Between a Rock and a Hard Place


It looked so small- that crevice in the rock- that tiny space between the two giant boulders.

I squinted as I sized it up. 

I had never made it past this point before. It was what stood between me and the part of this trail that I had never seen. It looked impassable, like a very tight squeeze. 

I stood there wondering why they called it “Fat Man’s Pass”, when clearly, a fat man could not pass. Was it supposed to be ironic? Kind of like when you call a fat guy Slim, nickname a big guy Tiny, or refer to a grumpy person as Miss Mary Sunshine?

I suppose I could Google it.

My thoughts were wandering, and somewhat scattered in the intense heat of the day. It was Arizona after all, in April, and we were way out in South Mountain Park, out in the open on the Hidden Valley Trail, in the middle of the desert. We might as well have been in the middle of nowhere….

I snapped back to reality, as a salty bead of sweat ran down into my eye, and I realized I was still looking at the crack.

Hidden Valley was on the other side, and there were only a few ways to get there. 

You could go THROUGH that hairline space in the rock, like passing through a thin doorway to the other side. OR, you could go back out where you came from, (and go ALL the way around ), or you could go up and over the rock (which would require you to channel your inner mountain goat) as you scaled the very vertical slippery smooth rock formations with lizard-like agility.

I carefully pondered my options.

Two years ago when I stood here, I was faced with only two choices- retreat, or be airlifted over that rock. At that time, I could neither have squeezed myself through the crack, nor scaled the rock with any sort of deft ability. And there had not been enough daylight left to do the long trek around, so I eventually gave up, and had gone back to the car to wait for everyone else.

And just a few years earlier than that? I would not have even found myself in this situation, because a few years earlier, going on a “hike” would have consisted of traversing the grand distance between my car in the parking lot and the front entrance of the mall….

Back to the crack.

Enough stalling.

I needed to make up my mind.

I so desperately wanted to just slide through to the other side, 

but ….

But what if I got stuck?

What if I couldn’t fit?

What if I embarrassed myself?

What if I failed???

In my head, I still had my previous mindset telling me that there’s no way I could cram my fat ass through that tiny space. My instinct was to back up and go out, and around the long way. But no matter which other way I chose, it was going to be the harder way. And I had already spent enough years doing things the harder way. 

While I wrestled with indecision, I watched a couple of people start climbing the rock to go up and over the top. At least they were on their way, I thought.

It was like a strange metaphor for my life. 

This insurmountable obstacle was in my path, and I was allowing my self doubt to make my decisions again. 

I knew better. 

There was no way I had to come this far in my journey to just backtrack and give up. I did not get to this place, at this moment, facing down this task, by giving up. 

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I would get stuck?

I was already stuck, and I hadn’t even moved an inch.

I wouldn’t fit?

Maybe, but who cares?

I would embarrass myself?

So what?

Then we would switch to Plan B.

Could it be that I was the one making things harder on myself? 

If I would just “suck it up buttercup” and go for it, I might be surprised by the result, but if I gave up before I even have an opportunity to fail? Well, then, I was relegating myself to the more difficult path for the forseeable future, without ever knowing the benefits of any other possibilities. 

No risk, no reward, right?

No more missing out. No more doubts.

The thing is, in the end, easy or hard, both ways will get you there…so why not take a chance, on yourself?

And with that, I took a deep breath, laid my doubts aside,

and put myself between that rock and a hard place.

Where, as it turns out, that impassable crack was a game changer,

and became a symbolic gateway between two worlds…

Forever linking what was, with what is.

And now, after having emerged through the looking glass to the other side at long last,

I can finally see the elusive Hidden Valley below.

So it seems that only one question remains…

Who’s coming with me???

3 thoughts on “Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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