In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king of Ephyra punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.
The other day, someone made reference to Sisyphus while they were pushing a cart up a fairly steep ramp. In my head I flashed back to some high school literature class where I initially learned about the futile challenge that was faced by Sisyphus. It seemed apt that this reference would come up in my life at this particular time: I am feeling exhausted, defeated, hopeless, like every effort I make is futile. It feels like I’ve been pushing against gravity for ages now and I’m not getting anywhere. I know that if I give up now, everything I’ve worked for will just tumble down and trample me on its way. However, I often wonder if there is ever an end to the seemingly endless endeavour that I am currently enduring.
There must be. And, even if there is no end, there has to be a plateau or a break in the steep slope. I have to believe there will be. How horrible would it be to realize that no matter how far you push, if you ease up for even a second, it can all come crashing down? There is obviously a reason why the myth of Sisyphus involves such immense and painful work that is foiled just upon completion, only to start all over again. Can you imagine how horrible life would be if all you did was work hard, become defeated, and then try again only to be faced with defeat… over and over again?
There has to be an end somewhere, right? There has to be a point where the boulder will balance on its own, even for a short time. I know there can never be stagnancy in life, and I don’t think I would want that. But there has to be a reward – there had to be an endpoint, right?
The worst part about being half-way up the mountain is that there is really no option but to keep going. You can’t even stop to take a break because the exhaustion will only get worse. You know that, no matter what, you have to complete the journey you started. You can never go back because if you were to find yourself at the bottom of the mountain, you are trampled and you have the exhaustion and the memory of everything you did to get to that point where you faltered. And then you feel guilty. You feel bad. The bottom of the mountain is never, ever the same as it was the day you left.
And, even if you decide to continue up the mountain, you know it will get more difficult, and the top seems so far away. The closer you get, the harder the task becomes and the more there is for you to lose. It really is as simple as physics: the closer to the top, the more energy there is in that boulder – The more you want to let it go, the harder its going to fall.
At this point, I know I can’t look to the top because I will lose my footing. I know I can’t look to the bottom because it will never be the same. I guess the only option I have is to look at the boulder… to look at my hands pushing up against it, to look at my feet, placing one in front of the other. I’ll just have to keep pushing as hard as I can and I need to stop fixating on the plateau that may (or may never) come. As long as I keep going, keeping the end goal in mind, maybe one day a small amount of relief will come.
Until that day, I will just have to keep up the struggle and hopefully sooner than later I will realize that it’s not so much a struggle as it is a reward.