There are at least three journeys I could use for specific examples of what I want to talk about today. I could tell you about how I beat poverty, or how I beat chronic illness, or how I beat chronic disorganization. Now I’m free of consumer debt, free of chronic pain and fatigue, and well organized. It’s all very inspirational. (At least I think so). The truth is that the specifics don’t really matter because the work involved is the same. We crawl out of a hole only to realize that we still have to climb the hill.
In a hole. We know we’re in a hole. We know we’re in a hole because we feel constricted on every side and we can’t see the horizon. We feel that resources are scarce or non-existent. We feel alone. We are in the dark. We are uncomfortable. We cry out, hoping someone can hear us. We have no way of knowing whether there is anyone else in the same situation. How many holes might there be? We don’t know how deep the hole is. We don’t know how to get out. We usually don’t even know how we came to be in this hole in the first place. It’s all very unfair and confusing. At the same time, it’s familiar. Crawling out of the hole raises a lot of unsettling questions.
Climbing out of the hole. Can it be done? How do we go about it? We don’t have the proper tools! We don’t have any training! We don’t know anyone else who has done it! O but it’s hard. Dirty. Sweaty. Several times we try to climb out and slide back in, scraped and grubby and demoralized. There is gravel embedded in our knees and grime under our nails. Climbing out of this hole is like punching our way out of a coffin. Nothing we have ever done is as hard as this. It is beyond the pale. It cannot be borne. Can’t we just slide back down and lick our wounds for a while?
Out of the hole. We find ourselves on solid ground. We’ve bled for this moment. We’ve positively ruined our manicures. The air is fresh but the light is too bright. Where is the brass band? Where is the ticker tape parade? We look around but everyone we see appears to have spent the night in some place that was not a damp underground burrow. There is nothing here at the rim of the hole in the ground from which we have so recently emerged.
The hill. Off in the distance we see the hill. It’s as blue as an old tattoo. From our current vantage point we have no way of knowing how high it is or how many miles away it might be. We don’t have a map or navigational tools of any kind. It’s invisible at night. We can only do our reckoning in broad daylight. We keep putting one foot in front of the other, never taking our eyes off it.
Climbing the hill. As it turns out, climbing the hill isn’t so hard. In fact, it’s nothing compared to crawling out of that nasty old hole. Walking and walking has toughened us up and corrected our hunched posture. We’ve accrued the strength that is needed. We are well acquainted with terrain of every sort. We keep going. We reach the summit. We can’t believe the view. We can’t even see the hole anymore, even though we know just where to look.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.