“First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” Donovan
When my granddaughter (whose name is Trouble) was four, I watched her throw a 7 minute tantrum because I told her it was not snack time. I watched as she threw herself onto the floor in protest. Continued watching as she wailed and jerked and twisted her body about- hoping for some kind of reaction. I grew sad (and tired) as she started sobbing in frustration. I said nothing. I just sat down in the same room and waited until she finished. Then I took a deep breath and said, “Okay.”
I mustered every serious bone I had to convince her that I wanted the same thing she did. “I wonder if there’s another way to say that,” I said slowly. “One that doesn’t make you so tired. Maybe- something like, ‘Nana, I really want a snack. Can we talk about it?’”
I was winging it. I had no idea what I was doing, except trying to make it quiet. And it worked. That time.
But there will always be mountains.
This year, mountains have come in waves for my husband. After his motorcycle accident and surgery, he spent months staying off his feet. Then, months learning to walk again. Physical therapy and exercise became his mountains. As did days of exhaustion and pain. These were just the physical hurdles. The mental ones were just as steep.
What are we to do? We pray. We practice kindness. We live a life of cooperation and compassion. And, wham. The car overheats. The project that should have taken an hour to finish sits on your desk for a week. Your four-year-old guest throws a tantrum that defines the mood of the entire house. A man who has ridden a motorcycle since grade school is swept off the road and hurled into uncertainty. The peaceful order you work so hard to create vanishes faster than a twenty dollar bill. How do you make it stop?
But here are some secrets to making obstacles work for you:
Secret #1- Mountains teach.
How unfair that the only constant in life is change. If only we could see it coming. Or see it as opportunity. Though we can’t eliminate mountains from our lives, we can change how we react to them.
Mountains stop us from going where we may not be ready to go. They force us to use our entire skill set- and then some- to climb them. But they are only insurmountable with our permission.
We tell Trouble that she is always in control. Even when things are not going well, she can turn things around. To take something negative and make it positive is sometimes all it takes.
We must get inside every uncomfortable experience and stay until we figure out what makes it uncomfortable. To transcend a mountain, we must understand how it became a mountain in the first place.
Secret #2- The worst kinds of mountains are the ones we create.
Often these mountains come in the form of grudges and hurts. Letting go of hurt is sometimes moving mountains.
If something doesn’t have to be an obstacle, ask yourself why it is.
When Trouble was a toddler, you could keep her from hurting herself by turning her about 15 degrees. If she didn’t see the kitty, she wouldn’t pull its tail. Now it is harder. As her view expands, so does her desire to stray. But life is transformation.
Secret #3- It’s all about the view (wherever you are).
The view from a mountain top is both celebration and perspective. Standing on top is nice. But you know you have to come down. Part of you (as my husband says) is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Another mountain is just around the corner, if you let it become that. Sometimes the desire to climb is enough. Baby steps are still transformative. For my husband, things he once took for granted are coming back slowly. But he is a different person now. His view of life has changed. Slowing down has helped him appreciate it.
I recently picked up Trouble from school. She chatted a minute, then got very quiet. I heard the sound of her lunch bag zipper and an ‘Oops’. Preparing for the worst, I meditated on my mountain climbing mantra- ‘Not a big deal. Not a big deal.’
“Trouble,” I asked cautiously, “why does my car smell like donuts?”
“Oh,” she answered brightly, “It’s because I just spilled sugar all over it. It smells Great, right?”
How good are you at climbing ‘mountains’ in your daily life? Care to share your techniques?