Small steps…

“I need to do something.” Clinging to a lifestyle in which they felt themselves to be stuck, the person concerned said that a change was needed… a break in the pattern of their days, for to break just one link in a chain is to break free of it. But where to start? What if it wasn’t enough? The fear of failure was holding them back from taking even the smallest step forward that could potentially change everything.

I know that feeling. I imagine that most of us have felt it at some time in our lives. Change and failure can be two of the scariest monsters we have to face and maintaining even a painful status quo can feel like a far better option than scaling a mountain of fear. Still, you never know what you can do until you try…and you cannot take a second step until you have taken the first, no matter how small a step it may be.

I remembered climbing a mountain a couple of years ago. At fifteen hundred feet, it just about graduates from a hill to a mountain and to my eyes, it looked like one… especially as our route would take us up very a steep incline. I really wanted to visit a stone circle I had heard a lot about, but, recovering from a serious chest infection, I wasn’t sure I would make it.  I was at that stage where I could walk easily on the flat, but any kind of climb, be it hill or stair, left me fighting for breath with heart pounding. Standing at the bottom of a slope that appeared to be almost vertical, I was quietly convinced I would fail… and afraid that in doing so I would let my companion down and spoil the day.

It was hard going, especially as it was a hot and sunny day. Every few yards I had to stop and gasp for breath under the pretext of taking pictures.  It wasn’t just me, though, my companion was struggling too… and in an odd way, that made me feel better. The slope seemed endless, and even when we reached level ground, the hill still climbed steadily in front of us. We managed to lose the footpath and had to clamber over rough ground, climb a rickety gate wrapped in barbed wire and, at one point, found ourselves wading through a field strewn with bones.

And yet… we were in a landscape that was incredibly lovely, with bright blue sky above the hills and deep blue sea below. The heather was in flower, the sheep were purest white and there were wild horses watching as we climbed. After the initial climb, the going was easier, even though it was all uphill, and, when we arrived at the plateau below our destination, it was sheer beauty that took my breath away.

It had been worth it. The last climb brought us to a superb stone circle, with panoramic views… and not only that, there were other circles and stones all around us. Not only did we see what we had come to see, we were showered with so many other wonders, from the stones to the hunting hawk that we watched… gifts we could not have expected rewarded us for our efforts. And the way back would be all downhill…

I remembered too taking my younger son up Ben Nevis when he was a boy. We knew before we started that we would fail to reach the summit that day; there was no way we would make it to the top in the few hours we had at our disposal, but we would at least get a feel for the mountain and see beauty we would never have seen had we not made the attempt.

I thought back too, to the first time I had attended an event with an esoteric school similar to those run by the Silent Eye. I was scared stiff of what I might find or whether I would fail to fit in… and was met with open arms and hearts, laughter and friendship. Or the time I had arrived at the Gare du Nord in Paris, terrified, owning nothing more than the clothes in my suitcase. I had left everything behind… home, friends, family, language… and was about to embark upon an unknown future. It could have been a disaster… and yet my years in France became the happiest I have known until recent years.

Whenever I feel fear of change or failure weighing me down, I look back at all those times I have taken that first, small step. It can be as simple as a phone call, a break in a routine, or the determination not to let someone down. It need not be a big thing at all. Yet, as soon as you have taken it, one foot in front of the other, your world and your view of it has already changed. Even if you fail, you will have seen and experienced something new along the way… and going back to the starting point for another attempt or a different route is always easier ‘downhill’.

There are so many possibilities for wonder out there and we never know what the next step may show us. The only guarantee that we have is that we will not see them at all unless we take that first step beyond fear…

42 thoughts on “Small steps…

  1. At the moment I think we are all going through a period of ‘change’ – from our environment, the economic situation (International and national as well as personal) – all of which is inevitably bringing fear; fear of the ‘unknown’…”What happens next?” “What if…?” How can I/we cope?” etc etc.- and like that excellent anecdote of your first mountain climb Sue, it’s making that FIRST STEP that counts!i The old adage of ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is perhaps the best thought to fix in our mind on these occasions (or maybe ‘S/he who hesitates is LOST’?)One thing for sure – if you stay put on that ledge with the 1,000′ drop below you there’ll come a point when you just lose your grip and FALL!

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  2. As it happens, nightmares have me up and reading: nightmares … from one of the many medications … that I’m taking due to the now five-month mystery double eye infection. Fear is one obstacle. But there certainly are many happy to keep us down if we let them.

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  3. Oops, I wasn’t finished with my post above when it accidentally sent.

    From your post: “You cannot take a second step until you have taken the first, no matter how small a step it may be.” As it happens, the small step that led to my first blog post in six months (thanks for reading and connecting there, BTW) was that when I awoke to the nightmares last night, instead of lying there, I got up. I treated my eyes. And I drove to a nearby coffee shop with my computer… and wrote. I couldn’t control the nightmares, but my eyes were reasonably well, and I could choose what I would do with having been woken.

    Regarding that small step, you say, “…as soon as you have taken it, one foot in front of the other, your world and your view of it has already changed.” I, too, have been struck often of late with the possibilities that can emerge when we change perspective—when we make the choice not to give in and stay where we are, but to take a step somewhere, “no matter how small a step it may be.”

    Speaking of perspective, for me, it’s only the stuff of dreams and novels to think of even having available a mountain I could climb on which I would find sheep and wild horses, the ocean below and heather fields about, and an ancient ruin waiting at the top! But the truth is that we each have opportunities around us every day which other people would see as wondrous (and which we can again, as well, if we can manage to stumble forward into that change in perspective).

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    1. Changing perspective changes everything, even if it is only a slight alteration, it can make all the difference. This morning I drove my son out to watch the dawn. The landscape around here is quite tame and managed… a far cry from the wild moors that I love… but I found a spot high enough and wide enough to see beyond the neatness, and feel part of an older landscape. It did my soul good and changed how I saw the day unfold.

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  4. Most interesting…That valued trait ‘Confidence’ seems to be missing from many lives – not suprising when faced with, at times,difficult issues and fearful choices.. Human nature seems, fortunately, often able to overcome obstacles (deep breath, one step, than another, forward…) I’ve never been much of a plotter or planner, or even very ambitious – tending to ‘go with the flow’ of life. That doesn’t mean to say I’m brave. Far from it. But it’s amazing how we can look back and, now and then, wonder how we got through such and such a difficult time/adventure..Life’s certainly for living and I’m full of admiration for the courageous souls who tackle, and survive danger. ..

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    1. I don’t think we ever see how brave we are at the time. Courage is something we see in others, not in ourselves… all we are doing is putting that one foot in front of the other and getting on with things. If we could realise ow brave some of our choices have been, I think confidence would soar.

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  5. Beautiful photos, Sue. I’m so glad you made it to the circle and the other gifts the climb delivered. I actually needed this message today, despite already knowing that almost everything begins with a first step. Funny how that happens. Then the overwhelmed feeling suddenly dissipates as the long todo list whittles down, aided by a sorting of priorities and the opportunities and limitations of the “now.” ❤

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  6. And yet, in my mind, I see you as a major risk taker, if not physically by climbing mountains, then emotionally by doing things no one has tried to do before. There are all kinds of risks and physical is just one of them. You are one of the bravest women I know of and don’t even bother to argue the point.

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  7. Spectacular views and well worth the effort. I could be you – big hills are a struggle, but I still do it, just slowly. If you don;t challenge yourself regularly, you wither away!

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