After several steps, my husband knew he wasn’t going to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, the Paris landmark we had stopped to explore. He’s in good shape, but 30 minutes on the historic stairmaster was going to tax him more than he would like away from home and in a foreign country. He and I walked back down the 40 some steps we’d managed.
As we stepped out into the French sunshine, he encouraged me to “Just go on up by yourself. I’ll be right here when you come down.” I re-entered the building explaining to the nice lady at the ticket counter what had happened. “How many steps are there?”
As I headed back up, I counted steps in my head. I passed the point where my husband and I had turned around. Around step 89, I lost count. I was distracted by my own breathing and the pounding of my heart. There was a noticeable absence of other humans in the stair well. All the exhibits in Paris had been crowded with tourists. Where were they now?
I trudged upward, supremely aware of the tight confines of the spiral stairway. Around and around.
Up, up, and more up.
A young Australian couple caught up with me about halfway. They looked fit enough to climb Everest. They were pausing frequently and breathing hard. I didn’t feel so bad.
There was a landing where we could pause and catch our breaths. Then higher still and an exhibit and then the promise of outside light and air.
At the top I walked outside to be greeted by the most amazing vistas of Paris – the Eiffel Tower, a breathtaking panorama of city sights, the long stretch of the Champs-Elyseés. I’d made it. I confess, I clapped!
I wished I had someone with me.
Breathing hard, I held my phone up to catch a photo of the “moment.” A tourist offered to help and took the shot I featured. I picked up some souvenirs at the gift shop (not that I’m likely to forget the journey) and made my way back down.
Later, as my traveling companions and I leisurely strolled along the magnificent Champs-Elyseés I realized that little jaunt had taught me a great deal.
1. Some things look easier than they turn out to be.
2. Some times it’s hard to tell if you’re making any progress.
3. Even if you are on the right path, it’s easy to second-guess yourself.
4. It’s easy to become discouraged on the way to where you are going.
5. All victories are meant to be shared.
Not very long ago, I would have given up after the first 40 steps. I would have talked myself right out of the climb thinking I wasn’t in good enough shape or it would be too difficult. I’m glad I went. As Eleanor Roosevelt remarked, sometimes “you must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” I’m so very glad I made the effort.
Whatever the momentary cost to quadriceps and calve muscles, the destination was worth it. As so often happens in life, the rewards of the journey outweigh any pain along the way. Au revoir.