How I Learned to Become the Hero I Needed Most in My Life
A Two Hour Hike (Not!)
A friend of mine and I and his little Wire Hair Jack Russell Terrier went for a hike up a mountain canyon on a warm Saturday afternoon in June. The climb was steady and fairly difficult, but not overwhelming. It was strenuous enough for a great workout. We figured we'd be gone a couple of hours.
The journey of following a stream up to a waterfall was breath taking! The wild flowers were really remarkable along the way, several of which I had never seen before. We rested at the waterfall, and talked to a young couple who told us of a beautiful meadow at the top.
"How far?" we asked.
"Oh, probably a couple of miles, but it's worth it!" they assured.
We were about 45 minutes into our hike. And so we set off happily uphill again.
After another half hour or so, we came to a place that opened up with tall grasses and marshy flowers and wildlife. It was beautiful.
"Well, here it is", I said.
"No it isn't," said my friend, "this is a clearing."
"No it isn't, I'll bet this is the meadow," I panted out of breath and getting more tired by the minute.
Only pausing, my friend moved on. And so I dutifully went along with the promise that it was not far ahead. We came to a second clearing, slightly smaller.
"This isn't it," he said.
"Well, I'm starting to wear out," I whined.
But still we went on. A third clearing appeared before us. All very different, all very beautiful. And I hated to admit he was right, this wasn't the meadow. We kept going and finally realized we were nearing a huge opening near the mountain top. The trail opened up into a kind of bowl shaped place.
"Ahhhh," I said. "FINALLY! the meadow!!"
"NOT!!!" said my friend, "because the couple we talked to said we needed to find 'The Great Western Trail' sign, and go left. There's the sign, so it's still up ahead."
So we kept going. By now, I was ticked, and tired, and wanted to turn around. I didn't care about the #$%@ meadow anymore.
Finally, There It Was
After about another mile later, there was the meadow.
It had knee high grass, sat on a plateau about 1,000 feet below the mountain peaks. The snowcapped peaks behind us stretched majestically upward. We were perhaps 5,000 feet above the valley floor. We'd been walking uphill for more than three hours.
As we looked around, there was a huge cluster of trees, and suddenly darting out of them were deer. Mothers with young. It was incredible. We had never seen the tops of these mountains so close to be able to see wildlife in such majestic beauty. Despite my fatigue, I wanted to explore, so we walked for probably another half mile. We came to a place that overlooked the valley, and it was by far, the most breathtaking moment of all. We could see for maybe as far as 30 miles in three directions from the plateau. The sky was endless, it seemed. A few clouds in the west were beginning to reflect colors of a sun low in the sky. We saw communities in the distance, a lake, and felt we had risen above the noise and clamor of the world. With deer scattering around us, with insect and wildlife, flowers, grasses and trees, we were surrounded by some of creations most elegant and breathtaking vistas.
I thought Julie Andrews would come out suddenly singing, "the hills are alive with the sound of music." Thankfully, she didn't. I probably would have passed out or something.
A Happy Hike Home
We had more than one and a half hours of downhill hiking ahead of us. But now it was a pleasure to make the trek back. We were still tired, but rejuvenated by the incredible experience. I thanked my friend for being tenacious and persistent and promised that I wouldn't whine about such an adventure again. He laughed.
As we passed each of the clearings going back, I happily exclaimed to him, "NOT a meadow Number Three, NOT a meadow Number Two," and so forth. We both had a good laugh.
What It Means to Me Now
It took about 50 years for me to realize that almost every relationship I ever had in my life was dangerously toxic which included abuse. And it took about the same number of decades to realize what an incredible victim I'd been and how I attracted most of the catastrophes I experienced—that I actually taught people to treat me very badly. I taught them! I realized, finally, that I had some responsibility for so many of the awful things that happened. Even if I was completely ignorant of it at the time, I needed to accept responsibility for my actions and being a victim. I needed to learn my lessons, not repeat them any more, move on, let go, forgive, and figure out how to be happy.
The path up the side of this rough mountain was difficult. I got tired a lot. I lost hope often. But I became curious about where the path might lead. What would it bring? I found really difficult, rough spots. I thought about going back. I also found a beautiful waterfall, streams, flowers I had never seen before, and clearings filled with all kinds of magnificent life. And finally, I found a meadow. It was tough. I talked myself into believing it wasn't really there even though in my heart I knew it was. I'm so glad my negative thinking was a deception. I'm so glad that when I was angry and down, I was very wrong. And now that I have been to the meadow, I know how to get to it again. And so I go there and I think of it often.
Yes, There Is a Meadow
I've been to it and when I have a bad day, I try to get to it as quickly as I can. You have to travel light to get to it. You have to be willing to not bring your baggage. Things like anger, regret, failure, hatred and holding a grudge. This stuff is way too heavy to carry up the side of a steep mountain. Some people try, but they either turn back, or leave it along the trail and keep going. Laying your baggage aside helps you understand that what you must give up is not a loss. Losing all that baggage opens you to the wonderful things that are coming.
Yes, there is a meadow, but just thinking positively won't get you there. Being in denial about the reality of your life so that you can make the appearance of always being happy won't get you there. But examining the facts and truth of your own life, with a resolve to learn from your experiences can set in motion a new course and empower you. That liberation and power is your key to enable the confidence and optimism of knowing you can analyze, learn, and adapt. That is the power behind your positive outlook. Anything else is unrealistic and a lie that we tell ourselves and that others happily hear when we tell it. When things are not okay, get to the root of why you are a victim of it. Learn from it, and adapt, change, make course corrections, and empower yourself to gain the confidence to repeat that as many times as you need throughout your whole life. That is where true optimism and positive thinking lie: in knowledge and power to bring about positive change for yourself and others.
All the Power and Answers in Life That You Need Are Already Within You
That's the remarkable key. When you rediscover and reconnect with yourself, you realize you're not alone. You are connected to everything and everything is connected to you. You have that moment of clarity, that "aha" when you see things as if you had just awakened, just discovered, just experienced for the first time. And then you realize that you are your own hero. Disappointments from others who failed to save you when you needed it most is a surprise gift. It means you don't have to beg someone to take your power to rescue you any more because they shouldn't have to be responsible for their life and yours. So you can expect that they will disappoint you because your expectations of them are unrealistic. It means you have the ability to learn, adapt, and gain knowledge and strength from victimizing setbacks and that you don't have to keep repeating them over and over. It means that we are grateful for those unusual occasions when someone rescues us, but we understand that our life is our responsibility.
When you close your eyes and imagine yourself to be a powerful, beautiful person, radiant and capable, what does that feel like? What does that look like? So what if you don't believe you feel or look that way now, because how else are you ever going to get there if you don't start seeing that person in your mind's eye now? See it and feel it. Follow through with one thing at a time that is consistent with who you know you are. Be passionate about what you believe, and talk less about what you're going to do, and just do it, and let it surprise yourself and others.
That's who heroes are. They wake up, they stand and deliver. Sometimes it might be only to wake up and get out of bed for a few minutes. And if that's the best you've got for that day, then that's your best. But do your best, and do what you tell yourself you'll do, and you'll become the hero you see and feel every time you close your eyes. And you'll be grateful you didn't give up or give that power to someone else.
You are your best and finest hero. You have all the power you need right now to do the first thing to become that hero—see it and feel it.
© 2013 Daniel Carter