From one moment to the next, and before you can blink, shit gets real.
That's how it happens, and I found myself, like a spider, clinging to a tree; bruised, cut, and in very real danger. The worst thing about it was the desperation and frustration of having wanted to go all the way and being stuck in the middle. I've heard of seven stages that go with the process of grief, but we can sum them up in two. The first is negativity. We line up all the horrible, embarrassing moments that make us cringe when we picture them, and we flip through them like a photo album of our early years. My mind raced through all the negative things I'd gone through, stopping on the ones I hated most, like scoring second in a national dance competition in China and my mother only caring about first place; being constantly compared to others and regarded as less; and thinking I would never be good enough. After that I thought, maybe they're right. There I was, hanging on for dear life, and all I could do was wallow in pity. I'd never hiked and had thought my desire alone was enough to help me reach my destination, but at that point I felt stupid. My weaknesses had put me in this position, and they were all starting to come out. Negativity involves sadness. I pictured the friends I had wanted to get away from, and saw them living their lives, empty as they might have been but living them just the same; I saw my mother in her kitchen making noodles with tomato and egg sauce, calling someone else to lunch; teaching Bobo downward facing dog but never getting to teach him downward facing dog, and I thought I'd never be able to say goodbye to anything except the dreams I kept.
I looked up and saw a spider making its way about the tree; It wasn't the only one.
Once I noticed the first spider, I came to realize just how bad things really were. In all my negativity, considering the end on the inside, I'd forgotten I was still alive, and just exactly where I had landed. The tree was filled with spiders and insects, carelessly moving, as if my being there meant nothing to them. The mosquitoes still buzzed and stung but I no longer cared for the itch, they were nothing compared to the spiders. My face was emotionless: I'd come face to face with my greatest fear.
Don't bite me don't bite me don't bite me. I don't want to fall and die.
The spider crawled closer. I closed my eyes, tightened my teeth, and braced myself. It's legs slowly stretched out across my skin, I shook, and then- I felt nothing. When my eyes opened, I saw the spider keep on its way, paying me no mind. I was scared and lonely, but in that moment I felt as if the spiders had their own language and spoke to each other. For the first time, and maybe the last, I thought the spiders were kind of cute. They didn't exist to scare me, they existed for themselves. They had their own purpose, just like the other insects on the tree, and we were all a part of the same nature. All the bugs and spiders made me lose the feeling of being alone; we were all there and alive. I wasn't scared anymore. I reached with my finger to touch an insect laying near my hand that hadn't moved, thinking it was dead, and it came to life when I grazed it. I looked up and saw the sky, as beautiful as ever, and looked down to see the contrast of green and brown below it; birds chirped somewhere off in the distance; the waterfall was alive again in my ears. I came to the second stage: Acceptance. There was no fear. I couldn't even consider the idea of negativity, everything was laid out in front of me, like saying,
"If I have to die, this is a beautiful way."
The mosquito bites no longer itched. Despite the sudden understanding of everything, the rush with which everything had come back to me, I was at peace. My eyes were in awe of wonder, and I did not notice who came until he was there by my side.
"Hi! Give me your hand!" I turned my head and saw him reach out to me, his back pressed to the cliff, on the ledge below me. Slowly, I reached out with my right hand, but he asked for my left.
"Don't push or pull, even if you're scared. You have to trust me." He led me down, catching me when I let go. I caught my breath, and thanked him, profusely, for saving my life. He told me he was a professional hiker on his way to the waterfall. I told him I was a yoga model who was in over her head. He asked me if I wanted to go back and I thought it over,
"No." I said, "Let's keep going."