Quiet Epiphanies

sharing the everyday stirrings of mind, heart, and spirit

Tag: writing

Joy In Trying: A lesson from a boy learning to walk

Joy In Trying: A lesson from a boy learning to walkMy son just learned to walk. His methodology for learning fascinated me. One day he stood at the rail of his crib and started dramatically falling forward onto the mattress. He reached his hands out and caught himself, giggled and looked up at me with a cheesy grin before doing it again. And again. And again. He kept climbing up to the rail, facing inward toward the mattress, then falling forward and laughing.

He became more and more focused on his task, holding his breath for a moment then huffing and puffing, like he had to remember to breathe because his brain was working so hard on other things. He stood in the corner of his crib like a boxer on the ropes, eyes narrowed, staring down the center of the mattress as though it was his opponent. With a huff, he raised both of his arms straight above his head and took two shaky steps forward before falling onto the mattress in exactly the way he had been doing repeatedly. After a brief fit of giggles, he was up and ready to do it again.

It was at this moment I realized: at one year old, he knows he needs to practice.

My son learned to walk in his crib. Although it seems more difficult to learn to walk on the unsteady surface of a mattress, he needed the security of a soft landing to give him the confidence to try. When we tried to get him to walk independently on hard surfaces, he would go floppy and fall to the floor or cry in panic and cling to our pant legs. He walked only in his crib until he could walk all the way across the crib, from rail to rail, with a sure step.

When I see my son’s methodical nature in moments like this, it takes my breath away. Where did he learn to think ahead to prevent himself from getting hurt? He’s methodical. That’s his personality coming through.

I’m the same way. I want to see several steps ahead before I take that first step. I want to make sure I have a soft landing. I don’t take a risk unless I can see how it might play out. And while that can be a very useful trait, it can also be stifling. It can mean missing out on a fun time because I was afraid of wasting my time. It can mean settling for something that’s “good enough” rather than pursuing something that seems too good to be true.

Sometimes you can’t see ahead. Sometimes all you have is a gut feeling that something needs to change. Or sometimes the change just happens and you’re forced to take some risks in finding your way to a new normal. How do I prepare my son for those moments? How do I prepare myself?

A voice whispers in my ear: let go of fear. But how? It’s always there, like the ground beneath my feet staring me down, waiting for me to fall.

When my son falls, I cheer him on. I realized through him that we all need to know that people we love are watching us, cheering us on, even if we fall. We need people there when we fail to say, “You’re doing great! Keep at it!” We need to know from the beginning that we are loved whether or not we “succeed.”

How do I let go of fear? Instead of looking what I have to lose, I must start looking at what I have to gain. How can I live a life of joy without some spontaneity? How can I truly love others if I’m not willing to risk heartbreak? How can I embrace my passions if I’m holding on too tightly to stability?

My son laughed after falling onto the mattress. What if I found joy after each of my failed attempts? What if I looked at life like a practice session, knowing that each little fall would help me figure out how to walk? Maybe if I place my value in how hard I try instead of how little I fail, I would have more of a child-like joy.

Step One: Write

Step One: Write!

I’ve been a writer since I was a kid. I remember making my own books using cardboard covered in wrapping paper, using string for binding. But even back then I was apprehensive about others reading my writing.

One day when I was maybe nine, my parents took me along on a visit to some of their friends. I brought my little handmade book and some other activities to keep myself entertained while the adults socialized. My book was accidentally left behind we returned home. When my parents’ friends returned it to me later, I saw they had written a note of praise on the last page of my book. I was inwardly proud, but a flush of embarrassment also lit my cheeks. I had written that story for myself. I didn’t think anyone would read it!

Over time, writing became something I did for others. It stopped being an outlet for my creativity, for my own pleasure. It became something I did for a grade or for approval. At some point, I started reading my words with a critical eye toward the quality of my work and the errors of my writing became all I could see. I read the stories I had written and thought of how juvenile and unoriginal they sounded. I also began to see writing stories as one more thing that set me apart from everyone else. Adults are always looking for the things that make them different because it makes them feel special, but when you’re an awkward pre-teen or teen, differences feel more like a liability than a gift.

Looking back now, I think about what it must have been like to come across my little cardboard-bound book. If I stumbled across a book like that today, it would probably make my day to see the raw creativity and care put into it. (Do children even come up with their own crafts like that anymore?) I wish that I could see my writing now with that kind of delight. I wish that I could approach it as a precious outpouring of my individual creativity that should be treasured and encouraged.

It’s easy to feel that my voice has no place in the world. It’s easy to think that everything I have to say has been said before, and probably better. That may be true. But I think about that little girl, binding her own books with yarn and cardboard, and I think, “How dare you stop her?”

So I’m going to start writing again. It may not seem good enough. It may not be the most original content ever put to (digital) paper. But I’m going to do my best to look at myself with compassion, to nurture that little girl inside me that wants to create.

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