I love hiking! Last summer I hiked a number of trails in Colorado. My favorite, although hard to choose, was the American Trail outside of Aspen. Aspen forests, pine forests, open prairie, rock terrain, this trail had it all and climaxed at the top with a beautifully serene aquamarine lake. The hike was about 6 miles-no problem, except that it had a difficult rating! And it was. For me, the climbing up to American Lake was fun and exciting. Where I ran into problems was on the decline.
Back in 2003, I was training for a triathlon, however never competed because I injured my IT band. At one point, my right knee locked up completely and I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and leg. I did a lot of physical therapy and nursed myself back to health. But as with many injuries, it remains a ‘weakened’ area. Getting back to my American Trail hike, my IT band was having nothing to do with the angle of the decline.
The initial decline didn’t bother me at all until we started getting to the really steep parts. At first it was just a discomfort. You know that feeling where it kind of hurts but you can deal with it. Then it started throbbing alarming me that I’m not going to like where this is going! Part of me was feeling fear of what was to come, and the other part wanted to rush and get through it. And then it happened, my knee locked up! I couldn’t put any pressure on my right leg at all and still had about 2 miles to go.
Walking poles supported the weight on my right side, however, not enough to keep moving at the pace I was. I had to go slow and feel all the pain. I was in tears, but kept going. I stopped often and tried to refocus on the beauty of my surroundings and not on my excruciating pain. Finally reaching the bottom, I allowed myself to rest. Even with what I experienced; it was the best hike I ever did! Pleasure, pain, ups, downs, it was all there.
Reflecting on this experience, I see many analogies to decline experiences in life. These are the times like now where we go down the mountain of uncertainty, (COVID-19) feel the discomfort, (CHANGE) then realize that discomfort is not going to go away overnight and everything begins throbbing (STAY AT HOME ORDERS) and then the decline is so steep that you are in excruciating pain (FEAR). You are forced to slow down, (BREATHE) go one step at a time, stop occasionally (REST) and take in the environment around you (COMMUNITY).
Then you finally finish the decline…..well, we may not be there yet. However, I would venture to say, that while this has been a time of unrest, of devastation for some, of loss and grief for others, I believe we are also going to remember who we’ve become as a result of COVID-19. Daily I notice the creativity we have, the outpouring of care, the deeper sense of community and how we are finding ways to hike this mountain together. When the hike down is done, I’ll see you in the valley for the celebration!