Mountain or Molehill: What Obstruction Is in Your Way?

by Belinda Munoz on September 27, 2010


Last week, there was a moving truck that blocked our driveway. The engine was not running, but the contents inside were entirely visible. The person responsible, however, was not. I thought about ringing random doorbells to get this obstruction moved out of the way, but husband had a more effective idea. As I wandered about preparing to press my finger on a button, he deftly sounded the horn longer than normal. This resulted in the appearance of one mean woman, yelling fiery expletives at him at the top of her lungs. She did not need caffeine that morning and cared nothing about no one calling her a classy lady with her overt display of rage.

She didn’t strike me as someone who would attack physically. And if she had tried, I was confident I could outrun her. So, with complete faith in the power of conversation, I approached her, wanting to get a better handle on the situation. But, she walked away.

Then, a second angry woman from afar, also yelling, approached me. I was puzzled for a second time. When she got closer, it became clear that her venom was directed at the person driving the truck, not at me or husband.


If I’d been feeling sensitive that morning, I might’ve taken all this yelling personally. But I remained calm, even-tempered and focused on my mission to unclog the driveway.

Some days we feel unprepared to act, to move, to proceed. Other days we feel equipped with all that we need to thrive, whatever curve ball flies at us.

What makes you feel unprepared? What do you need to feel prepared?


I’ve logged plenty of conversations that went nowhere. I’ve resisted others trying to engage me just as I’ve tried to engage others who have resisted. Communication remains a two-way highway full of flow, stalls, hits, misses and full-on collision.

Some days communication is as fruitless as trying to understand a foreign language amid empty pots and pans clanging. We misunderstand and are misunderstood. We get our signals all static-y. Other days we fall in lock-step rhythm in our verbal and non-verbal expression. Grasping nuances in what’s said and unsaid. Hearing and being heard. Deepening and strengthening connections with others and ourselves.

What about you needs to be heard? How can you feel heard? How can you hear others? How can you hear yourself?


The first yelling woman was undoubtedly angry at husband and me. But she turned out to be all bark and no bite, so to speak. The second yelling woman appeared mad at me but turned out to have a different focus for her anger.

Some days, perception is dulled by the hardened layers through which we lack the want-to or know-how to pierce. Other days, we stick around long enough to witness an unfolding. An unwrapping. An unpacking. Allowing us to bask in our openness and the elongated dimensions of our awareness.

What has appeared to be one thing but turned out to be something entirely different from what you thought? How did your perception come to be enhanced?


Within a few minutes, a man appeared from who knows where. In a few seconds, our driveway was unblocked, clearing our path to our destination. In our lives, our journey is packed with literal and metaphorical obstructions. We get creative.  We negotiate, finagle or enlist outside help or rely on sheer determination and the strength of our mettle to deal with these barriers.

Some days, there are, to borrow a phrase from Haitians, mountains beyond mountains that can’t be moved to clear our path. This comes to mind when I ponder global problems and near-disasters we face today that, frankly, I believe we each have a role to play in resolving. Other days, the path is a short, wide road with not even a single molehill toward our destination.

Is something blocking your way? What is it? Is it a mountain or a molehill in the grand scheme of things? What can you do to dominate it? Could you use help? Have you asked for help?

Our days are not created equal. Something tells me this is okay. This is as it should be. This is how we tell mountains and molehills apart, and perhaps even learn to see the majesty in them.


Image by Kamal H.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 rob white September 27, 2010 at 5:59 am

That’s a good one Belinda. Far too often we make mountains out of molehills. There are millions of people would have turned your truck story into a dramatic ordeal. Most people are more interested in creating soap operas and melodramas then getting on with their lives. All this does is give them a false sense of purpose… the fact of the matter is that successful, peaceful people just aren’t interested.


2 The Exception September 27, 2010 at 8:09 am

Sometimes I will turn that molehill into a mountain – it doesn’t happen often, but it can happen. I have to stop and laugh at myself and think “so what?” because it is just a “so what” kind of thing usually. It didn’t go the way I wanted or I can’t control everything just so… and it really isn’t a big deal at all, but it could be depending on the mood.
Last Thursday morning things were emotional and hurried and harried and a man caught me to tell me that the people couldn’t clean the outside of my house because my windows were open and they sent out a note to keep them closed but because I hadn’t done as asked… I wanted to burst into tears – I reacted… and then I stepped back and started responding… Thanking him for telling me, telling him I would close them right now, and returning to my house to do just that. It was not a huge deal at all… but my initial reaction was as if the world was coming to an end… one more thing for me to do/deal with!


3 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

I hear you, TE, especially about the feeling of having one more thing to deal with. Mothers seem to have never-ending lists of tasks. That one more thing, no matter how little, can sometimes feel so big.

But you’re so right to point out that most things desrvedly elicit a “so what?” attitude — not a big deal at all, all things considered.


4 TheKitchenWitch September 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

I do think that my perception is skewed by my mental state. If I’m feeling vulnerable or insecure or depressed, even the slightest, most innocuous remark can wound. Can produce an overreaction from me that’s completely from left field.


5 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

I so know what you mean. Feelings come and go and though many are fleeting, there is no vaccine to immunize us. And I think awareness, acknowledgment and acceptance of this — that feeling bad over something small doesn’t make us bad people — help us appreciate the unpredictable qualities of our days.


