I wonder sometimes. I wonder about this journey we are on, this effort we make to create and breathe life into mere dots of ink. I wonder about the angst of it, the stress and beating of ourselves into smithereens small enough to sieve. How did we get into that mindset?
I’ve thought about this all week, after a few stressful events over the last couple of weeks. To get away from it all, my husband and I visited my oldest son and his wife and the four of us made a trek over to Moab, Utah where there are a couple of impressive national parks I had never heard about.
When you go into the visitor’s center of these parks, there are elaborate displays demonstrating the types of things you’re going to see on your travels through the park, with snippets of educational information that should prove useful. One of the standards in visitor centers of this sort is the big map—or model—of the area, with a star somewhere that indicates the location where you’re standing, with a big “You Are Here” note in bold red, just so you don’t miss it.
And most of the time, we barely reference the “You Are Here” sign.
YOU ARE HERE
We glance at it, note it in relation to the map, orienting ourselves for the journey outward, away. It’s simply a starting point, a place that is already boring for the very fact that it’s only the beginning. It’s where you are, not where you are going or where you want to be.
Lives can be like that. And careers. We’re so busy looking outward and onward, away from where we are, that we’re impatient with ourselves to just get over there. To that place. That place that is not here. We’re so focused on the end result, we forget that no end result happens without the journey.
There is always a journey.
On one of the treks in the Canyonlands park, the climb was fairly steep for someone like myself who has been sitting behind a desk for far far too long without enough exercise. For my 27-year-old very physically fit son, it was nothing. He kept saying, “It’s really not much farther, you’re almost there,” all along the way, which was, frankly, kinda annoying, because even as much as I’d like to have believed him, I could see with my own two eyes that there were a lot more steps above me than there were below. About halfway there, I had serious doubts about finishing the stupid climb. It really wasn’t that far, in actuality, but it felt like a zillion miles straight up at an altitude I wasn’t accustomed to, and I was wondering somewhere along the way how I managed to give birth to a drill sergeant who had this crazy notion that I should be up and moving instead of always sitting at my nice happy desk which required exactly 11 steps from my bed. All level steps, I might add. This whole outdoors thing was ridiculous, what with the fresh air and the beautiful scenery and the… hmmmm.
Then we finally got to the last part, a hard slope uphill with no actual steps, you just had to lean into it and use your legs to push on up and then bang, we were on top of the viewpoint where we could see this amazing Upheaval Canyon.
(A shot I took of Upheaval Mountain)
(And the 180 degree view)
The colors were stunning. The vastness of the canyon. The gorgeous sky above. The layers and layers of strata in the canyon that represented the hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of years that this particular canyon formed.
I loved this particular place because the beauty of it lies in the fact that it didn’t form quite like the many canyons around it. There are a couple of theories, but the prevailing one seems to be the idea that an ancient meteor struck the earth there, possibly collapsing a dome of salt. There are details here: http://www.utahtrails.com/UpheavalCan.html, but what struck me was that this thing of beauty was formed by great hardship and change.
I stood on top of that mountain and thought “You Are Here.”
Hardship and change are inevitable on our journeys. We can have a lot of signposts along the way, and educational snippets / suggestions from the best meaning sources, including friends, but nothing is going to substitute for us living and experiencing that journey.
When I looked back at that second view, I realized–that was my view on my way up. Those clouds, that sun, those colors, that world, and I’d barely seen it, because I wanted to be on top of the mountain already. I nearly missed the view, and only realized how far I’d come and how much I’d seen when I looked back and saw the whole picture.
The thing is, I had been mostly looking at my shoes on the way up that mountain, contemplating why on earth this had seemed like a good idea back at the hotel, grousing internally about the effort it was taking just to go see what amounted to a big hole in the ground. I think we do that a lot with our careers and our lives—we are so busy being frustrated with where we are, because we want to be over there, or there, or there. Somewhere not here, not in this particular hard place, because we want to have the end result.
Well, I could’ve looked at photos and had the end result, but it wouldn’t have meant as much. Until you stand there in that moment on the top of that hill that you had to climb, and experienced the vastness of the landscape, witnessed the brilliant hues in the earth, seen forever painted in the sky, you cannot really know the end result.
It’s always going to take work to get from here to there.
A few months ago, if you’d asked me if I’d be standing on top of a mountain, seeing something I’ve never seen, doing something I hadn’t done, I’d have told you no. It wasn’t a part of my plan, a part of what I thought my journey was. But I’d have missed something amazing and life has a way of giving you detours. It’s up to you if you learn from them or not. It’s up to you if you say, “Yes, I am here,” and appreciate where you are.
On my way back down that hill, I noticed the scenery. Little things I’d taken for granted or hadn’t bothered to experience on the way up, because they were just mere obstacles to my journey to get to the damned top already.
And I thought about that journey up. I had to rest a couple of times, whereas my son could’ve raced up the mountain without breaking a sweat. He has seen this site before and we were experiencing it for the first time. But there are things I’ve seen, hardships I’ve known, that he hasn’t had yet. Things he’s seen and known that I will never fully grasp.
But we both stood at the top, amazed. Speechless with the beauty.
(Another area of Canyonlands… what you cannot grasp from this photo is the vastness of the scale here. From where this shot was taken to the bottom of that canyon you see in the center of the photo is a 2000 ft. difference in elevation. There are canyon walls beyond that, levels upon levels, created hardship by hardship, over eons of time. Beautiful, sublime.)
You can’t compare your journey to someone else’s. Their journey is theirs. Yours is yours. Period. You cannot walk in their shoes. You cannot die their death. They cannot die yours. They may go farther than you, faster than you, but it doesn’t matter. What you can know, and the only thing you can know, is that You Are Here. You don’t know yet what you will be, when you’re done. You might have an inkling of what you’d like to be, where you’d like to be, but you cannot know if that is the best thing for you, when all is said and done. What you can only know is where you are and what your intention is. And all you can do is put one foot in front of the other, in good faith that you will eventually arrive at the right destination for you. Meanwhile, don’t miss the good things that surround you where you are because you’re so busy looking off to the horizon at that far away goal that you may obtain someday.
Embrace where you are, right now. This is part of your journey. You’re not alone. We’re all here, signpost and snippets and educational babble along the way. We cheer each other, sometimes being that annoying supporter who says, “You’re almost there!” when you suspect it’s a lie, but nevertheless, applauding you for trying. But your journey is going to have its own hardships. You’re going to learn your own lessons, and those are good things, both the hardships and the lessons. Because without the hardships, there wouldn’t be anything to compare the beauty to, to recognize the beauty when you see it. To bask in where you’ve gone once you’ve gotten there.
You Are Here.
Every place you are is the place of your new beginning.
(A shot I took of what seemed to me a most unlikely thing–a vineyard at the base of the mountains in Palisade, CO. A vineyard, in snow country surprised me. But their Reserve Riesling was one of the best I ever tasted. Surprises on the journey.)
So how about you, ‘Rati? What was a surprising turn in your life that brought you to a place you hadn’t expected, which you may never have planned, but for which now you are grateful? OR, if you’d rather, tell me something you appreciate about where you are in life right now.