Note: “Coming Home to Myself” is a collection of vignettes in seven parts. Below you’ll find Part Two: Uphill/Downhill. I wrote these articles as a way of coming to terms with major life transitions, with the hope that these words may inspire those of you who are finding your path and defining what it means to be your authentic self.
The work involved in achieving personal growth can be difficult and lonely, but you aren’t alone and you will get through each struggle you face. We are all works in progress, and there wouldn’t be progress without the work.
II. Uphill / Downhill
For exercise I used to walk up the steep road leading to our driveway in the countryside. Then I’d go down it just so that I could walk up it again. Repeat. Repeat. Keep repeating to get the heart rate up.
One day it occurred to me that there was no better way to feel like you were going absolutely nowhere than to literally move your legs yet ultimately remain in the same place. Here I am back again, I thought as I neared the top of the hill. There’s the neighbor’s meadow and horses; here’s our wood fence and wild yard. Oh, look at that, as I turned to go downhill: it’s the same view once again of the road to town and the treed hillside.
Nonetheless, the hill provided exercise that quickly served its purpose on days when I didn’t have time or motivation for something longer. Despite the monotony, I figured the ends justified the means.
Months later as I agonized over whether to separate from my husband or to stay, I decided to walk the hill to clear my head.
After a few descents and climbs, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere in my mind either.
The inability to figure out what to do, coupled with the magnitude of the decision, became so overwhelming that all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. And I knew it wasn’t because of the exercise. I was suffocating on inaction and its debilitating cousin, limbo.
Neither my body nor my brain could function anymore going over the same physical and mental terrain. It was exhausting. I bent over in the middle of the hill, trying to get my breath back, and began to cry. I felt like a child. I felt like a fool.
I desperately wanted to convince myself that I could continue this life and this marriage, but as I gasped for breath beneath a low, gray sky that day, I knew my body was giving me the answer that my mind could not.
You can’t keep climbing up and down the same hill, it told me. You have to get out on the trail and find new ones.