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Climb Every Mountain

(or fight your way out of every hedge)

· Mountains,Rising Strong,Mindfulness,Nature Connection,Big Magic

“I’m like a drunk on the path. Just a couple of steps, and I’ve fallen into the hedge. No matter what life chucks at us, or how we’re feeling, we must get out of the hedge and back on the path. As long as we keep doing that, we’ll be ok. Each moment available to us is fresh and new.” – Julian Daizan Skinner

As my grandmother would have said, I look like I have been dragged out of a hedge backwards. This may be true but the good news is that I have got out of the hedge and am making it back to the path. Recently, I have felt like I have been going through the motions, not really feeling it; life has felt difficult. The long school summer holidays of balancing life with two children at home without release has exacerbated things, but underneath this it is fundamentally because life has felt uncertain and I have felt the ground shifting seismically beneath my feet. Unsteady, with this unpredictable and uncontrollable movement, I have been like a ‘drunk on the path’ in Skinner’s words above. I have felt knocked down and have even berated myself for allowing myself to fall, but as Brene Brown says, “we fall, learn, get up and do it again.” Brene Brown talks about this in her book Rising Strong (which I highly recommend and I have dipped into again for inspiration).

There is always more to learn, from every fall. As I spoke about in my last blog post, I have had a break from social media, tech and even this blog – so delicious was my 'switch off' that I have found it hard to switch on again. I wanted time to ‘rumble’ and ‘reckon’ in Brene Brown’s words, to really get to the bottom of what I was feeling, challenge the stories I was telling myself and get curious. I have continued to meditate every day, be creative and outdoors when I can. These are the activities which I learnt during my period of incapacity and pain most help to keep me on the narrow path, but in truth this has been less, for shorter periods and with others around I have had little space to be alone, which I know recharges me best. I have tried to put one step in front of the other, sometimes a nanostep, battling on uphill with the wind in my face. I have been literally and metaphorically climbing mountains.

Mountains can teach us so much. Mountains: so steady, rock solid and seemingly unchanging in the face of changing climate and seasons, or so they seem compared to the rate of human change. They are etched firmly onto the skyline; you can recognise each different identifiable peak from another, standing dark against the changing light. As the days change and the seasons change the mountain stays the same, just as our emotions, feelings and thoughts come and go we can be like the mountain. I had this illustrated to me recently on a trip to Snowdonia in North Wales with my family - when I climbed two mountains! Something that when I was lying down for 6 months last year, in chronic pain from my slipped neck discs, looking longingly out the window at the trees in the changing seasons I honestly dreamt about this – and now thrillingly I have done it. One climb was up Snowdon (the highest mountain in Wales and England), by arguably one of the hardest routes, that has a hair-on-end inducing scramble at it's climax to the top. I had walked this path pre children with a very dear friend of mine Ruth and thought I remembered it clearly: the sunny day as we set off; the fabulous company; the waterfalls; the wide and unending views as we climbed...but I had entirely forgotten about this last part of the route and now here I was with my two precious children paralysed by fear that one of us was going to die. When in fear (real or imagined) it is extremely hard to think clearly, we are literally paralysed in flight or fight mode only, pure survival - which we did ... survive I mean!

The whole journey took seven hours of hard walking either up or down, with small stops every so often along the way for sips of water, or an energy bar – or let’s be honest chocolate. So many parallels to life: so long as we stay in the moment, don’t think about the entirety of what we must do, just one foot solidly (even a nanostep!) in front of another; stop to rest, to enable us to keep going for the long haul; enjoy the company of those you take the journey with (even if they are moaning frequently about stones in their boots or asking when can we have more chocolate); and I would say enjoy the view – certainly take time to enjoy the view if there is one, but for all the many walks I have taken up Snowdon over the years I still haven't seen the view from the top! It was a challenging but exhilarating walk and I would do it again tomorrow, as hard as it was - especially with children. It was worth the hard effort. Life is the same. Tomorrow I know I will get up, put one foot in front of another and do it all over again; just get out of the hedge and back on the path.

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” – Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic

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