No Turning Back, I think I can, is my interpretation of stubbornness transformed to perseverance. In the negative, if I go too far in my drive, I can be viewed as being stubborn. When I focus on the positive, that same no turning back attitude can be ignited to fuel an openness to see all possibilities. A willingness to keep looking for a way through, not by fighting and resistance, but by seeking the open door. If need be an open window will do- even a cracked window will do for me. My competitive nature is expressed as an unwillingness to surrender until I have nothing more to give. Trust me that takes a lot.
I never give up looking for a way to slip through the cracks and get to my objective. Not out of a belief that I am right, but a belief that if I can find a way it’s possible. And if it’s possible I need to persevere and follow my heart, my intention and purpose- no matter what. I truly believe if I were not supposed to pursue the goal all the cracks would be blocked and I would be at a complete impasse. With that core belief as a foundation I keep trying until I reach a wall.
I will continue even after the wall has been hit. I will sit, relax, then stand up and try again. I usually keep at it until something or someone comes along and says, “Hey, you might want to try this; or let me give you a lift you aren’t getting anywhere today.” This attitude in most circumstances works for me. I truly do find a way through most situations and am quite pleased and overwhelmed with my success. The struggle fortifies my faith and confirms my inner strength.
Two days ago I went for my usual hike on the Trail. Lately the typical New Mexico weather of warm sunny days with an overnight freeze has made hiking difficult. When I began my hike I noticed that all of the foot traffic from the day before, during the melt, had now frozen making the path a solid stream of ice.
To make matters worse it had snowed overnight and a light snow covered the ice beneath. In my resourcefulness I found that I could walk on the fresh snow on the side of the trail and maintain my footing. I kept moving forward despite seeing more and more ice as I was able to find a path around the difficult spots, so I felt confident continuing on. I don’t know why, but there is apart of me that simply hates turning back. I dislike traveling on the same terrain I just crossed and if I can keep moving in a new direction I’m happy.
As I continued deeper into the woods and steadily started creeping up the mountain I came across a group of trekkers with a guide from REI. I stopped and waited on the bank next to the trail to let them pass. They had the look of a team of trekkers approaching the summit of Mt Everest. They had all the gear, polls, bright red crimp on cleats, leg gear, head gear, enormous gloves the whole package for a day long excursion in the most formidable mountain country.
I had my old jeans, a ten year old down jacket, a pair of cheap Sorel knockoffs, my earmuffs and a pair of gloves. I raised my voice and asked the group, “How’s the trail on the top side? Did you make the whole loop?” A man stood forward, with the appearance of a professional mountain guide, a full, robust beard added the final touch. He responded, “There’s more snow on the top ledge.” That was it, that was what I had to go on. “Thank you,” I responded and informed him “The lower section in the valley up to this point has been filled with ice and has been rather treacherous.”
A women in the group quickly stepped toward me, raising her foot and rotating the tread, stating, “These cleats have been excellent. They’re $70 dollars at REI.” “Oh, thank you. Yes, they do look good,” I responded. I smiled as the large caravan of people, poles and equipment trekked by with very few smiles and not many words. Annie and I stepped back on the edge of the path and continued to make our way forward, with caution.
As I came to the tallest slope on the trail, my feet slipped beneath me, I laughed as I began almost running in place. I stretched my arm forward, my knees almost touching the ground, and reached for a small exposed root of a tree just above me. I grabbed hold and used it to slowly pull myself up to Annie. She stood at the base of the tree compassionately watching and waiting for me to make it up the hill.
I tensed my muscles and cautiously watched every step as I made my way up and over the slope and onto the embankment where I could get better footing. I was now fully off of the path and making my own way up the mountain. I continued on and up over the ridge to the north side of the mountain and the upper pass. I only approached the path where I could see there was no ice in that section.
