Image via Wikipedia
Written by Karen D. Swim
There is an old gospel song called “Rough Side of the Mountain.” The song is older than I am and has been sung by many artists. At odd times, the song comes to me (the Mahalia Jackson version) and I sing the chorus (I’m coming up on the rough side of the mountain) like a funeral dirge. It was not until this Saturday, however that I saw the song and the rough side of the mountain in a completely new light.
I was 4 miles into a treadmill walk. My shoulders slumped and my spirit was dampened. An injury had forced me to walk rather than run which in my mind completed my humiliation. All week my body had betrayed me. Weird, scary things had happened that made me begin to think of big, scary things like mortality. Up until last week I had felt like I was only 44 and suddenly I felt like the oldest 44 year old on the planet.
As I walked, I could feel my thoughts growing darker and I was sliding fast into a deep dark pit. I could feel the hole growing larger, swallowing me bit my bit when something snapped in my head. I realized I could choose whether I was on the descent or the ascent. (Don’t ask me what caused the snap, not sure but the mental image of a cane was perhaps the thing that freaked me out). I could see myself as getting older and deteriorating or I could use this as my base and get better.
So, I mentally slid to the base of the mountain. If I took myself down to level ground, I reasoned, I would no longer be sliding down but climbing back up. (Take that dark and twisty thoughts!). I stood up straighter and began to feel the fire slowly returning to my belly. Now it was time to climb the mountain. Mahalia Jackson’s song began to play in my head (no singing out loud this time) and that’s when I got the epiphany.
If you have to climb a mountain, the rough side is actually much better than the smooth side. Now, I’m no mountain climbing expert but the times I have found myself trying to climb up or down one, the task has been far easier on the rough side. The smooth side is slippery with no way to control your movement. You have to create spaces for your feet and it’s hard to control your movements. The rough side, however, has nubby little patches and craggy spots that allow you to grab hold as you climb up or down. The big craggy spots even allow a resting place should you need to catch your breath.
All those years, the song that seemed so sad and depressing became bright and shiny. Oh yea, I was choosing the rough side. After all, it was the smooth side that had allowed me to fall so quickly into the pit. I need those rough patches of grass and rocks to help me climb to the top. I need a little grit under my boots to help propel me to the summit. Yes, on the rough side, your hands may get a little scratched and your body will need to work hard but when you get to the top you will be stronger for the journey.
I left the big scary things at the base of that mountain, and began to climb slowly but steadily up the rough side humming a happy little tune along the way.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever reevaluated a long held belief or assumption? What impact did it have on you?