.
Pushing through, writing even when I’m sure I don’t want to write will show my mettle.
For a large portion of my life, I was not very skilled at confronting adversity. When things got dicey, I tended to surrender. As a junior in high school, I achieved a dream by making the school basketball team. For some reason I thought I had made it, and the rest would be easy. Instead, things only became more difficult. Most of my teammates didn’t believe I deserved to be there, and I was constantly challenged to prove myself. I hate to admit it, but I shrunk away. Rather than practice more, fight back and show them my skill, I let myself slide into the background. I didn’t quit, and because I did have some small amount of talent, I had a few great moments. There weren’t enough of those moments to make me stand out, and the following year, I did not make the team.
I wish I could point to that experience as the event that changed me. No particular instance stands out as the catalyst, but somewhere along the way, I either got tired of quitting, or finally understood how to fight back.
This might be a silly example, but I’m going to use it regardless:
In my 20’s I mountain biked, but never worked at mastering the skills that would make me a better rider. I never learned how to climb properly, and therefore always ended up walking my bike up difficult hills. After a while, I just quit riding altogether.
In my early 40’s, I decided I wanted to switch to road cycling. I invested in the proper equipment and spent time training my body and mind. When faced with a climb, whenever my legs hurt or my body screamed at me to stop, I was stronger physically and mentally. I ignored my discomfort and completed my ride.
Climbing the hills around my house (and there were some epic ones) strengthened my will and resolve. With my brother along side me, I was able to ride up a local canyon (Emigration Canyon) to a summit called Little Mountain. It wasn’t a huge climb, but certainly a more difficult challenge than I had yet undertaken.
Encouraged by our success, we planned a more strenuous climb for the following Spring. Up the road from Little Mountain summit, is the much steeper switchbacks leading up to Big Mountain. Unlike the Emigration Canyon climb, there is no gentle slope, no moment to catch your breath or let your legs rest. Big Mountain is a serious climb, but by no means insurmountable.
The day came.
As we cycled along the last semi-flat road and approached the first switchback, I was afraid. I could already feel the strain on my knees and thighs. The total elevation gain for the ride would be 3300 feet, and I wasn’t sure I could make it.
I had been taking pictures on the ride, trying to document the climb; snap shots of trees and the road in front of us. Big Mountain didn’t allow any of that. I had to focus, keep my eyes locked on the road a few feet in front of my tire. If I looked up, I worried the remaining distance, the steep grade, would be too intimidating. My body screamed at me and the voice of doubt in my head begged me to just quit. I knew if I stopped to rest, it would be easy to convince myself I’d done enough and that I should just head back down. Down would be fast and fun.
For a while, we were barely moving forward (under 5 miles an hour at one point), struggling to keep our bikes upright. Dozens of riders passed us, which would have been disheartening if not for their words of encouragement. Sweat stung my eyes. I was about out of water, but we kept climbing.
And then it was over.
We were standing at the summit, talking with other riders, all of whom were much better at this cycling thing than we were, but we had made it.
Heading back down, with the wind in my face, I felt such a rush of accomplishment. To this day, whenever I feel like the road has beaten me, I recall the sensation I had when I mastered a much more difficult stretch of tar and asphalt. I smile and keep pedaling.
I know what I am capable of accomplishing, and if I can climb up mountains, I can finish a silly blog challenge.