Well Trodden Paths

A friend was describing his numerous expeditions climbing Mt. Rainier, one of which was undertaken at night. Climbing a mountain like that already seems terrifying and I cannot fathom doing it in the dark. But apparently that’s the best way because the light on your helmet only allows you to see a limited distance ahead – enough to provide you with the information you need to proceed, but not so much that you become paralyzed with fear.

Sometimes I think that’s the way I should proceed through life – in the dark with a small beam of light pointed directly ahead. Seems the older I get, the more I focus on the big picture to the point that I become paralyzed with fear and can’t move at all. I’m always looking into the future, thinking that if I do this, than that could happen. If I go here, then I won’t be able to go there. If I say one thing, some one down the road could say another.

This is nothing new for me, but my reactions intensify with age as my awareness of time limitations increases. I’m 55 years old (until Friday, at least) so if I’m lucky I probably have about 25 years of independent living left. There’s not a lot of time for major do-overs, people. The pressure is on to make the right decisions now.

My mountain climbing friend happens to be a minister, and so he uses the story as an analogy of faith. He also talks about following in the footsteps of those who have climbed ahead of him. There is a well-trodden path up that mountain, he says, and seeing the pathway others have navigated successfully helps the climber find his own way as well.

I find myself searching for pathways right now, looking for someone who has walked this way before and can help me forge ahead toward the next steps on my journey. Where should I be making my home? What should I be doing for my family that could  help them the most? How can I make the best use of my time and talents?

How can I get to the top of the mountain before it’s too late?

Kerstin has been dealing with some of these same issues which she relates on her blog, Conversations Over Soup. We’re both trying to find our path up a mountain side of change, and feeling confused and pressured about making good choices. It’s been nice to commiserate with someone else who is also feeling their way rather blindly up life’s craggy cliffs. Alas, all too often I feel as if I’m following the path of Jesus, who, according to the old spiritual “knew He must walk this lonesome valley, He must walk it by himself.”

I think it would be ever so nice to have a hand to hold along the way. Or at the very least, a set of footprints to follow.

How about you? Have you successfully climbed any mountains lately?



16 thoughts on “Well Trodden Paths

  1. What a wonderful post, Becca. I can truly relate to this analogy. There are decisions to be made at every juncture, but decisions made at this time of life can be particularly weighty. The consequences of those decisions seem to increase as our remaining years decrease.

    • And there are still so many other people who factor into those decisions…once it was the needs of our kids, and now it’s more likely the needs or our aging parents. I know you get that one, Bella.

  2. I’m about to make a huge climb this year and retire. Although emotiionally and physically I’ve been ready to do this for several years the thought that now I will be on a fixed income really scares me. And – I live in Illinois where the pension system is being attacked on all fronts. But, I have to put one foot in front of the other and trust that God will direct me up and over the mountain. I have found that most of what we worry about never happens and when it does happen it’s never as bad as we thought. Eyes straight ahead and keep moving forward.

    • It’s a little frightening to make those big changes, isn’t it? But I know you’ve been waiting for this so long! I’m hoping and praying it all works out and you have everything you need 🙂

  3. Your post resonates with me this morning. I turned 50 in November of last year and I too have been staring mortality in the face. Not only that but I have been fighting the urge to be too harsh on myself. Being able to look back at my mistakes and human imperfections has given me 20/20 vision. Sometimes that vision is too painful. LOL
    Despite my humanity and imperfections I chose to live one day at a time and do the best I can with what I have for that day. Yes, I do learn from my past but I have also learned that continually beating myself up over it is pointless. I love the analogy that the minister uses with his mountain climbing. Just look at what you can see and do the best you can with what you have. None of us are promised a tomorrow. 🙂

    • Thanks so much James. It’s pointless to look too far behind and dangerous to look too far forward. Finding the right perspective for life in general is key!

      Thinking of you on your journey up the mountain 🙂

  4. When we’re young we are fearless and hardly ever think about consequences. As we raise kids we only think about their future and helping them. Again we don’t think about ourselves much. Now we are in our fifties and sixties and all of a sudden it has to be about self. What do I do so I have enough for retirement? How can I take better care if myself so I am not a burden to others? These are pretty terrifying questions, but, we will do what we have always done…make a plan, be smart and keep on taking little steps every day to make it happen.

  5. I climb mountains every day — I think a lot of us do. And we aren’t quite sure where we’re going, we just know we’re still on the road — a road — to someplace we hope will be better or different or a new chapter. I thought a lot about this when I turned 60 — it sort of threw me for a loop, seeing the continuum far shorter on the forward side than the back. And where was I going? I think about this often as I look towards retiring in a couple of years — what IS the path? It sure isn’t sitting around eating bon bons. But if I look too far ahead without a plan, I get overwhelmed. The plan — that’s that little light — it guides you. And you can always point it in another direction if need be. But you have something to get you started. And you have to start before you can finish.

    I know whatever you do, whatever you decide, you will find the way to make it be the right choice. And, if it’s not, you will know that few things are carved in stone. When you take a step at a time, it’s a lot easier to turn back — or at least, look around.

  6. My mother was a great one for “what ifs”, and she often was paralyzed by her anxieties.Because so many of her fears revolved around being left alone with no one to care for her, she tried as hard as she could to “worry me safe”. She never fully accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to live out my life sitting on her sofa until the day she died, just so she’d be sure I was there. We struggled with that one.

    I used to be very much like her. But I crossed paths with someone whose advice has served me well. In its most basic form, it’s this: Decide, and move on. And once you’ve made a decision, don’t keep re-deciding. As my friend put it, if you were right, you’ll never stop congratulating yourself. If you were wrong, you’ll never stop beating yourself up. Just move on to the next decision.

    It sounds very much like mountain-climbing, actually.

    • That is definitely sound advice. There is no profit in rethinking every decision. My in laws were specialists at that. Life was full of “we shoulda’s.” It was tiresome in the extreme when I was young, but then I didn’t have the experience to realize how easy it is to fall into that trap.

  7. Becca, I love this analogy! According to this I have been a night climber for most of my life, right until I met my husband who is definitely a day climber and always looking ahead. And like you we are reaching an age where it would be much harder to recover from “mistakes”, even I feel that way now. You and I have some hard decisions to make and I just want to trust that whatever path we choose it’s the one we are meant to be on! xo

  8. I have remarkably that same difference between day-light scuba diving & night scuba diving where I seem to be much more calm.

    Never given much thought to the analagy of our lives and what it might mean to us. Interesting post

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