Thursday, April 9, 2009
Don't look down
I've climbed two mountains in the past week. My legs haven't hurt this much since I played roller derby. It's good. The weather has warmed up alarmingly fast, with the smog blanket driving up the temperature well into the 80s and reminding me that the summer will be downright unbearable, but the past few days have been just gorgeous, even with the dust and smog. Some days, even the saddest of the sad bastards have to smile at the warm breezes and the sunshine.
Last Saturday I climbed the mountain that I can see from my house, thanks to a rare weekend day off brought on by a national holiday whose name I don't know. Something about tomb-sweeping? This was the easier of the climbs. All the mountains around here (and all around China, from what I gather) have steps built into them for climbing up. Easier, but less nature-y. The steps continued almost all the way up to the top, but the last little stretch was all rock-scrambling. (Actually, there were stairs all the way to the top, but I didn't see them until I was up there.)
I nearly cracked my head open against a boulder while falling down a mountain when I was 17, in Italy. It's a long story. Since then, I've been terrified of natural heights. Man-made heights, like the roofs of tall buildings, are no problem, but give me a mountain to scramble up and I start shaking and my eyes start stinging. But I scrambled. And I got to the top. It took me longer than it may take someone three times my age, but I did it.
Somewhere up there, balanced on a rock and looking for the next step, I realized that I've spent the past decade of my life learning the same lesson over and over. Don't look down. That's the lesson. Because when I concentrate my gaze on the next rock, and the rock after that, and look for a tree to hold on to, I can get to the top just fine. It's when I look down at the distance crossed that all my thoughts get tangled in fear. In more general terms, dwelling on past mistakes only impedes me from living my life today, and from taking the opportunities in front of me. Don't look down. Will someone please remind me of that next time I go into a self-doubting depressive funk?
On Wednesday I tagged along with five other teachers to climb Thousand Buddha Mountain, one of the biggest attractions of Jinan. The climb was longer, and the scrambling-up part was more treacherous, but the view from the top was worth it.
Things are looking up for me here, overall. And not just because of the nice weather. I finally get paid tomorrow, and next week a bunch of us are going to Beijing. There are two possible new developments in the works. If both of them pan out, they will make the rest of my stay in China downright awesome. Cross your fingers for me.