6 Jenny Ann Fraser September 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

Over time, i am learning to be much less reactive than I often was in the past. It is completely true that we do have the ability t0 choose how we react to situations, and though it takes time and commitment to make those changes, this is definitely key to a happier life.


7 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

My theory, and by all means feel free to laugh, is that, assuming all basics are covered, all we need are plenty of sleep and plenty of water so as not to let our reactions rule us.


8 [email protected] from a Peaceful Divorce September 27, 2010 at 11:21 am

Oh it’s all about the breathing for me. I have to remind myself that I am making a situation worse when I get reactive. Whether it’s to something annoying like having my internet connection cause me problems or something emotional like my ex saying something that feels like a criticism, I have to remember that when I handle it calmly and coolly, it will work itself out.

There is a great quote by Thomas Jefferson that I like to remember when I am feeling like the molehill is becoming a mountain. “Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.”

I love your thoughtfulness Belinda!


9 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Breathing! Isn’t it amazing how something so simple and basic can be so healing? Just saying the word calms me. I have struggled with breathing before; self-imposed, I’m sure, but yoga and meditation have helped tremendously.


10 Meg - Minimalist Woman September 27, 2010 at 11:34 am

Great story, excellent viewpoint. I have frequently found myself on the reactive side of things rather than the responsive. It’s exhausting and unproductive. In fact, I would say there was a time in my life that being reactive WAS the mountain blocking my way. Dumb.

I’m glad to say this is not the case any longer, and as a consequence molehills tend to stay molehills and even mountains, for the most part, are just really high molehills. ;)


11 Belinda Munoz September 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I just love how you make a distinction between reactive and responsive, Meg. One is raw; the other finessed. If we’re on the receiving end, there are times we want one, and other times we want the other.


12 ayala September 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

The perception of things depends on what our emotional state is on that day. Some days we are able to carry the burden better than on other days. Good post Belinda!


13 Cathy @ All I Want To Say September 27, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I’ve noticed that my reaction can be influenced by the person around me. If the person is upset and distraught, I feel the need to be calm and collected. However, if I was irritated and someone was all calm, cool and collected, I might take the opportunity to get ticked and rant a little.

Belinda – I enjoy your writings! Please come claim your Lovely Blog award…..


14 Justine September 28, 2010 at 6:24 am

Belinda – ever since I stumbled upon Virginia Woolf’s quote, “arrange the pieces as they come” from Shapiro’s “Devotion”, I somehow feel empowered to move mountains or molehills that seem to be obstructions but really, it’s a matter of playing Tetris with them. I know it sounds ridiculous because some mountains are, as you know, dauntingly large, but there’s something comforting about the saying, even visually arresting, that it seems to evoke strength within me to find creative ways to unblock my paths and move my obstructions, as you say.


15 Sara Healy September 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

Belinda — It’s interesting that you picked this subject as it’s something I’ve been exploring with myself. Sometimes, it’s hard to find a balance between reacting and letting something go. I battle with myself about this. For me, it has a lot to do with what I believe is fair or unfair.

For example, the woman charging out at you would almost immediately trigger my “this is unfair” gene and I would probably stepped in to stop her from yelling at you, even if I didn’t know you well. However, there are many times when my “fairness” reaction creates more problems than the original situation!

I think it’s a balancing act and certainly one of my life lessons — Learning when to stand up and acknowledge a real mountain and when to chase away the illusion of a mountain so you can see the molehill. I’m still working on it:~)

I loved how you weaved the story of the truck blocking your driveway into the excellent conversation of this post. Well done!


16 ayo September 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm

hello belinda,
how are you?
i must confess, at the beginning of the post, i had to laugh because you said you were confident you could outrun…..
but you make a valid point when you highlight how we are prone to pass judgements in error without really grasping the whole situation.
our perceptions to life or events vary from person to person and this may bring about misunderstandings.
there are several obstacles in the journey of life but resilience/persistence is required to face or move them.
take care and enjoy the rest of the day.


17 BigLittleWolf September 28, 2010 at 2:32 pm

What a thoughtful and compelling post. There’s so much here to contemplate!

I know that sleep is a huge factor for me. My sleep issues are chronic (and physical), but there are periods when they’re better rather than worse. On several nights of 5 or 6 hours of sleep, I can handle most things pretty well. It’s when I get consistently less that I struggle with keeping my cool.

I will say that the more mountains we have, the more able we are to discern the difference between a true mountain and a molehill – or even those things that sit in between.

But when it’s hardest? If it affects my kids and I’m powerless to help. Whether we’re talking big things or small, that’s when I’m most likely to go into lioness mode – whatever it takes to protect my young.


18 Rudri September 29, 2010 at 5:09 pm

Great topic. Often times, when I have my bearings, I think about a situation and apply the five rule. Will this matter five minutes from now? Five hours from now? Five years from now? Usually it doesn’t matter and my anger dissipates.


19 Marci September 29, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I have been looking at my molehill as a mountain lately! I’m working on finding a way to balance work and family, which means getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new. My ultimate goal being that I can still bring home some bacon, while being present most nights for my family. I used to work a lot more weekends/saturdays. There has to be a way…

My natural tendency is to avoid the hill until I can see that I can tackle it step by step, if not all at once. Being a mom and a business woman means things don’t get done quite as fast as they used to. Instead of bailing, if my motives are right and the time is right, then I get active on it. If not, I will see it as a mountain not worth climbing.


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