I kept moving forward, every so often hitting a patch of ice I couldn’t avoid. As I reached the top my strategy had to change. The north pass is different from the valley it’s not much more than a sliver of ground in between the mountain and the edge of a cliff. The guides comment about the snow began to make sense. The trail almost disappeared as the bank become thick with snow. What was there was slick with a thin layer of ice on top of the snow and a sheet of ice hidden beneath on the turns and the down slopes.
At this point, I might have considered turning back. I glanced at the lower path below the rim and thought for a moment. I remembered the ice I couldn’t get any traction on as I used the tree root to pull myself up. I knew what I had overcome and the thought of going through that again was not appealing. I decided I would keep moving forward, optimistic that the snow might make it easier to hike than the large sheets of ice below. I said to myself, “I think I can,” and continued on.
I made slow progress; the path wasn’t easy. Each time my feet slipped shear panic and terror would surge through my body. I knew if I fell I might very well tumble down the edge of the cliff, hitting rocks and tree stumps hidden by the snow. Every time I had a near miss I would stop, bend over, my hands clenching my knees for support and fix my eyes on Annie. Annie would immediately stop and turn to see if I was all right, watching me gasp in horror. I would pause take several deep breaths in and out and calm myself down saying a silent prayer asking my angels and the unseen nature spirits to help me.
I realized I was in for the hike of my life. I needed to keep my wits about me, focus and keep moving forward; there was no going back. I truly believed it would be worse going downhill and hitting the large patches of ice than moving forward. Not to mention my core unwillingness to give up if I can find even a sliver of hope to hold onto and keep trying. I have the uncanny ability to laugh in the most tense of circumstances and be optimistic that the way forward will offer better possibilities.
My optimism can be both a character strength and a critical flaw. My husband calls this trait in me shear stubbornness; a thick headed approach without regard for my own safety and well-being. That’s not what it is in my eyes. There is no anger in me, nothing to prove, and no fear guiding me. What drives me is a small voice that says, “I think I can.” I look ahead and see the smallest chance I can make it through. I call that chance the line. I watch for the line and once I find it I hold that line no matter what.
I remember when I was in high school I had a boyfriend who loved to race cars. He told me in the curves you could accelerate, all you had to do was hold the line. I took that information and created a philosophy about life. All I had to do in the most dangerous and frightening moments was find that line, feel it and hold on to it. That thread of possibility is what I hold onto with all my might. I don’t let go, instead I focus more intently. My eyes are fixed on the line and where the next step needs to go. My mind is clear and empty; there is no thought only instinct.
This is who I am. I approach obstacles and overcome, not through stubborn resistance, cursing and fighting, but by being willing to persevere and hold on.
As I persevere I remember the words of my favorite childhood book, The Little Engine That Could, and say to myself, “I think I can.” I memorized every word of that book and would recite it back to myself as a child. I embodied that story into my being. I loved how all the big, powerful, strong, confident and experienced engines said no to the plea to take the toys over the mountain pass for the children. I remember the compassionate heart of that little engine who had never once been over the mountain pass, but through persistence and determination kept moving forward when the odds were stacked against her. That little engine did the impossible and enjoyed the celebration, love and giving of gifts to the children. I made it through the narrow, ice covered trail back to my car and truly enjoyed the celebration of making it home safely, confirming my confidence that I can take care of myself and that I am stronger than I might think.
P.S. I now have cleats and hiked the trial today with some trepidation only to realize I had essentially gone on the trail that day in the worst possible conditions with no cleats or proper gear. Today was a breeze and I had the most amazing cleats that made it even easier. By the way I found a great pair for much cheaper than the suggested $70 dollars.
P.S.S Remember the gentleman I helped out after he had fallen on the ice in my blog titled: One Step At A Time. He emailed me not long ago to let me know he had been taken by ambulance to the emergency room after he drove home and was rushed into surgery. He had a torn MCL and was to be completely immobilized for weeks. The day of my treacherous hike, before I was aware of the ice, I saw his two dogs being walked by a friend of his. Talk about an omen of things to come. I thought of those dogs and of the gentleman and how gravely injured he had gotten on the trial as I inched my way forward until I was free and back in my car.