Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Life can be a challenge: Hiking Quicksilver

Once upon a time, oh maybe about 17 years ago, I was in the midst of a profound depression. This time of deep sadness and melancholy had never surfaced in my life before.
I was acutely aware that I was not functioning well; meaning I could no longer fake that things were OK, that I was OK.
I took a leave of absence from my work-because I could hardly work without breaking down- and set out to get help.

During my intense counseling (did I mention that it was 3 times a week for 6 weeks, and then twice a week for 4 weeks and then weekly for months?) my wise therapist gave me 4 things I needed to do daily and one thing I had to do weekly.
The weekly "thing" was the easiest to figure out. I was to go somewhere I liked every week. Meaning: "Hello beach at Santa Cruz!"  This was highly therapeutic. I could not recommend anything more.

My daily list was a challenge at first.
I had to 1) make time for God everyday. 2) exercise daily. 3) find a hobby to do daily. 4) do something I enjoyed daily.
So this hiatus from my normal life happened in the springtime.
That year I had the MOST amazing flowers I had ever had. I nurtured my front and back yard with great care. I had revelations of how we grow as people as I watched these small plants blossom and then produce gorgeous flowers. I diligently watered and weeded and clipped back extra growth and became proud of the best garden I ever had.

From my father, I had gained a lifelong love of books. Reading became the one thing I did everyday. I read romance novels, historical fiction, biographies and some self help books. Reading has always been an enormous way for me to escape into a land I might never consider and learn things that would increase my knowledge.

Having time with God everyday was not too hard to accomplish. Only because I knew how much I needed Him. That no one could understand me like the LORD. And even though  I didn't "feel" Him much of the time, I knew He was with me.

It was the exercise routine that was at first baffling. I had a membership to a gym, but truthfully that was the last place I wanted to be because I knew too many people there. I didn't want to answer their questions of how was I, or why I was not working today. As I thought about what I needed to do, I realized that there was a wonderful park not far from my daughter's middle school that I could walk in. And it served dual purpose: I had to drive the carpool, why not volunteer to drive in the mornings and get my exercise as well.

First of all, I had just "heard" of Quicksilver. I had never actually hiked it.
This park is an amazing trail of paths up and down the side of a mountain.
Maybe from this picture you can see how you climb up the mountain. It looks easy enough. Oh how looks are deceiving!
I would begin the hike and soon I would be huffing away and thinking, "when am I getting to the top? how much farther can it be?". But then I would look up and see that I had a long way to go.
Often, I would think, I will never make this. And then to my surprise, there would be a level spot where as you kept walking, you could catch your breath and get ready for the next areas to climb. To get to the top, there was 3 different level areas where one can get a break to encourage yourself that you could make it. 
Eventually, I would make it and this is what I would behold: 
An absolutely stunning un-obstructed view of San Jose.
I would stand for a few moments and take in the beauty of the moment. And then I would make the descent down.

As I reminisced about this hike yesterday with one of my future daughter-in-laws, I was reminded of how often hiking this trail was like my life. Especially at this time of my deep depression.
I was on  road that seemed un-ending, without any possibility of reprieve. I didn't see a way to escape the hardness of what I was going thru.
Then all of a sudden, on the flat parts, I could catch my breath. Kind of like my life; I would have moments of laughter and normalcy and feel a bit like myself again. Without notice, the sadness and despondancy would come upon me again, and the road ahead was daunting. How would I make it?

Isn't that like life? Something happens and completely side-swipes us. We have no idea how we will go on. At times, we feel like we don't want to go on. There seems to be "no way out".
We have to plug along-when we don't want to at all. 
We are given no alternative. Whatever has happened cannot be erased. We didn't choose this. Whether it be a bout with mental illness like I had, or a life-threatening disease, or we lose our jobs, or even lose our way, or we lose someone who we dearly love. 
We are not given the choice in this, it has just happened and somehow, someway, we need to figure out how to navigate through this our new life.

Eventually, we figure it out.
We figure out how to live through this, even tho we never wanted to. We have moments of happiness, moments of fun. And then we wonder why or feel guilty that we feel like living again.
When my mother died, I cried everyday for four and a half months. One day I didn't cry, and I actually felt guilty-like I had quit missing her. Which I never had, but something allowed me to smile and see that life does go on.

It was like that with the situation that caused my depression.
The situation that had brought it about had not changed. Maybe I was tired of having my life hijacked by this deep sadness, but one day, I decided it was time to go back to work; time to start enjoying some things.

It was at the beach one day, that I realized again how much I loved the ocean. The vastness of it, the beauty of it. The sun was shining, I felt relaxed and realized that I had the choice to make to keep going on. It was a bit like seeing the beauty of the entire city of San Jose from the top of Quicksilver. Although the trip down the side of the mountain ( or maybe more likely steep hills) was so much easier that the ascent, there were some rough patches that I had to be careful with. But the experience of actually completing the hike everyday, made me realize that I did have tenacity to endure hard things.
Some people jog or run this trail everyday. I had challenges just walking it. That too, is like life. Some people coast easily thru the trials and challenges that they are dealt, while others have a hard time just getting out of bed to face a new day.
That does not make one person better than the other.
It just shows that we each have different capacities in how we cope.

My hope and earnest prayer is that no matter what, no matter how long it takes, that we each choose to endure and eventually see the beauty of life again.

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