Small distractions pile up to make big mountains. They don’t make a wall, like you would think, rather they pile. Under my feet they just grow and grow until the still earth is miles below. Whether you are afraid of heights or not. We are all grasped by that chest-tightening fear when we look too deeply, too intimately off the edge of a perilous drop. Whether you are standing on a balcony or have just climbed a peak. When you look down, it is impossible, not to feel the breeze catch you so that your entire body shudders at the rush of falling.
Distractions pile high and leave us terrified of what we have been avoiding. At one point the task was intimidating or stressful, but now it is clearly a death trap. To step off the edge of the distractions would surely end in a death sentence Why would you ever subject yourself to such cruelty? Why would you ever take any sort of plunge into uncertainty?
My mountain has grown incredibly tall. I can still barely make out the river below. I can no longer see its incredible strength and engulfing beauty. I see a shadow of life. The river used to be so strong, the current would exhaust my muscles and pull me further and further down stream. There was always a caution when I would wade in. What is in this water with me? I would ask. But it was never true paralyzing fear, rather it was awe. In the deepest part of myself I knew I would never drown, I knew I would rise to the surface exasperated and alive.
At some point, though, wonder and awe gave way to fear. Sure I could point my fingers at a handful of experiences that warped my trust in the river. But it was never the river at fault. A tree joined me in the river and snagged my foot once. I can’t imagine it was the tree’s intention, but rather it was clumsy and unaware of its roots. Maybe that was the first time that the crystal clear blue became slightly dark.
It overwhelms my mind when I think back on how quickly fear infected and polluted my eyes. The riverbank became more interesting to me, but I could still hear the power of the water forcing itself over rocks and twigs. I was safe on dry land.
I remember one incredible storm. I never knew the river could be so fierce and dangerous. I moved hastily further away from the waters, but this new energy from the storm had given the river permission to expand its reach. I could see its fingers reaching out towards me. I looked around at dry land and began to climb. Slowly at first, then faster when I had convinced myself the river was reclaiming me as its own.
Its been months and I am now so far above the river that I can barely make out its form. I long for it like nothing I have ever longed for before. But now I have a new fear: That all my distractions and the safety of dry land have separated me from the waters permanently. It seems too steep to climb down without slipping. And to jump would be to surely die.
So I go on piling up small distractions until it is late into the night and all I can do is sleep. Too high to drink the water. Too low to touch the stars in the sky. So I thirst and dream alone.