There’s this hill. It’s at the very end of my early morning run. The neighborhood is full of little hills, dips, tilts and slopes. But this is the last one, so it’s always the toughest. Climbing it is a bit like a recurring nightmare. The one where you show up late for an Algebra exam you forgot to study for. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I have a love-hate relationship with this hill. It’s complicated. Dense with onionskin layers of complexity. I’m attracted to connections of this nature because they are the most profound teachers. They force me to expand and extend. Stretch beyond my comfort zones. Push limits. Smash down walls. Break through closed doors. Grow my physical, spiritual, emotional and intellectual muscles. Lessons like these take me above and beyond and back.
In no particular order, here are 15 life lessons I’ve learned while running up the hill:
- It’s rock solid. Dependable. Not going anywhere. I can count on it being there. Every day, whether I like it or not. I want to be that unshakeable, that steady.
- Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s not. I don’t know why. That’s the paradox. The enigma. The mystery. So I soar with the easy times. I struggle through the hard times. One baby-step at a time. Either way, I keep going.
- It takes guts. Especially on the difficult days when just getting out of bed is an act of courage. The bravest thing I do.
- It’s okay to stop. Take a moment to catch my breath. To regroup. Consider my options. In the end there’s only one. Carry on.
- It’s easier when I don’t look up. At the very the bottom it’s daunting. Overwhelming. Intimidating. So I keep my eyes on the piece of sidewalk directly in front of me. And take it piece by piece. Suddenly it’s not so big. Little bits are doable. Far less formidable.
- Don’t look down once I reach the top. It’s a dizzying perspective. A mixture of pride in today’s accomplishment and dread for tomorrow’s harrowing task. So I resist peeking over my shoulder. I simply turn the corner and keep going.
- Honor my body and where it’s at today. It’s changing. Aging. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the hill. I listen to the subtle messages it sends. I’m respectful of my limitations. And grateful for what I can do.
- Maintain my runner’s form despite the slower pace. This is part of the art of running and hard to articulate with words. It’s about the shape. Structure. Configuration. Contours. I keep the stance no matter how down tempo the present beat or cadence.
- It’s not a competition. There’s no one else in this race so the pressure’s off. I don’t rate myself. Think about time. Check my pulse or heart rate. There’s no personal best. No need to push harder. I don’t care about that. I’m not an athlete. I’m not going to the Olympics. The beauty of this stage in my life? There’s absolutely nothing to prove.
- It’s not about conquering. Nothing to beat. Vanquish. Quell. Quash. Clobber. Nor crush. I greet the hill with the peace of a Pacifist. In my heart I’m confident I’ll reach the top. But I’ll inflict no harm along the way.
- It’s okay to be afraid. Some days the hill scares the life out me. It’s just too much. Especially on the dark and eerily quiet mornings. My imagination takes hold. The hill becomes my enemy. Then my legs turn to rubber. Shaky like jelly. That’s when I exhale deeply. And keep moving. Even shaky legs will get you there.
- It hurts. It’s so bloody painful at times that I think, ‘This is it. I’m gonna die on this stupid hill.’ But I don’t. I make it home in one piece. And the truly priceless part? It’s like the miracle of childbirth. I forget the pain when it’s over.
- The weather doesn’t matter. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, the hill is still there. Waiting for me. So I dress accordingly. I never worry about getting wet. Or cold. Or sweating like a pig. The wind can howl like a wolf. I call its bluff and howl right back.
- Every day is a sweet little victory. I celebrate that. Not in a big glittery New Year’s Eve kind of way. But I do have this little happy endorphin dance going on in my head when I’m done. This is a beautiful reminder to take joy in all the wondrous things life holds. Every day I’m here is a win.
- The hill will be here long after I’m gone. Reliable. Solid. Stone-steady. Some things endure. Others, like me are ephemeral. But know this, the hill recognizes my footstep. It is imprinted in the soul of the earth. And that’s pretty awesome.