Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Baby Steps: Knowing Where to Start

baby steps

"I don't know where to begin," she said, "so much has happened. It gets jumbled together in my mind, you know, like those rock polishing machines? You've seen them, haven't you? No? They have a little plastic container about this long and this wide (she gestured with her hands), and you drop rocks into one end, add water, and seal it up. Turn on the switch, the container rotates, and the rocks get polished by bumping into one another. My problem is, I don't know which rock to choose."

"It's hard to figure out where a story begins," I said, "especially when we're midway through. Sometimes it helps to start right there -- in the middle, where you are -- and then we can pick the other 'rocks' as we go along."

Feeling frustrated or confused about where or how to begin, is something with which most of us can identify. I came across a wonderful piece of advice the other day from Forrest Church, a Universalist minister in New York. "Our lives will end mid-story, so why not begin there? Don't wait around for the perfect starting pistol. Or until you are ready. You may never be ready. No reason to wait in the grandstand for some official to guide you to the gate. Jump the fence, Enter the race in the middle. Here, now, as you are, doing what you can, with those who are closest to you. By turning the page."

There's nothing so paralyzing, I think, as the feeling that you can't make a move until everything is just so. The stars have to be in perfect alignment, we've got to do this or that, and when we're finally ready, the opportunity has passed and we're wondering why we delayed. I'm not suggesting one ought to be precipitous, careless, or impulsive, but neither do we have to rewind our lives and find the point at which things went wrong in order to change direction. Wherever we happen to be in life is a good enough place to start the process of change.

One of the rules of prescribing medications for older adults is "Start low, go slow." In other words, start at a low dose and increase it slowly because older adults metabolize medications less efficiently. It has to do with the aging liver. The point is, when making changes in our lives, it doesn't hurt to begin with small ones and move deliberately. That sure is less stressful, and when we're contemplating change, it's stressful enough as it is, right? Why not cut ourselves a break, take life one day at a time, and eventually we'll get where we want to be. Baby steps: sometimes that's how we start.


(Creative Commons image by hojusaram via Flickr)
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