Saturday, October 11, 2014

In the Letting Go {Part 4}

{This is Part 4 of a story I've been telling in my 31 Days of Surprise Endings.  You can (and probably should) read Part 1, 2, and 3 first. ;-)}

The last fifty feet of the hill were so steep that we had to step onto the bushes protruding from the dirt while holding tightly to bushes above us, then hoist our legs up to the next bush.  We didn't dare look down, only up and only with a quickly dying hope.  
Fifteen feet from the top, Kristin started crying.  
"I can't do this!" she said.  "I'm so scared!"
"Just keep moving!" the dads chorused.  "Don't look down, we're almost there!"  The adults were staggered among us now, strategically located to catch us if we slipped.  I realized I was crying, too, because as I checked my feet to make sure they were on a sturdy rock or bush, I could see how steep the incline was and just how far I could fall.  And below me were Mom and Aunt Janelle, helping the youngest two along.  What if something awful happened?
We were too far up to safely turn around.  Our only hope was to continue until we were at the top and could hopefully find another way down.  I wiped the sweat out of my eye with a dirty hand, then tried to blink away the stinging dust that clouded my vision.  My arms and legs were screaming at me to stop, but I didn't dare.  One by one, we made it to the top, to a flat green area where once again trees shaded the ground.  And as each of us arrived, we used our last bits of strength to help the others.  Then once we were all on the plateau we collapsed on our backs, shaking and gasping for breath.
It didn't take but half an instant to realize that somehow, unbelievingly, there was not a single flake of snow.  At our altitude on the other side of the valley, it was practically a polar landscape, but somehow, where we were, the ground was green, rocky, and entirely snow-free.  
As we slowly caught our breaths and our gasping quieted, there was a cacophony of new noises – the opening of the water bottles and thirsty gulps taken, the crinkling little bags of chips and the gratitude with which the snacks were received, the dads making little sounds in their throats that seemed to indicate bemusement.  How was it possible?  How could there not be one single flake of snow for all our efforts?  When finally they could form actual words again, the dads said in unison, "You know...probably... We could go just a little further and --"
Equally in unison, the rest of us answered, "NO!"  
We found our way back down the hills through a forest, where the pine needles were so thick and the ground so steep that we could slide down almost like skiing.  It wasn't long till we came to a stream where we refilled the water bottles and dropped in the treatment tablets, and just as it was time enough for us to drink the water, we came to an open meadow.  It didn't seem possible that we had any energy left in us, but as we reached the grass, we all began to run and laugh.  
When we finally collapsed on the grass to share the water, there was a palpable sense of exuberance.  Maybe the altitude had gotten to us and our oxygen-deprived brains were muddled beyond reason.  
I think, though, we had learned something important that day.  We are taught from a very young age that if you give something your best effort, it will inevitably succeed.  And that's good, and mostly true, for sure.  But equally important as you grow, I think, is the lesson that you can throw all your sweat and tears and the last of your strength at something and it still doesn't work, for one reason or another.  When you realize that but can still look at it and say, "Oh well, I tried my very hardest," there is an amazing sense of freedom -- even accomplishment.  Because sometimes, it's in the letting go of what wasn't so great after all that we find what's best.
A few weeks later, I learned this again, but in a different way.  We were staying at a lovely guesthouse in the rainy mountain town of Mussorie.  It as late afternoon, and we had been out playing all day when my parents called us into the living room.  Their faces were tense and grim.  My dad held a paper in his hand that said we had to leave Bangladesh -- the only real home I'd ever known, the country of my birth -- by July 31.  It was the end of June.  Our vacation was cut short so we could go home to pack.
I was a tiny bit excited, but mostly terrified.  For several nights, I woke up in a panicked sweat. My dad stayed up with me, talking to me about trust in the letting go.  His voice was always calm and patient, his arms always warm and comforting.  And what I I didn't know yet was that the trajectory of my life, which felt like it was ricocheting haphazardly out of my control, was actually on a path that would lead me to happiness I couldn't imagine right then.

I just had to let go.

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful memories...minus the dogs! You are blessed with such an understanding, loving father. And your children are going to cherish all this family history.

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