I have felt out of balance lately, trying to find security in a rapidly changing mental landscape. I could feel myself constantly grasping and hanging on for dear life to anything that gave me some momentary sense of stability. As life-long ideas about who am I snapped like twigs beneath me, I felt like I was falling from the top of a redwood, crashing through branches, wildly reaching for something to catch me.
This past week, I was consciously searching for a metaphor that captured the sensation and gave me some direction on how to manage these emotions. Although I am the furthest thing from a rock climber, I imagined myself dangling from a precarious position on a high mountain, scrambling for footing.
Within this metaphor, I began looking for a way to calm my anxiety, sadness and fear. Here is what I have worked out —
Knowing your weight and center of balance on a climb enables you to maneuver the environment safely and efficiently, evaluating your next move with a clear sense of your strength and the capacity for each step to bear your weight.
In the same way, knowing and accepting my inherent value as a person gives me a sense of being centered and in touch with who I am. Instead of having my value rise and fall as defined by outside opinions or circumstances, I have a static value — just like my physical weight on a climb. With this stable base of perception, I can make better choices, more aligned with my true self — safer steps more likely to hold and carry me forward.
I can finally stop saying there is something wrong with me when I experience failure, loss or rejection. I just made the wrong choice because my center was off-balance or I didn’t evaluate the situation clearly. This does not reflect my value as a human being — that never changes.
So when I feel myself grasping and unsteady, I will remember —
- Just because a limb is close by and seems like the logical next step doesn’t automatically mean it will hold me if I am too heavy. Even if I grasp tightly, it will still break — probably faster. Reaching for something that is not right for me, even if I really want it and use all my strength to hold on, will ultimately result in a fall.
- Breaking a limb does not mean I am too heavy. It just means that my weight is more than the limb can carry. There is no judgment necessary.
- Sometimes a step seems impossible or too risky, yet it really just means I need to build my strength. Once rested, I may find that the foothold is safe. I have to stop pushing myself to exhaustion to please or impress others or because I am impatient. I might be on the right path after all, yet the timing is off.
And when I fall, I will tell myself — Falling is okay. I took a risk. I have a harness. I’ll try again. Nothing has changed. You are the same person.
Photo courtesy of photographer Heather Hanson