By the fourth day of his journey, Sword was feeling tired. He’d slept better that night, but he wasn’t sure if he was getting used to sleeping in trees, or if he was just so exhausted that he couldn’t help but sleep. He only knew that if he kept heading west, he’d eventually come to the lake, or to the river feeding it. And he knew he had at least 3 days left on his journey.“This is where it gets hard,” he thought. His mother, Oceana, had taught him to be prepared for the middle of things. That time when the excitement of starting had ended, and the end wasn’t close enough to draw you in. That time when you felt defeated. When you felt you couldn’t go on any more. When you felt you’d never, ever reach the end. And you wondered what you’d been thinking when you started.
Sword had never tried anything like this 6 plus day journey to the lake. And he found himself wondering if he should just give up, and ask Musica or the dragons for help. As he continued moving from tree to tree, he found himself wondering if he could make that short flight between trees again. He found himself wondering what the point was.
He wound up falling into a pattern. “Don’t think. Just do,” and an endless mantra of, “Just one more tree.” He was so tired he didn’t even watch the birds, rabbits, squirrels and other animals. He concentrated on just continuing his journey. Tree after endless tree.
He thought he should try something. Anything to pass the time. So, he counted trees as he moved from tree to tree. At first, that helped. It was new. It was a change. “One. Two. Three. Four.” But the counting went on, and on, and on. “956 trees. 957 trees. 958 trees.” Even setting targets for mini-celebrations like, 1000 trees, 2000 trees, 2500 trees, became old.
As he moved from tree to tree, his pace slowed. And he came to a complete stop several times. His journey had gone from, “How hard can it be?” and “I can’t wait to see Rose!” to, “I’ll never get there. This will never end. I’ll be lost in the trees forever.”
Sword took a break during the day. He washed himself in a creek. That felt good. Getting clean. Washing the dust, dirt, tree-bark, and bits of leaves off of his body helped. He found some berries, and he ate them. It wasn’t meat. It wasn’t seaweed. And while the berries did fill the empty space that his stomach had become, they didn’t give him any new energy. He still felt exhausted. And helpless. And beaten.
He climbed back into the trees. And sat down on a limb. Perhaps he should just take the afternoon off. Collapse. Sleep in the trees, and try again tomorrow. Perhaps he should admit defeat. That this journey was too much for him to handle.
That’s when a white owl landed next to him in the trees. There was something oddly familiar about that owl. As if they’d met before. And that’s when the owl spoke. “Don’t give up, young one.” The owl looked right at Sword. “Don’t give up.”
Sword was surprised. And he finally recognized the owl. It was the owl that was always around the fair girl, Dream. The owl, Whisper.
“Sword, young warrior, know the truth. Know that you are locked in battle. A battle to believe. A battle to become what you wish to be. A battle to become the warrior you dream of being.”
“What do you mean, Whisper?”
“Young warrior. You fight the greatest enemy. You fight self-doubt.”
“Yes. On the one hand, you try to believe in yourself. In what you’re doing. What you want to do. What your dreams are. And on the other, you doubt yourself. Believing you are not worthy. Not capable. Not strong enough. Not good enough.”
Scream nodded. He knew the words Whisper spoke were true. He knew those words explained what he’d been feeling that day. Explained why he had struggled all day with moving from tree to tree. Why he’d been unable to think of anything all day other than how endless the journey was.
“Whisper. How do I learn to believe in myself? How do I defeat self-doubt?”
“One step at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time.” The owl hooted. “By remembering why you do what you do. By understanding that tired is normal. Exhaustion is normal. And self-doubt itself is normal. But understanding everything you feel is normal. And just what you feel. And it’s OK to feel. And what you feel changes over time. Changes with each step you take. Each hour you breathe. Each day your heart beats.”
Sword placed his hand over his heart, and felt his own heartbeat. He felt himself breathe.
“I just have to feel? To remind myself why?” Scream asked the owl, “How do I do that? When I hurt this way. When I’m this tired. When it seems I’ll never get there.” He shook his head. “How do I do that?”
Whisper spoke once more. “By believing you can. By believing in you. And in the dreams you reach for.”
The owl stayed on the tree branch with Scream for a time. And somehow, Scream started to feel better. “I just have to believe in me. And in my dreams,” he though. And before long, he was smiling.
He remembered, “I’m going to see Rose. And her sisters.” He remembered, “I’m going to get to hold her hand.” He remembered how he felt when he had held her hand before. How it just felt right. Like he was meant to hold her hand. He remembered what it felt like to just talk with her. To just walk with her through the trees. To just stare into her eyes. He remembered how everything was OK when he was with her.
And he smiled. “Thank you, Whisper. For reminding me,” he told the little owl. “I remember now. I’m going to visit Rose.”
Whisper hooted, flapped his wings, and then took too the sky. And as he left, Sword heard him say, “Hang in there, young warrior. You will be OK.”
Through the rest of that day, Sword made good progress, moving from tree to tree. And reminding himself, “I’m going to see Rose.” And somehow, that made everything OK.