by Angie Heuser

Looking down into the valley, I see a beautiful rushing river of water, surrounded by boulders and saguaro cacti. The sun is high and brilliant in the sky as I hike through narrow, rocky paths, descending slowly, methodically, toward the beautiful desert oasis. The water is glistening, so refreshing to the eyes and the depths of my soul. It’s a breathtakingly hot day, and the Arizona summer is in full swing.  All I can think about is how the air will be cooler once I reach the water.

Head down, resolve on my face, I manipulate my prosthesis and hope the moisture that’s building won’t release my fit. The angle gets steep as I descend, but I am determined to reach my destination. Upon arriving at the rushing stream of water, I sit and rest on a large boulder by the riverside, grab a drink, and celebrate my accomplishment.

Only then do I realize that the valley looks a lot different up close. Instead of the beautiful, inviting oasis I had perceived from above, I now find I’m sitting in a dry wash that’s carrying charging waters from a recent monsoon. The turbulence is wreaking havoc on everything in its path. Boulders are misplaced, small trees uprooted, and muddy waters fill up the once-dry bed.

As I sit there, I realize how my shift in perception resembles some of the shifts we encounter in life. We all go through hard times and rough patches. We see the beauty of our life as we perceive where it is leading us, until we get taken down a different path, one we weren’t expecting. Suddenly, like the rushing river, we are thrust into our own valley, and it’s not what we imagined. It’s hard. We get knocked around, much like the trees during a flood. We struggle to make sense of the moment we are in, only to find ourselves drowning in self-doubt, pain, and fear.

I pack up my water bottle, grab my hiking poles, and begin my ascent back up the mountain, away from the turmoil. The journey up is tough. I have to dig deep to find courage in my own capabilities and reassure myself that I have enough strength to make the hike back. A few miles later I’m back on top, looking down from afar and appreciating the beauty of the water once again.

Isn’t it amazing how the valley can feel so different, depending on our vantage point?

When we’re on top in our lives, the feeling is euphoric and gives us a sense that we are unstoppable. It’s easy to feel positive in those moments. However, when we journey onward, we inevitably find valleys. They are ugly, powerful, and frightening. They can beat us down, forcing us to gasp for air. They can spin us into self-doubt and chip away at our confidence and strength. This is the moment we must dig deep, use positive self-talk, and aim our gaze upward. It’s not easy to rise out of the valley, but we can do it. We must do it.  For our own physical and mental well-being, we must strive forward—onward and upward. Do not look back; reach for the top. once you do, you’ll notice the valley wasn’t so bad. It molded your character, making you stronger and more resilient for the next downturn that is sure to come. Like the rocks in the wash, once rough and sharp, you become beautiful and smooth as the monsoon and floodwaters wash over you.

Are you in a valley? Don’t fear. Dig deep within yourself. You’ve got this. And when you rise, you will find that you are stronger, better, and more polished from your journey.

Angie Heuser has been an above-knee amputee since 2019. She features amputee advice, interviews, news, and personal reflections through her blog and podcast at Follow her on Instagram @angie_heuser.

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