From the top, it is utterly surreal. Like a postcard, it is both glossy and pristine. Greetings from Crater Lake! Caribbean blue against rock and evergreens. It is breathtaking and beautiful. And then you step close to the edge and see the cliffs diving hundreds of feet below. Your heart rate quickens, as panic/awe races into your blood stream. One slip, and death is there waiting. L’apple du vide.
So you step back. Slow your breathing. Talk yourself off the ledge. Life is safer standing at a distance. And prettier. From afar, you don’t see the blemishes and bruises. It’s filtered and fun. Glossy and bright. Superficial.
There’s one, lonely path that winds down to the water’s edge of Crater Lake. The sign states that the hike is strenuous. It warns of the danger involved. The inherent risk. But the thing is, there is always a risk in going down to the depths.
Recently, my sister was saying how she felt my writing had gotten better this past year.
“Really? I don’t feel like it’s changed,” I replied.
Then my sister-in-law chimed in, “Maybe it’s not how you write, but what you write about. It feels more vulnerable. Less superficial.”
And I couldn’t argue with that. I think I stopped pretending. Because you can’t hide divorce like you can a meh-marriage. I used to think you could fake it till you make it. As if by forcing a smile, you can trick yourself into being happy. Or if you take enough photos, you can capture the good times and ignore the bad. And now, I’m walking slowly into the deepest parts. The painful ones. The hidden ones. And being at this level, I have a whole new perspective; I see how far I’ve come.
When we finally reached the water of Crater Lake, the cliffs no longer looked scary. Like a fortress, it felt safe. Secure. We scrambled over the rocks to a 15 foot cliff and this time we talked ourselves over the ledge. We touched the void. Jumped into the water. Over and over again.
These days, I still find myself faking it, but in a different way. Now, I think that if I act brave, maybe I’ll feel brave. Or if I hold my head up, maybe my body will follow. Fragile courage. Wobbly strength. And maybe that’s all you can do on the journey to the depths. Know that’s it’s strenuous. Dangerous.
But worth it.