I know I have reached a threshold at the edge of a chasm when I struggle. Feelings of angst, uncertainty, discomfort, frustration, fear, unease and even anger signal to me that something’s awry. These feelings are telling me that there is a choice before me, whether I recognize it as a choice or not. All I know is that there is some kind of chasm before me, around me – or within me.
As I contemplate the word ‘chasm’ I think of the surge channels my brother and I encountered on the West Coast Trail, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Imagine an expansive flat shelf of sandstone along the edge of land at the ocean. This is where we walk, instead of the unruly wilds of forest on the upshoot of land beside us. The ocean, as it moves back and forth, erodes the sandstone and creates channels perpendicular to the path of human travel along the shore, and these channels range from narrow and shallow to wide and deep. They are also shallow and wide, and narrow and deep. What they all share is the surge of the ocean through them, back and forth.
Some of our crossings were simple, a matter of simply stepping over: a deep chasm but not wide. Others were shallow enough to simply walk through. They started to get challenging when they were too wide and deep to cross and we had to find a route overland. The scariest crossing was just wide enough to jump over.
We chose to jump the channel, over the churning ocean below, because the leap was easier than finding an overland route way out of the way through the brush. We stood there with a choice: hard and harder. I am still curious about our choice to jump, for it may have been wiser to find an overland route because the consequences of a mis-jump were significant. A fall into the cold water, gushing back and forth about 5 metres below us, would mean a difficult rescue. The trek overland simply meant certain hardship and time, but no risk of personal safety.
We made our choice carefully for the channel was too wide, and the view down too spooky, to feel confident. My whole being halted before making the leap. I could feel a physical uncertainty washing over me, telling me that this was too much to ask. This is an unusual feeling for me as I have great confidence in testing myself in physical challenges. I jump into things. The truth is, we didn’t give ourselves too much time to think about the consequences or our options. We chose to believe we could do it – and we did.
Choosing when to leap depends on the context. If we did not have the physical ability to leap, were tired at the end of the day, lacked confidence, or if the sandstone was wet and slippery, an overland route would have been more appropriate. It would have been a hard an arduous, unclear trip in and of itself. It would have been a leap of it’s own as we battled the wild bush.
The leap we chose made sense given our context. Our antennae were working well: we chose the right leap.
The next post will explore the role of struggle in our choices.