Little Steps

Rune stones, like throwing bones, like reading tea or coins or tarot. I’m groping through this bag of smooth clay charms, hoping something else will give me an answer. Our desire for destiny, a divine plan, and our need to break the mystery. 

Again in transition, always in between it seems. And spun to exhaustion in the flurry of my grand schemes. I turn to divination, I turn to meditation, I reach out to others. Finally I find my brother…

“I’m not sure if I really want to do these things, or if I just want to imagine myself doing something noble, or extraordinary.” We are drinking peppermint tea in his living room to help the Halloween candy go down. “But I’ve seen myself again and again imagine big and then forget about it, move on. I don’t know if I really have it in me to achieve greatness.”

He is wise, of course. Those that live the humblest usually are. Those that plod along, steady and consistent. It is not that they don’t dream big too, but that they live realistically, they do the work, take the steps. They are the ones we often fail to appreciate, because they don’t come at us advice flaring. They wait to be asked.

He knows what to say, he responds thoughtfully. “It is very rare that someone imagines a grand idea and just goes straight to it.” Our chat could be comical. He is still dressed as Harry Potter and I as a green witch. His candy-filled children are playing in the bath. But his words are medicine for me. “Most of those successful entrepreneurs and inventors didn’t just get there on their own. There was a whole series of events, of connections, and stepping stones that lead them there. Life is not linear like we want it to be. The most important thing sometimes is action, that we just take a step.”

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Later I lay on a futon at my mom’s house, my old down comforter tucked snug to my chin. The same apartment I’d lived in once before, and then again that one time after traveling, and again and again each fall when I’d come home from summer work. And each time the feeling of starting over, of progress wiped, of a clean slate. As I faded to sleep I wondered where my little steps were leading, worried that they may never lead anywhere. 

Sleep does not wipe troubles away, but it lets them rest. It is a subtle choice every morning to run back and embrace them as they were, or to reconsider them from a different angle. I started the next day as most others, laying awake scheming, filling my blank uncertainty with impatient planning, inevitably collapsing back to the frustration of a static reality.

My brother’s words came back to me. Again I was reaching across the gap to grab the end of the mystery. The impossibility of it filled me with anxiety. I swept the blanket aside and got up…just move, keep taking steps. Big strides in clear light, small shuffles in fog. 

Every extraordinary person I’ve met so far did not plan their life. Their stories are so different and so similar. They all took that boat, or that job, or that lover. They all bumbled and stumbled and fell into one thing and then the next, and kept winding their web of experience, and some things caught in their sticky threads and grew, while others fell away. A random evolution that lead to something beautiful, like the human eye.

“You can be anything you put your mind to!” Wasn’t that the promise we grew up with? Among stories of travelers and celebrities and inventors, with an early instilled confidence of our own certain success. ‘I want to be that!’ we would sigh, imaginative children with stars in our eyes.

But we rarely saw their journeys, their little steps. Just a quick blurb, a flash of their path to success. The stories told as if their eventual success was the goal all along, when in reality most of them didn’t know exactly where they would end up. In retrospect the journeys all make sense, perhaps, but how does that help the rest of us who are still on the winding way? Each day that we haven’t achieved success we feel like we are failing, that maybe what’s wrong is that we’re just not ‘putting our minds to it’ enough. 

“Eye on the prize!” More slogans intended to encourage. Yet what is the prize? And what if this path winds and the prize slides out of sight? What are we meant to do with that feeling of loss? What slogans are there for accepting change, for honoring uncertainty? 

Could we be brave enough to fill children with reality rather than wonder? To watch them frown in consternation rather than beam with imagination as we tell them, “Most likely you will not end up exactly where you want, and even if you do, most likely you will be surprised by how you get there. Most likely you will lose sight of it at some point, you may feel as if you won’t get there at all, and maybe you will not, and you will have to accept that…but if you just keep looking where you are headed, and take little steps, you will get somewhere!”

I’ve taken so many steps! So many courses, and jobs, and boats…and lovers. I’m still no clearer where they are taking me. I have moments when I think the fog is clearing and I catch a glimpse, but then it closes in again, trickster life! But as I learn time and again, the only work that seems to work is to just to keep living it, and enjoying it, and walking along even if it seems incoherent…and trying not to grasp too hard for the answer, as that will just cause despair. And if this perpetual practice is my only purpose this time around on earth, then that is grand enough.

Calmed by such thoughts, I reached into my bag of stones, let my fingertips summon the just right Rune. These are viking Runes. I am not a viking, I am not a gypsy, or a shaman, or an inventor, or a celebrity. I am just like the most of us, mid-winding-journey and open to guidance in any form.

I pull a sideways M shape…Ehwaz, movement, progress, a horse. The booklet explains: Ehwaz is a Rune of transit, transition and movement; of physical shifts, new dwelling places, new attitudes or new life.

There is about this rune a sense of gradual development and steady progress, with the accompanying notion of slow growth through numerous shifts and changes. Moral effort and steadfastness are called for. Let it be said this way, “As I cultivate my own nature, all else follows.”

This Rune is saying, you have progressed far enough to feel a measure of safety in your position. It is time to turn again and face the future reassured, prepared to share the good fortune that comes.

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Be certain that what you are doing – or not doing – is timely. We have simply to recognize that not all opportunities are appropriate, that not all possibilities are open to us. The opportunity at hand may be precisely to avoid action. If you are feeling at a loss, unclear about the need to act, consider what is timely to your nature, and remember: What is yours will come to you.

What is yours will come to you…

Patience, trust…and little steps.

4 thoughts on “Little Steps

  1. igo2paint says:

    At yoga this morning my teacher said, “Stop trying to think through the pose. Get your head out of it and just surrender. Then your heart can know the pose.” Afterward, I came home and read this. That little toe head boy sure grew up to be a wise brother. Sometimes we have to get our heads out of it and just keep walking those baby steps. All the best to you and the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ashley says:

    Michelle 😊! I was talking with my Dad a couple days ago and this same sense of uncertainty; trusting, wondering, wandering… He told me, “Life will throw you Adventures… Sometimes if you get the chance and opportunity whizzes by you, put your hand out and Velcro on it. You don’t have to make decisions with the thought in mind that they are forever…Keep living strong and be happy because there is no reason not to. All those around you will love you no matter what you choose in life. I love you no matter what!”
    This was of course a certain reassurance to my soul, to know we’re loved regardless. Every now and then I still wonder if all my searching will ever ‘lead anywhere’, or if I’m failing to recognize something right in front of me each time I choose to keep on moving; the perennial thought either I’m crazy or I’m onto something (or both 😉)… but then I remember how to have remained in that place would have been a denial of the very real sense of a latent something more.
    I could think and talk about this for a lot more words, and it’s so comforting to know there’s another one asking similar questions with her life. For now there’s a whole new day to engage with— we’ll see what we find (and hopefully more and more of what we can uniquely give)!
    Thanks for your open, honest sharing.. Blessings, and looking forward to seeing what’s next ☀️🕊🎉.

    Like

  3. knowinghome says:

    Beautiful Ashley! Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response. I especially resonated with the part about denying the something more that is calling you. When I think back, there haven’t been any situations that would have served me more by staying, and so here I am…I thought of this today, that we must become very comfortable and intimate with the spaces between or else we will stay stuck in situations or identities that no longer serve us out of fear of the unknown. Transition, like darkness, depth, and yin, is often uncomfortable and challenging, but the most powerful.
    Best to you on your journey!

    Like

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