It was sage advice when it was offered. It was at a time when life seemed to be spinning out of control. When there were days when it seemed easier to just stay in bed rather than face the sunshine that seemed to be shining only on other people. It was cloudy and murky where I stood. Situational depression, my doctor surmised. That feeling has returned through the years. Not often, thank you God. But no one lives an entire lifetime without loss or grief or sadness and some emotional paralysis.
Some days you just have to put one foot in front of the other …
But I didn’t sit down to write today about being sad. I’m not. It’s my birthday. It’one of those significant ones (ending with a 5 or a 0), but that’s not dampening my spirits. In truth, it’s because of/in spite of this birthday that I’m deliberately NOT sad. Yes, my first birthday card was not of the Hallmark variety, rather it was my very own personal Medicare card. And even though it seems like I should be carrying this card for my mother (which I did for many years as her caregiver), I realize it is mine. I look forward to NOT using it much for now, as I’m quite healthy. Oh, to be sure, there are more wrinkles on my face, gray in my hair, and a few too many pounds in places I won’t mention. But I take no medications. My blood pressure is so low that doctors always take it twice, just to make sure. At my physical last month, my new doctor pronounced me fantastic — and no, she’s not connected in any way to Donald Trump’s doctor! I sleep well for 8 hours every night. I’m having great fun learning how to eat healthier (I highly recommend a farm share from Fresh Fork Market). We’re still working on portion size. My still-focused mind, my bifocaled eyes, and free time that comes with retirement have put me on track to read 100 books this year. Thank you Goodreads for keeping track. If you haven’t signed up for this free app … Do. It. Now. I can still beat David at Scrabble about half of the time. Just doing what we can to stave off dementia.
All is well, and still those words are coming to mind. Some days you just have to put one foot in front of the other.
It’s because they have been important for me in more ways than I can count. Often I call them to mind because I have this tendency to want to move too fast through a situation. I’m a results person — not so much interested in the process. I like the big picture and am not always as aware as I ought to be of the smaller details that help make the big picture happen. My mother used to say, …. Kristine Ellen, if you would just slow down. Cue the eye-rolling — who appreciates their mother’s advice at the time. But I find myself saying it to myself now that I’m older, wiser. Putting one foot in front of the other reminds me that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sure I could hurry through, but that’s not the point. It not only won’t hurt me to take my time, it will help me to be healthier/happier/more thorough and infinitely more thoughtful in the long run.
Of course, sometimes putting one foot in front of the other can lead to a stumble. Maybe even a fall. That happened just days ago. Out for my morning 3 miles with my faithful dog by my side — or rather a leash-length ahead of me — I misjudged a ridge in the sidewalk/slipped on mud/tripped over my own feet. Who knows? I have fallen before, but not like this. With time suspended for those few seconds it takes to fall, I could see it coming. Helpless as my face hit the concrete hard enough to bounce up and back down again. I could feel/taste the blood immediately, soon mingling with my tears. Indy loyally stood by me. Helpful. But not quite as helpful as Lassie who would have known exactly where to run to get help for Timmy. But Lassie lived before the age of the ubiquitous cell phone, which I rarely leave home without. All David had to do was answer and come to my rescue just blocks from home. He did. I have a difficult time saying I was lucky this time because the bloody-red scrapes and lumpy bruises were right there on my face for all to see. And the sidewalk whiplash in my neck and shoulders is just beginning to subside. But of course it could have been worse. No broken bones. No stitches. No concussion. It was a big stumble, but I’ll heal. I am healing. I’m nearly there and whole again.
Wow, that’ll preach. When we go through life putting one foot in front of the other, of course we will stumble. We’re human. We mess up. We get distracted and sidetracked. We fail. We get hurt or we hurt someone else who just happened to be in the way. Sometimes we catch ourselves in time. Other times, we just go down. Flat. Down for the count…but we get back up. We start to heal. And, God with us, we are whole, even before our bodies start to mend.
Putting one foot in front of the other is also a reminder to me that as long as we’re living breathing children of God, we’re supposed to be moving forward. God’s Spirit blows as it will, and it is all the power we need to take those steps. As we get older, the steps get slower and often they’re aided by canes, walkers, and wheels. I’m not there yet, but I’m not foolish enough to think that I will not be one day. Slowing down is a given, but for followers of Jesus, we don’t stop. For there is a dynamic in the gospels — dynamic as in characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. In telling the story of Jesus and his disciples on the move, the ancient gospel writers urge us forward in our 21st century lives. We are accepted and loved for who we are right where we stand, and then challenged, led, loved, and empowered to see more/do more/be more. With the Holy Spirit right there with us as we put one foot in front of the other.
So, happy birthday to me. Not just older, still learning how to be better. At life. And love. And trusting that God still needs me to put one foot in front of the other and make a difference in the world.
Pastor. Parent. Activist. And birthday girl.
P.S. With all the uproar lately about Hillary Clinton’s health, I must say that when I get to be 68, I hope to be half as healthy, strong, courageous, and determined as our next President who just keeps putting one foot in front of the other and leading.