On the last day of 2019, I went for a run on Powell Butte, right as the clouds started pouring down. I’ve run up there before, but always with someone else who knew her way around. It seemed so simple following alongside (and a little behind) her. I parked near the main building, grabbed my phone, and zipped my jacket up to the top. I knew it would feel better once I was just soaking wet. The getting soaked was the worst part.
I headed up the trail, through switchbacks and up some wooden plank stairs. It all seemed familiar enough. And soon I was wet enough that it was all just water. A little under a mile in I came across the familiar viewpoint. A large compass was cemented into the earth, and all around it were indicators of different mountains that you could see in the distance. Well, see if it wasn’t a sky filled with clouds like it was that afternoon. The compass told me which was was north, but the clouds didn’t allow me to see what north meant. Leaving that spot, I didn’t know that my wanderings wouldn’t find it again that afternoon.
I headed down the trail, and each time there was a fork in the road, I chose the wider path. I have an ultra race coming up in April (31 miles in the woods), but running alone in the rain did not seem like a wise time to do any off-roading. So I stuck with the larger paths, and figured they would keep me near the center of the mountain and eventually bring me back to the compass and then the car.
It turns out neither of those assumptions was true. After 45 minutes, I was ready to be not cold and wet anymore. I had not found my way back to start naturally through my loops; luckily I did spot a gravel road that I remembered from a previous group run. I didn’t know exactly how it would get there, but I know it would lead to the parking lot eventually. And even better was most of that path would be downhill. Within a half-mile I was tucked back in the car, cranking up the heat, and mentally debating food or shower first (shower won thanks to some shivering).
A few days after that wandering run, I went to see Frozen 2. The story was not quite as good as the first one (to me). What stood out instead was just the beauty of the drawings and details. And one song had tears coming to my eyes: “The Next Right Thing” from Anna (Kristen Bell). It is not a power anthem like “Let it go” or “Into the Unknown.” Instead, it is a song of someone who has lost everything…and has something she has to do. The character has just experienced some major loss and all she wants to do is curl up into a little ball, to cry and sleep and mourn. And while I laid in a comfortable reclining chair at the theater, I wanted that for her too. However, her story was not over. She had to act to save her village. That leads her to small steps forward (literally) as she worked to do the next right thing. Getting all the way to the end was too big to consider; so instead she did one thing, and then another thing, and then another.
On that final run of 2019, I was having a Gray Day. One where nothing was really wrong but the weight of the world felt smothering on top of me. I meant to go for that run in the morning. It took about five hours to finally get out the door, and then it was only because the threat of sunset was approaching.
When I heard that song a few days later, I flashed back to that day, and others that I have had, where the world feels too big to deal with. So instead I try to get through what I have to to make it to bedtime. Sometimes we are ah-mazing rock stars who are taking on the world, kicking butt and taking names. We know who we are and how to find our way north. And sometimes, we (to quote another Disney movie) have to just keep swimming. Both (and everything in between) are okay. Just do the next right thing and in time, you’ll find north again.