Alone or not . . . you gotta walk ahead . . . But the thing to remember is that if we're all alone, then we're all together in that , too . . . Kathy Bates' love to her daughter in PS I Love You
Oh, the glory of finding a mountain that overlooked an ocean on an island that day! How often do so many metaphors present themselves all at once?. . . And finding the brave to walk out on the ledge of it all! . . . . It's a badass moment that just won't leave me alone.
Don't look down and don't look back . . .
the mantra that moved me to the edge . . . has the power to carry me for a lifetime . . . or for a season . . .
Even so, these pinnacles of hope . . . these moments of triumph . . . one fades into the next that we chase. I hold a generous handful in my heart and file them away in my soul for the hurting days.
Because these badass moments won't leave me alone.
Almost a year ago to the day from my island mountain, there was an epic ski-fall down a different mountain that has carried me from one winter to the next of now. I wasn't alone on that mountain. It was the end of December and I imagined a very different new year than the one that stretched out before me. I didn't expect that just as the snow began to melt, that I would find myself, quite suddenly, alone. And by fall . . . very alone in a new apartment and with a new job across the state. The summer was a blur.
It must have taken a monumental amount of effort to find a new job and move to a new apartment . . . to plan for all the details of dismantling a whole life and transplanting it somewhere else. But I don't remember much of it . . . the hard parts, anyway . . the painful stretches of faith I know must have happened . . . the giant leap to bridge the gaps of sameness between the years of pain and disappointment . . . to make different decisions than the ones that never brought about any real change or healing . . . I don't remember much of it . . . I only remember that I never felt alone.
You can do this. You're not alone.
Don't look down and don't look back.
Most days this place where I've landed still feels bewildering . . . Sometimes, in moments and in longer stretches of darker days, the silence and shame of a broken life . . . the alone-ness of it . . . the fear of just me . . . paralyzes. And then I remember the details of the beautiful detours over the past year . . . the places I went alone . . . with perfect clarity . . . and . . . well, then I remember. It was in the places I went alone that I have felt the most connected . . . have felt the healing and the mystical, magnetic energy that will always draw me back to my people. . . and back to my most authentic self. This is when I know I am living in the right decision . . . for the now . . . And I understand, truly, that I am not alone here . . . That God's plan for me has always been for human angels to stand in the gap . . . to send hope from the shadows . . . to wait on the shores . . . to drive the getaway car . . .
From winter to winter in this journey I have been sheltered in love. And this is what I remember the most . . .
The in between of places and people . . . of rolling miles over highways and skies and seasons with time for deep introspection . . . Feeling the snow move beneath my feet . . . and moving my feet over the warming earth until my soul was cleansed and my body produced a high that no drug can match. The solitude of a paddleboard gliding over diamond sunlight paths on sleepy country lakes . . . and being carried dangerously alone out over the waves to a mighty blue ocean . . . Standing high on borrowed balconies over electric cities and eclectic towns in the solitude of twilit nights . . . and sun-stretched in the cool of borrowed backyard pools . . . losing myself in silence and drowsy joy. . .
Standing in the arch of rainbows in the day and watching the stars fall down around me at night . . . Staring into a the flames of a dozen backyard, midnight fires . . . sipping Merlot and watching the sun disappear into the moon . . . hanging my most fervent prayers on the Eastern star of Sirius while the world slept and a crystal lake lapped at my feet . . . close encounters with mythic and whimsical creatures . . . dolphins and whales, turtles big and small, and fantasmically colored fish . . . drawn from the depths just for me . . . a single deer that stood rooted outside my back door watching me in the dark fog of an autumn morning . . . the wonder of soaring eagles crossing my sky path exactly when I needed to feel their freedom . . . and the stark red of cardinals against white falling snow exactly when I need to see colors.
. . . On the loneliest afternoons . . . and darkest just before dawn mornings . . . lifting my hands and listening for the small, still, mighty voice that tells me:
It is in these highest, loneliest places, that you are never alone. It is in these broken places of prayer and praise and gratitude . . . and in the intercession of others . . . that my plans will come together for you. It is on the jagged edges of fear and uncertainty and anxiety when you come to me that I will lift you up.
In all of this . . . in all of my loneliest places . . . someone watched for . . . waited for . . . prayed for me.
Mercifully, these are the moments I remember the most. To be sure, there has been devastating pain . . . anguished broken-ness. But I don't remember falling . . . so much a being caught . . . in this earth-splitting, soul-shattering year . . .
And that at the end of it, I summoned the courage to walk out on the edge of it . . . alone . . . because there are some places in life that we can only go by ourselves. True badass is, of its very nature, all by yourself.
In the dawning hours of this new year, 3500 feet above the ocean on a mystical island in the middle of the Pacific, I hiked out three miles on a mother-tough trail with my brothers. There was sticky, sucking mud and twisty tree roots, narrow paths taunted by steep-drop ledges, and tunnels of foliage so thick that they blocked out the light. We took turns catching our breath and taking the lead in variations . . . three beside, two beside and one ahead . . . one behind . . . climbing, crawling . . . always playing catch up, but always together. At the end, we blinked into the blue wonder . . . looked up, down, and all around . . . then looked to our left and beheld a rebel mountain ridge path that stretched forward on its own about fifty yards . . . narrow and precarious and shaped by a thousand years of strong winds that might blow us over the edge. And I had to do it. I had to go with it. Some crazy metaphorical, storytelling streak of insanity that I might have inherited compelled me forward.
You can't do that.
Yes, I can. And you're going to take pictures.
Don't look down and don't look back.
And I went out alone. Step by careful step, crawling, grasping, eyes closed, heart racing, too late to turn back . . . Hands raised to Heaven and trusting because it was just me and Him.