When I left home in 2010, I thought I was running towards something. Like I was full-speed trotting up the mountain of life, escaping from that wretched valley life pushed me into, headed for some golden peak near the sun. But that’s the thing about grief – nothing’s quite like you think. I was running towards something just as much as I was running away from the life I didn’t know how to face.
The thing you think when you’re so low is that you have to get higher. There are hundreds of adages emphasising the valley and mountain scenes of life that it seems like the right thing to do to recover. If I could just get up to that next plateau. Climb the mountain. Escape the valley. But if the trials of life really do reflect the topography of our planet, I would have been much better off running into a forest and camping out beside a lake to let my heart heal. In retrospect, I can see that climbing a mountain isn’t always the right answer. Sometimes our hearts need to find peace first.
Staying in the valley isn’t always the best option, however. Rarely is it a good place to be. Yet valleys will come and go. Sometimes we won’t even blink an eye as we pass through them, while other times they might strike us down with their beauty, or their desolation. Remembering what we experience in the valley (or the mountain) is a reflection of what lies within yourself can help you find your way out. Even those who stick to the straight and easy plains can stumble into a valley. The planet is diverse, as is this life.
All too often we try to find the easy answer when our life as we know it is disrupted. We create adages to simplify the struggle within ourselves. Mountains and valleys. Egos and ids. Angels and devils. We’re afraid to do the real work lest we fall back into the valley, or worse, discover we are not capable of climbing mountains. What if we find we don’t have the skill? Or the will? Or the heart? What then? What if we discover it’s our own fault that we ended up in the valley?
There may be easy answers, but that depends on what you’re willing to accept. Whether we run towards a life we think we should have, or we run away from a life we don’t want to have, in either case we are moving, and it’s how we put our feet in front of each other that determines whether we make it up that mountain or find our way to the lake in the forest. We don’t always have to climb a mountain, but we need to feel the sun on our faces, and you can’t do that in the valley, in the shadow of the monoliths.