I’ve heard it many times. Life is often divided by its moments. “Was that before or after?” We try to remember where a lost item might be, or where it may have been. “Is that on the shelf…or was it in the cabinet?” We look at photos and think, “Where is so-and-so? Or was that after…” Our life is divided into moments of loss and moments of insatiable joy. The most memorable of times are often one or the other. Some of these moments we wait for with great strength and anticipation while others occur without mercy when we are at our weakest. However, all these dividing and defining moments have one thing in common. We are never really ready. We can make attempts. We can make every list imaginable, but ultimately life never prepares us. We are set in the moment like an innocent baby in a cradle. Unknowing, completely vulnerable, grabbing at the air to try and catch something tangible and familiar. We might cry, we might laugh, we might just stare blankly in disbelief. We are often unable to replicate these moments of awe and they can leave us in a cloud of wonder.
As years pass I realize with more certainty that when a moment is swaddled in tears, laughter, and wonder it becomes locked in our memory. It becomes a stepping stone on our path. It helps in defining our decisions as we move forward. It becomes a dividing moment.
Once again, I was perplexed by my choice for my One Little Word of 2017. Words swam around in my head for a bit and then I would forget about them and decide not to worry. I contemplated the word, “ready” I liked it, it felt good and like a take-action kind of word. I thought about my previous words, Pace, Silence, Open, Possible. Each was helpful and meaningful in its own way. I thought about “family” and “people.” I just didn’t have that, “gotcha” feeling about any I had considered.
Then I got up on New Year’s Day, made my coffee, and took the dog outside. As I was standing on the side of the house, I began examining the stepping stones. They had once again revealed themselves after the previous day’s melting. They line one side of the house along a privacy fence that divides it from the next house over. Each stone is a little bit different yet they are all the same. Each is slightly green from age, has jaggedy sides, and little bumps and divots across the surface. Each is a single step. However, each comes with its own unique qualities. As I looked at the steps I realized that all the moments that have divided my life have been a step. Examining this path, I looked at the muddy dirt in between each. I imagined a miniature me trudging through the dirt to reach the next stone ahead and thought about the feeling you get when you reach a new step, a next chapter, a moment of movement and change. That “raise your arms” feeling of accomplishment. I thought about standing there, a centimeter sized me, looking back at the steps I had already crossed and the mud I had already drug through. I thought about looking forward, at the many steps that await. The many challenges ahead. I thought I must remember that feeling, that feeling of standing on a fresh step for the first time.
Gotcha! I had my word. Just like that. I finally realized that my word to live by is a word that will help me remember. A word that moves with me, not just today, but forever. Step. Step with light feet when needed or forge ahead when ready. Step. Know that each new step is a new beginning. Step. All we can ever do is continue to move forward and every once in awhile gaze back to see how far we’ve come.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.