11-06 - Fog

Just Keep Climbing

Trying to build a career as a writer feels, at least to me, like climbing a mountain in dense fog.

How big is ‘I’m a writer’ mountain? How many miles do I have to climb before I can see the summit? How steep is the mountain? Are there places to stop and rest? Are there dangerous crevasses where I might fall and break my neck? Will there be trail signs to help me find my way? Will anyone else be on the trail so I don’t have to climb alone? Will I ever attain the summit? And if I do, will it turn out that the summit is just the base of an even bigger mountain??

Several years ago, I spent a week at The Ashram in Calabasas, California. It’s a simple place that’s been around for more than 40 years. All twelve guests at the Ashram do the same thing – yoga together as the sun rises, breakfast at a big table. And then we go out and hike for about 5 – 6 hours in the glorious Santa Monica Mountains. In the afternoon there are massages and volleyball in a very warm swimming pool to help loosen our muscles, and then dinner and more yoga. Everyone collapses into bed by around 9 p.m.

On the fifth day at the Ashram we did a silent hike. It was the warmest day, and it was the steepest climb. I’m not much of a hiker, and I started to worry that I wouldn’t be able to make it. I looked up toward the summit, felt the anxiety rising in my throat and wondered if I should I quit. I didn’t have a phone with me. I’d have to walk down and wait for someone to come find me. That didn’t seem like a good idea. Or, I could suck it up and keep going, which didn’t seem so great either.

I took a step forward. ‘OK,’ I said to myself. ‘You took that step, and you’re not falling over. Can you take another step?’

‘Yes,’ I replied, to myself, silently (because I was obediently practicing silence), ‘I can take another step.’ So I took another step.

And then I asked myself again, ‘Are you OK right now?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘OK, then, take another step.’
And, in this deliberate manner, forcing myself into the present at every moment, I made it, step by conscious step, to the top of the mountain.

I think about The Ashram when I write and submit essays for publication, or when I edit the manuscript of my memoir, or when I query agents. Each thing I do is another step. My only job is to keep taking steps, to keep climbing this foggy mountain.

Sometimes I feel lonely and daunted on the climb. Sometimes I worry about whether I’m intellectually and spiritually fit enough for the steepest parts of this hike. Sometimes I just want a detailed map so I know how much energy and time this will take, so I know where I’m actually going!

Sometimes, though, the fog clears a little, and I see a spectacular vista – a perspective I never thought I’d see. Even when the fog is stubborn and dense, I can still see beautiful wildflowers at my feet. As I climb the skin on my face is invigorated by the cold, wet air.

I feel more alive on the mountain than I have ever felt. I am not at home, but I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

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About Lisa

Lisa Poulson is a voice in favor of the complex beauty of female power, the descendant of fiercely resilient Mormon pioneers and a woman who survived the death of her fiancé four months before their wedding. Lisa lives in San Francisco, where she spends her time absorbing and creating as much beauty as possible.

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Lisa Poulson is the legal copyright holder of this blog. Contents may not be used, reprinted, or published without written consent.

About Lisa

Lisa Poulson is a voice in favor of the complex beauty of female power, the descendant of fiercely resilient Mormon pioneers and a woman who survived the death of her fiancé four months before their wedding. Lisa lives in San Francisco, where she spends her time absorbing and creating as much beauty as possible.

Join the conversation on Instagram!

Reminder

You are reading of your own will and choice. How you read, act on or don’t act on what you read here is up to you.

Reassurance

While lisapoulson.com does use cookies, which helps us understand how you engage with our site and where you’re from, we do NOT save your personal information - like e-mail, name or address. And, if you join our mailing list or comment on a post, we will not share (or sell) your contact information. We are not responsible for commenters or other third parties here.

Clarity

Lisa Poulson is the legal copyright holder of this blog. Contents may not be used, reprinted, or published without written consent.