Friday, September 4, 2015

If You're Going To Trek To The Lighthouse, You Need To Do Three Things

If You're Going To Trek To The Lighthouse, You Need To Do Three Things

Northern Lighthouse, Block Island

Have you ever set a goal for yourself? Maybe you were going to take a course, and finish it. Maybe you were going to exercise more. Maybe you were going to learn a new language. Setting the goal was the easy part. Getting there, and completing the goal, that was the hard part. It took some planning, some decision-making, some preparing, some tough choices and trade-offs. I recently spent a few days on Block Island. I walked a lot (that's what you do on Block Island), and it was fun to be a tourist, snapping photos of quaint houses, the great Victorian inns, and the ocean, forever changing. One of those days, I found myself at the northern tip of the island, where the paved road ends, and there's nothing but sand between the end of the road, and the northern lighthouse. A lot of sand.  I decided that I was going to see that lighthouse. And so, I set forth. I thought it would be a short hike, maybe 10-15 minutes, tops. It wasn't. I started out, feeling just fine. For about two minutes. That's when I realized that there was no "road," no path at all, nothing solid underfoot. Just sand. Shifting, slippery sliding sand that turned each step into a Herculean effort. It was 92 degrees that afternoon. But I wanted to get to that lighthouse. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. Everything else fell away, and it seemed to me that my life depended on reaching that lighthouse. I wanted this like I had never wanted anything else before. Well, my head wanted it, and my heart wanted it. My legs: that was another matter. It became a torturous walking meditation of sorts: Stepping high, placing, sliding, pushing off. Stepping high, placing, sliding, pushing off.  

I tried different strategies: What if I took longer strides? That didn't work. What if I turned my feet out as I strode forward? That did work: I must have looked like a cross-country skier lost in a nightmare, displaced from snowy slopes onto a distant and unfriendly beach. 

I stopped to catch my breath (a lot). I stopped to take gulps of water (a lot). I stopped to shake out the sand caught in my sneakers (a lot). I stopped to take pictures of the lighthouse, taunting me. I stopped to look back to check on my progress (unimpressive). OK, I stopped a lot, but I kept going. The sweat pouring down my forehead stung my eyes. But I kept going. And I finally got to the bottom of the little hill that leads up to the lighthouse. The structure loomed large in front of me now, not so far away anymore. I considered turning around: after all, I'd sort of made it. That didn't feel right, though; I hadn't trekked all that way in the unforgiving sand just to turn back when I was just one small hill away from the lighthouse. I was going to get to that lighthouse and touch that building and look around and take in the view! So I trudged up the final hill, quads screaming, heart pounding, face burning from the heat. And I made it! I felt triumphant! For others (people in better aerobic condition than I), this is probably not a hard trek. But for me, it was, and I was grinning from ear to ear because I had vanquished my inner demon ("go back ... this is crazy .... it's hot as blazes out here ... you don't have to do this ... you're not in any shape to do this ... what if you die out here ... "). And when I had rested a bit, and taken a selfie or two (oh yes, I wanted proof!), and gulped more water, I turned around to face the trek back to where the road had ended, and my quest had begun. 
Here's what I learned. If you're going to trek to the lighthouse, you need to do three things: Travel light. Drink water. And wear sturdy shoes. 

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