At one airport, I watched a chubby toddler take those few tenuous steps as mom and dad inched further away, encouraging him to keep going. He would take a few steps, then sit down, pause, then up again to take a few more steps. Never giving up, he seemed happy with each new try – step, sit, pause. Repeat, repeat, repeat. From the first time we take those first wobbly steps, the process remains the same. We inhabit larger bodies but we still get up each day to begin again. The wise among us come to accept and then to appreciate it all.
I’ve known many people who take those first uncertain steps then seem to rush headlong without the pause, without taking time to sit and reflect. Sometimes they crash. Life will demand a pause at some point. Others I have known continue the race devoid of deep connections and without appreciation for all that is happening around them or within them. The goal of winning drives the race. At the end of life, these folks may be alone and bitter, wondering how life turned out this way, blaming the world for never having delivered all they had expected.
Others take those first few steps then sit down. And sit. And sit. Blocked by fear or pain, they cannot rise up again. Their lives are lived so timidly, so unimagined, so gray instead of bright with boldness and passion. They expect the worst around every corner. They, too, may arrive at their last days wondering how their lives became so narrow and flat.
“I would love to live life like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
-FLUENT by John O’Donohue
The happiest people I have known are those who often surprise us with their leaps of faith, their resilience, their capacity to rise again to recreate another future. They don’t know what’s next; yet they take those uncertain steps, pause and continue on. They seem always young and hopeful. They trust. They know they will be equal to the task and will have companions for the journey. At the end, their smiles are radiant, and they declare with conviction: “I have no complaints whatsoever.”
My wish today for each of us is that we remain ever the toddler, always moving forward between sits and pauses. That we remain curious and trusting. Here in western Washington, whenever the drizzle continues and the sun bravely peeks through, even momentarily, my grandson says with certainty: “There’s gotta be a rainbow somewhere!”