Prompt for December 6th: Intention: What were some of your mantras from 2012 and how did you come by them? Will they remain the same for next year – if not, what new ones will you set?
There was always something so weird about the idea of “confession” to me — the concept of sequestering oneself in a cubicle and enumerating one’s sins for the judgment of another person. To be given penance. To feign penitence.
I didn’t get the point — at least in theory. I suppose I still consider the way the Catholics do it to be a bit weird — no insult intended by that. But as I got older, it began to make a bit more sense. How else does one become accountable for one’s sins unless they are confessed aloud; told to others; thrown out into the world and not kept silent on one’s dark and human heart?
Maybe I confess too much.
I am jealous of the people who I think have more than I do, or who I think have it easier than I do.
I am angry at myself for thinking I am prettier than his wife.
(I am prettier than his wife.)
I screwed up.
But I believe — truly believe — that one must remind oneself to confess one’s own truth to oneself and others. Because the truth is often raw and green and half-baked and ugly, and the only way it unfolds into something beautiful is to plant it, and grow it.
Very few things grow in enclosed spaces.
2) You are more than the wall
I don’t know who said this to me, or where this came from, but it comes into my head when I run. Runners sometimes hit The Wall — a powerful and devastating break in physical and emotional endurance.
This, to me, has come to mean that I have power over myself; my surroundings; my situation — even when I don’t have control. Just: you are more than this roadblock; this moment; this pain.
You can break through.
3) Zen Stairs
(I’m beginning to think that all of my mantras are totally weird.)
I’ve mentioned previously that my best friend Jade and I climbed Half Dome in Yosemite National Park together a few years back. It was one of those items that was on my Fifty Things list, and it was a moment in time where our relationship was in conflict and my life was in shambles.
The icing on the cake was that Yosemite Valley was on fire; Jade had, a few years prior, survived her house burning down.
We drove through the burning Sierras at night, looking out over the embers. At one point, Jade had wanted to turn back and I refused. We pressed on.
The next morning, before dawn, we set out for the climb. I was in First-Marathon Shape; she was not an endurance athlete by training, and I had perhaps not properly briefed her for what we were about to do. I had merely given her a grocery list and told her to rent a car and meet me in Carmel, where I’d been working with a client.
If you’ve ever climbed Half Dome from the Valley Floor, you know that the trailhead consists of a seemingly neverending granite staircase. It is misery. And at one point, Jade simply sat, and said she could not go on. She looked miserable. I felt miserable, because I was the one who had done this to her. It was important to me to have brought her to this place; it had been a life goal to make this climb; it was barely underway, and it was already a disaster.
A beautiful disaster, but a crisis nonetheless.
Desperate to move her, I screamed below: Zen stairs.
And I explained it briefly — though I can scarcely remember my explanation now — except to say that it meant: one step at a time. Be on the stair you’re on.
Something clicked, and we made it from that miserable set of steps to link up with the John Muir trail.
And still, to each other and I think to ourselves, we say: zen stairs. Be in the moment you’re in. Take things one step at a time. Be as present as possible, even in the pain.