Climbing Mountains

Mount Rainier Summit

“Oh my god.” I came home and banged my head onto my desk. “What am I doing with my life?”

And thus began another episode of writerly angst.

I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. But avoidance and angst?

I gotcha covered.

My attic room (not kidding) is a mess. Stacks of filed writing and notes and books. Shelves of books. A snowfall of 3X5 note cards. Whiteboard markers scattered anywhere I might possibly have any idea.

Meaning everywhere.

My mother had called my filing system a “fire hazard.” I’m thinking she was probably right.

“Aw, jeese,” I said and slumped in my chair.

I’m poor. I have one poetry book out that wasn’t any good. I read Shakespeare for fun. And I’m a serious liability to my landlord, considering all the paper everywhere.

Earlier today my boss gave me the monthly spiel. “Isn’t it time for you to start thinking about your future? Why don’t you put in for a promotion? You’d even have a retirement plan.”

I would also have only half the time to write that I do now.

When people say these things, I know it comes from a good place.

But it doesn’t help the angst.

To distract myself, I brought up TED talks on my laptop and came across Ben Saunders discussing his polar expeditions. Ah! Here was something that wouldn’t have me thinking about IRAs or writing. Yay!

And then he quoted Mount Everest climber, George Mallory, who seems to have been asked questions similar to those from my boss. But who had achieved a much calmer, more centered stance on it.

“The first question you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer at once must be, ‘It is no use’…. If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”

Like climbing mountains, writing an epic novel is, god knows, of no earthly use.

Certainly not during the process of it.

But my experience of living feels richer and deeper and more meaningful for the daily struggle against that challenge.

Maybe this is what joy is: climbing the mountain that is our own life, and answering our passions with the courage to pursue them. And with the faith to stick to them.

I learned my lesson. Pulling up the file for my novel, I began to write. Another day’s climb.

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