In beautiful Lake Louise, I recently walked past the very spot I got engaged. Years prior, my love and I sat on a little pine bench protected by an alcove of trees, and looked out over the magnificent lake. He held my hand, got down on one knee, and asked. I wept happy tears and said yes. Walking past this same place two years post-divorce brought on a wave of different emotion entirely.
I knew that this location was a part of the itinerary for my group’s hiking trip. I had no qualms about it. My ex-husband and I had split amicably, with love, even. We hired the same divorce lawyer, hugged and cried through all of it. Lake Louise, I thought, was still a beautiful place, despite the end of my marriage. Perhaps I was naïve for thinking so, and that is likely why I was so unprepared for what happened next.
As I approached that section of the lake – the place where I promised forever – I felt my stomach twist. Once the little pine bench was in sight, my pulse quickened. With no warning, I doubled over at the waist as though the wind had been knocked out of me. Tears began to stream, and to my surprise and horror I let out the mournful wail of an injured animal. My reaction to this place was sudden and severe, and there was nothing I could do to control it.
Place holds a great deal of memory. And the body holds a great deal of residual pain. I had no idea just how much until it overtook me. The fact that my marriage ended amicably does not make its ending any less painful, and so I found myself having a very messy meltdown in a very public place. I scrambled to compose myself, and assured my group that we were fine to press on with our mountain hike.
A word to the wise: one cannot scale the side of a mountain while sobbing uncontrollably. You need your breath for the exertion. You can climb or you can cry. Not both. I soon realized I didn’t need to compose myself and carry on. What I needed to do was to stop and let myself have a big fat embarrassing breakdown. The leader of our group, Jenny, stayed back to witness and support the process. Four or five times over the duration of our ascent, whenever I felt the wave of emotion come on, I stopped to just let it happen. Each time it washed over me I felt a sense of release and I could carry on.
When you have a mountain to climb, you may encounter unexpected setbacks before you even get going. Or you may think you’ve reached the summit, only to find a steep climb around the next corner. Either way, setbacks happen. You have to deal with them when they happen. Resist the urge to simply push through. Stop. Deal with the setback. Start again. Pushing through is often simply putting off. The things left unprocessed catch up with you in time.
Whatever your mountain, be it and exciting and ambitious climb like a new job or a graduate degree, or a grueling and painful climb like a loss or a failed relationship, you will encounter setbacks. When you do, stop. Deal with the setback. Start again. It helps if you have a kind witness to support you through the process, but more importantly, take the time you need before pressing on. You’ll get there eventually. I wish you peace and strength for the climb.