On most days, progress is made. Moving forward with leaps at times, other times with shuffling steps or tip-toes in a round-about pattern. Then there are the days when I slip and slide backward down this [particularly brutal and uncaring] hillside. Finding myself unexpectedly at the bottom (again) nursing my wounds and crying.
The tears are in part for the pain and blood of scraped knees and elbows…
Partly, I cry for all the hard-won ground, now lost in one misstep.
From the bottom, the hill looks almost kind, not as steep or rocky as I remember from the path I’ve worn up it. The grass waves and I don’t see the thorns, or the rocks that like to slide from under your feet as you ascend.
The slope doesn’t even look that steep, it seems like I should be able to frolic my way up this hill.
What is wrong with me, that I keep sliding and slipping and falling on my knees and palms?
My chin quivers as I bite my lip in determination (however misguided that determination is). I will try again.
Other people are over the hill leaving me behind to wallow in my pitiful state. Some of my fellow travellers stop on the path to make sure I’m ok, they offer me gatorade, and, in return, I offer them a watery smile and what’s left of my courage.
Today, I sit at the bottom of the hill wondering if I should try again. Today, I lean against a tree and try to stop the tears from coming down. Today, I think that maybe this hill isn’t meant to be climbed (at least, by me) and I reevaluate the path that led me here.
Today, I can’t help but wonder: am I doing this wrong? Is this a Supreme Being’s way of telling me I’m out of line, out of order, out of his plan and will?
Then I look at her. She keeps on trudging up the path. She keeps on holding on to roots and rocks, taking moments to look around and survey the landscape, taking breaks on a large stone, shouting down encouragement, throwing off her shoes first, then her scarf. She ascends and I watch.
Tangled hair and beads and scars.
Tattoos and stories written on a body that isn’t too old to remember the words.
Time stamps and heartbreaks
and voices reminding her that she has failed more times than she wants to admit.
There was this one time…but… no, that wasn’t a win, exactly, since it happened when I was standing at that spot that is now several stories above my head on the hillside.
One tiny rock is what sent me sliding down – not an avalanche, or a rolling boulder, or a push from a competitive neighbor… it was just the pebble that I stepped on wrong and sent me plummetting down.
(My panic didn’t help, I’m sure).
My instinct when this happens is to hide my broken body behind a rock until I can regroup and gather my senses and collect my resources.
My instinct is to hide my watery smile and smeared mascara and wait until I have something to offer before I come out of hiding.
My instinct is to forget her…and to forget that she and I are the same. It’s easier to break off brittle parts of me and say that I am nothing like that woman inside. She is a fairy tale.
When I’m strong again, when I can help someone along their way, when my super-girl cape is mended and recognizable as more than a tattered pile of rags…
When I’m not afraid of falling again,
when I’m not weak, and I’m no longer vulnerable,
when these bloody knees have made new scars
and written their memory on my bones and joints…
when the sky is bright and my energy is up
and when everything doesn’t seem so impossibly complicated…
maybe then I’ll pick up my shoes and walk on… No, not maybe. Definitely.
But today is the day I sit quietly and contemplate whether the journey would be simpler without that tattoo of hope always pressing on my belly. Today I let myself wonder whether the journey would be easier with wings. This is for me (and her).