Forty-seven, 48, 49, 50. I stopped counting and climbing. I looked up, shielding my eyes from the glare of the sun as I tried to get my breathing under control. The act of catching my breath at nearly 14,000 feet made me acutely aware of how oxygen-rich the air is at sea level where I live. The thin mountain air felt about as nourishing as weak broth.
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I was hiking the Inca Trail on the way to Machu Picchu in Peru. The summit of the notorious Dead Woman’s Pass lay ahead. But, how much further ahead I didn’t know. My guide had told me that the pass got its name from the silhouette of the mountain, a supine woman. But, with the way my legs were shaking, I wondered if he just hadn’t wanted to scare me. I felt like I had been climbing the craggy stone steps that lined the path to the top of the pass for an eternity.
A pair of porters loaded down with camping gear and food leapt passed me. Their sandals, made of recycled tire rubber, slapped against the steps as they bounded up the trail like a pair of gazelles. I saw a carton of eggs tethered to the top of one of their packs momentarily teeter. Nothing to do but keep going, I thought. It would be too embarrassing to back out now. There was a subtle, but strong peer pressure that kept all but one member of our group moving forward.
I pushed off the rock I had been resting against and resumed counting and climbing; 50 steps and rest, 50 steps and rest. The summit came into view. With my heart pounding so fiercely that it scared me, I took the last 50 steps to the top.
Turning around to look down the way I had come up, I couldn’t believe I had made it. The trail was longer and steeper than I had realized. A wave of giddiness and relief washed over me. I had survived Dead Woman’s pass!
Lately, I have been feeling stuck in my life. I can’t seem to dig myself out of the financial crater left by the meteor of a divorce. I have yet to meet even a distant relative of “The One.” And, my recovery from a debilitating illness seems endless.
But every time I feel so stuck that I can’t move, I recall my trek up Dead Woman’s Pass. Nothing to do but keep going, I think. And, so that’s what I do; 50 steps and rest, 50 steps and rest.
What do you feel stuck about? What do you do to keep going?