Some Days, The Chains Don’t Work

Earlier this year, we went to the mountains for a long weekend away.  There’s something about the energy.  And, also, the magical promise of snow.  Of peace.

We snuggled in for a cozy weekend and delighted in all it had to offer, including dinner at one of our favorite spots.  By the time we headed out for the evening, the snow was falling in weightless clumps.  Everyone was gleeful, grabbing handfuls and throwing it into the air and playfully at each other.  When we tired, we got in the car and headed down the hill into town.

After an evening of enjoying delicious food amidst warm conversations and live music, we bundled up to head home to bed.  The sky was still dumping buckets of snow, much to the delight of my child, who had not tired of snowball fights.

We hadn’t needed chains thus far on our trip, as the snow had been light and the streets well-maintained.  At a relatively low elevation, snow doesn’t tend to stick around there.  Usually, more of a delightful pop-in to add to the ambience. 

As we neared the hill we were staying on, one that hadn’t seemed especially steep, we sized up the journey before us and concluded we could make it.  So, we carried on. 

However, the combination of the incline, the snow and our front wheel drive proved insufficient for the elements.  We made it part of the way up the road and then just slid around in place.  Worse, we began slipping backwards.  Without control. 

Convinced there was a way to make it work, we kept trying different approaches.  Different roads.  Different routes.  Building momentum ahead of the incline.  Gunning the engine.  Looking for places where there was enough snow built up for the wheels to grip.  Letting the wheels spin in hopes of finding traction.  But, nothing worked…as it grew later and later on this dark, snowy night.

I finally made the call and insisted we go back to the restaurant.  The thought was that at least it was a safe place to leave our car and we’d have reception to try for an Uber.  That didn’t work, though.  Turns out, this charming mountain town doesn’t do transportation services.  So, we bashfully went inside and asked for help.

To our amazement, the hostess offered to help us with our chains, kicking off a cold, icy battle of man/woman versus nature.  Nothing wanted to cooperate, and the efforts were made more challenging by the very elements they were intended to help us maneuver through. 

At long last, through sheer determination and brute force, the chains were on.  And we were on our way, with this wonderful woman reassuring us that, if we had any issues, we could come back.

Again, we approached the hill.  We were confident, though, that we now had what we needed. 

We came so…close…  But, we still couldn’t get there. 

Again, we tried everything.  Different paths.  Different strategies.  Tapping into different reserves.  It was no use. 

We considered walking, but it wasn’t safe in the darkness of night and storm.  And, even if it were, our child had long since fallen asleep.  This now being well past bedtime (for all of us, really).

After trying everything we could think of and saying goodbye to our pride, we returned to the restaurant.  We didn’t really know what kind of help we needed.  We just knew we needed to get back.

As I provided the update on our situation, someone sitting near the door asked if I needed help.  They had a four-wheel drive and offered to take us home.  At first, I was reluctant to accept this assistance.  What kind of mother accepts a ride home from a stranger…with her child…?  We ultimately got comfortable, accepted a(nother) helping hand and made it back safely. 

Some days, the storm is so intense that the chains don’t work and you can’t make it up the hill on your own.  No matter how hard you try.  No matter how much you want to. 

Upon reflection, this wasn’t the first time I learned that lesson.  Nor was it the last. 

In fact, I have been navigating some tough stuff.  And, who better equipped to do so?  I have trained for this!  I am built for this!  I have reserves of resilience for miles!  First wind.  Second wind.  Third wind.  Fourth…  I’ve leveraged all the tools.  Of which, I have many.  Meditation.  Reflection.  Rest.  Writing.  Yoga.  Nature.  Walking.  Spirituality.  Coaching.  Therapy.  Baths.  Journaling.  Sage.  Ceremony.    

When the last tool still doesn’t get us there, though, what do we do?  On these days, we depend on the kindness of others.

I am not always great at asking for help.  Even merely accepting help can be hard sometimes.  Because I am resilient.  I am resourceful.  I am deeply immersed in all the things I write about and have dedicated my life to.  I know I have the solution somewhere.  I am, at my core, a problem solver.  And, yet, I have a limit.  We all do. 

Today, I share my gratitude for all the people who offered their kindness to help me up the hill and through the storm.  The ones who created blessed space for me to explore how I am feeling.  The ones who told me they care.  And that how I feel matters.  How I heal matters.  The ones who said they’d sacrifice, and the choice is mine.  The ones who told me I can do it.  No matter what I decide it is.  The ones who didn’t tell me what to do, rather reinforced that I will know what to do when I need to.  The ones who sent me beautiful inspiration and ideas to explore.  The ones who were there. 

As synchronicity would have it, I happened upon a lovely exploration of navigating resistance, perseverance and the messy middle as I reflected in this time.  The story of Odysseus and the Sirens served as a central metaphor (and brought me back to my cherished days as an English major).  Odysseus survived because he knew his limits and he asked for help.  It wasn’t enough to tie himself to the mast.  Some days, the usual tools and reserves don’t suffice.  Some days, you need a boat full of people who will stand by your side.  Who are simply there for you.  With kindness. 

As I’ve traversed all of this, I’ll admit – at first, my inner critic ignited.  This is what I do.  I have all the tools!  I think about all the things!  I should be better!  (Should – there’s that word again…)  How can it be so hard?  If it’s hard for me, then what am I?  Who am I? 

But, then, I realized that I do what I do because it is hard.  In fact, there is no hero’s journey that isn’t.  It wouldn’t be a hero’s journey if it wasn’t.

It’s about navigating the hard.  Charting the course and charging up that hill even when it feels impossible.  Especially when it feels impossible.  Even if it means (gulp!) asking for help…  And, kindness can light the way when the path seems dark.  Kindness is a superpower.  When given and when accepted.  (Remember that on the days when the chains do work, and pay it forward.)     

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