“Always remember that there’s an old people’s home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity. That’s what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people.” Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Profound Thought no 8: If you forget the future you lose the present.
Everyone’s Everest is different. Some people tackle staggeringly steep climbs, fraught with dangers that make me tremble to imagine. Others have routes that seem unfairly easy. But personal Everests change. Some changes we choose. Some we do not.
Last year, I went to a talk given by a woman who’d chosen to climb Everest. The real one. Well, to base camp, which to my way of thinking may as well be the top. The reason she and several other dozen ordinary women chose that journey was to raise awareness about the oppression of women in many parts of the world. You can read about them on their blog in the link below. Becky’s story touched my heart and is one I have thought of many times since I heard her tell it. After all the preparation and hard work, and with the goal in sight, altitude sickness took hold and she had to stop. She was devastated. Bitterly disappointed beyond words. As she prayed through her heartbreak, she began to understand that she had climbed as far as her journey of faith was meant to take her.
Becky’s story made me think of my parents. My dad died when he was 48, ending a new journey he and my mum had barely begun together. In no more time than it takes a heartbeat to stand still, the course of the remainder of my mum’s life, as well as the continuing courses of the lives of me and my siblings, were altered. It took me some time to learn that precisely because of the Everest I hadn’t chosen, it became even more important to climb those I had. If the Everest of the old people’s home that Muriel Barbery writes about lies in my future, it’s one I will climb at that point. Until then, I choose to climb as many optional Everests as I am able. And I will reach the summit of one such climb tomorrow when I press the ‘publish ebook’ button for my first novel. Once it appears on Amazon (and I will tell you when it’s there!), whether or not anyone chooses to buy it and then go on to read it, is beyond my control. I will be thrilled if anyone does. An Everest I didn’t choose has shaped the way I take every step I have the privilege of still choosing. I pray I will remember that until each particular climb has taken me as far as it was meant.