Resting on the false summit
“I’m betwixt and between.” I’ve always heard that expression but never quite knew where that was. So if I were to find myself there — how would I know?
Well, I am there and now I know.
Here is the only way I can explain it. This place — betwixt and between — is like a big, grassy spot under a beautiful, shady tree. Only I’ve come to this place after hiking up a steep, sun-drenched mountain path. The joy of the scenery on the way up the hill was amazing. But the climb was long, hot and dusty. The whole way up I dreamt of the summit and now I can see it complete with a magnificent tree on a grassy patch.
But when I crest the summit, I realize that the tree and the grassy resting place isn’t actually the top. It is a false summit. And there is another steep incline beyond here that was out of my line of vision on the initial stretch.
I first heard the term false summit when I did a 300-mile bike ride to the north rim of the Grand Canyon from St. George, Utah. Ruth, a 72 year old woman also on the ride, seemed to be always riding faster and longer than I was. As we powered our way up a 5-mile incline under the hot, high desert sun she would inevitably reach the summit ahead of me. Just as I was using my last bit of energy, she would yell back to me “false summit!” Then she’d go out of sight, eagerly pedaling her way up the next incline. Eventually I’d get there and see, nope, not the top, just a flat area before the climb started again.
Being at a false summit is not a comfortable place for me. The never-ending question for me is “When I come to the grassy spot, do I sit and rest, or persevere up the next incline?”
I realized yesterday that I’ve been betwixt and between since early January. And I realized I have been trying to “think” my way out of it. I’ve been trying to solve for “x” when I don’t yet have enough information. And that is pretty darn uncomfortable for me.
Over the past year I’ve had so many major accomplishments I can barely count them, and I have barely caught my breath. My business has grown and I’ve earned a solid reputation. My first book has been published and another is due out in February. I’ve created a workshop on communication that sells out and another on leadership that is growing. My speaking career is taking off. In my personal life, I’ve become a grandma, my daughter moved back to California, and a new relationship has developed.
There are so many good things to celebrate. Yet I can’t shake that feeling that I should be powering forward up the next incline.
A light dawns over Marblehead
This old New England saying really highlights my feeling when my ah-ha moment struck yesterday. I recalled that just a few months ago I was coaching a young professional who was struggling with what she wanted to do with rest of her life (career-wise). She was working in a place she loves but knew there was something else, something more, something around the corner, and she felt quite anxious as she struggled with the unknown.
The outcome of our coaching session was about how to sink into gratitude instead of resentment as she awaited more information about what was next. Her anxiety rose from not knowing. And hers fear that she may never be able to figure it out was paralyzing and breeding anger and resentment.
As I reflected on my feelings of discomfort and frustration in spite of the fact that is life is so good, I realized (as I so often do) that the coaching session with the young woman was actually a lesson for me.
I’m uncertain what the next iteration of my business and life is going to look like. I’m uncertain about what I need, besides perseverance, to go up the next hill. All I know is that I want to keep moving up. In fact I can’t wait to see the view from the next peak. But everything around me is telling me that right now I need to just relish what is, because I don’t have enough information about what’s next.
Yesterday while driving I listened to an interview with Brother Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk best know for his Ted Talk, “An Attitude of Gratitude”. He spoke about how anxiety has a way of paralyzing us. And he goes on to share that anxiety is an inherent part of life and it is fear that really paralyzes us. When we resist the anxiety it turns into fear. And fear stops us on our journey.
So today, I’m allowing myself to listen to Brother Steindl-Rast who says that everything in life hinges on trust. “And with this trust, with this faith, we can go into that anxiety and say, ‘it’s terrible, it feels awful’. But trust that it is just another birth into a great fullness”.
Where in your life can you find some shade and relish the resting places that the false summits provide in the midst of the journey onward and upward?