Let me ask you something. Are you a Stair Master or a Slip-n-Slider? A Hero of the Hurdle or a Back-Trackin’ Jack?
I’m sure most of us would say we’re somewhere in between. A deluded wannabe Christ of the Crossroads, perpetually lost in the midpoint mania…or something like that, bear with me.
I believe most people are right to assume that in one’s life, one’s trajectory isn’t always going to be a straight line, and in fact almost never is. Our lives, depending on the paths we choose, tend to lean towards looking like a scatter-plot of defining moments. That’s just how life can be.
We live moment to moment.
Yet, the things that make us who we are are scattered across time in our memory.
Our minds deemed certain moments and experiences important or influential enough to stand out and be remembered. Good or bad, when we look back at our lives, we see our defining moments pop up like watching an endless field of Whack-a-Moles poking their heads up at the moment of our remembering them. The fonder of memory moles popping up with smiles, and the more haunting of them broken and stuck in the visible position sputtering sparks and making an intolerable grinding noise.
We should probably get around to fixing those…
This seems to make enough sense with how we remember our lives, but memories are fixed, and the one true reality is in the current moment you find yourself in. The thing about the current moment though, is that it almost always feels better to indulge in fleeting fancies than to postpone satisfaction for a future in which hard work is supposed to pay you back, hopefully with interest.
Back to the Stair Master.
I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people underestimate the ease with which we can slide back into old habits and routines. A slip-up might always just seem like a momentary lapse in progress, but the reality is that when you’re making the climb up the steps of self-actualization, the ground behind you falls away into a water slide. An enticingly fun one, at that.
The higher our positive habits take us, the more stairs we climb, the faster we fall when we misjudge our footing. For those of us with a high tendency to fall behind on our stair-climbing, it’s especially important for us to equip ourselves with as much climbing gear as we can and not ever look behind us.
We must do everything we can to resist the intoxicating thrill of just falling backwards and riding those hedonistic spirals straight to the bottom of the mountain and into the murky jungle waters below.
Anyone that’s familiar with battling addiction can attest to the metaphor. For someone currently in the throes of fighting the good fight to salvage their lives from the havoc wreaked by drugs or alcohol, this is an ongoing lifestyle with severe consequences.
One hit or one drink can obliterate years of sobriety in an instant. And, although that is obviously an extreme example, we mustn’t discount the parallels between life-ruining substances and progress-ruining habits. The latter is just the tamer version. The version of the game that is a lot more beatable, but no less important.
The problem is that most people don’t see their little indulgences as having that much of a negative effect on them. For the most part they’re right, but that isn’t the case for all of us.
The task of self-realization is the ultimate hero’s journey, but the mind has endless hallways filled with locked doors. Isn’t it easier to numb the pain than to go on trying to pick the locks of each and every one?
Most people just don’t have the patience, and as someone that spent years avoiding themselves by the constant indulging of all the classic vices, I’ll just say, I get it. It’s just too easy to ride the slide. It’s just fun enough to forget about our one true purpose, to know ourselves.
For me, each page I write is one mini step that stacks nicely as I try to climb the much larger and intimidating Grand Staircase. Each step may be a mile high, but that’s why we must each fashion our own personal tools for making the ascent.
One person may use a rope and pulley made from the hair of scalped critics while another weaves a patchy trampoline from paintings of desperation and joy. Myself, I suppose I’ve been doing okay stacking letters in ways that I feel are elevating me slowly and steadily like a run-down escalator. We’ll get there when we get there.
Being able to step outside yourself to see the common, mundane daily things we do with our time allows us to see just how much time we waste. Watching too much T.V., losing yourself in social media and gossip, neglecting your health or finding yourself too often staring into the endlessly enticing abyss of online adult entertainment are all chunks of time that seem innocuous on their own, but when stacked together can be seen from space.
You see, water slides are fun and easy and you don’t even have to climb a very tall staircase for them to be just that, fun and easy. It’s no wonder so many people spend their time ascending to familiar heights and willingly jumping down that giggly splash tube.
What the hell’s at the top of those stairs anyways?
Habits can be hard to shake. And the hardest habits are the ones that shake us. They make our feet slip and our hands reach for a guardrail that sometimes just isn’t there.
We have to recognize that despite the hollers and hoots from the people behind us diving head first down the party pipeline, our focus should only be on the seemingly greased steps in front of us. To secure our footing, take the climb steadily, and not forget to take the time to admire the increasingly beautiful view from your newfound vantage points.
Only our inner selves can speculate as to what’s at the top of our own personal climb, but if it’s anything close to an actualized existence, it will always be worth the shaky legs.
And if we do get to the absolute pinnacle and still lose our footing, at least the way down will be one HELL of a ride.
Image from beebulletin.com