The Steps We Take

There are so many ways we step throughout our lives.  The English language expresses it well. Here are some thoughts to mull around stepping.

Phrases posted on Facebook, March 2021

There are many ways to step “forward. It could be volunteering for something we care about, witnessing and revealing something that’s been wrong and hidden, taking a chance to begin something new and taking action, shielding someone from censure or harm. When did we step forward in the past? Is there something new that needs us to step forward now? The invitation is almost always there.
Stepping back is another way to step. I loved watching my mother at her easel. She would step back, hold up a thumb as a guide of some sort, squint and see what her painting needed next. Then she would step forward and begin to paint again. Does it seem to you, as it does to, that in the turmoil we are living just now, steeping back would help us see more truly what is needed next? It could be a clarifying distance.
Stepping “aside” is a tender and humble step that demonstrates awareness of more than our own needs and agendas. When we step aside we let someone else take our place, or we just simply move out of the way because something more important than we are needs us out of the way. Done with generosity of heart we are joined to universal courtesy.
The weather has been beyond gorgeous here in Rhode Island this last week. People are stepping “out”. It is as if we found our dancing shoes again at least for a little while. Still wearing our masks “It is not a bad thing to celebrate a simple life” as J.R.R. Tolkien writes. Let’s step out into whatever small and safe celebrations we can have.
Stepping “up” suggests elevation and speed, entering something with more challenge: a promotion, a better location for a home and the costs that follow, a more difficult exercise program, more engagement and possible notoriety. We tend to feel good and hopeful when we step up. But when it comes right down to it, more of our time will be taken. There will be more responsibility and maybe some nights we’ll be up more hours than is good for us. Stepping up is a mixed blessing. It needs to be something that is truly “for” us, not just an ego-win. If the latter, it will turn out to be costly.
When someone steps “in” we naturally think of them as taking control. To step in with an agenda can ruffle other people’s feathers. We all know the difference when we step “in” to something for the experience of it and to be a part of it. Control then is not at play, but participation is. Perhaps real leadership can only emerge when it is the latter way we step in.
Sometimes we have to let go of even difficult and treasured things. If we keep ourselves in the difficulty of having to be right or to be understood or, or, or we’ll continue to suffer. We simply have to move on and step around the whole mess so something new can happen. Stepping “around” is not cowardice. Detours can show us whole new paths to step, and walk our talk.
Stepping “down” is not easy. Those who know how to do it with graciousness bless what can come next. Those who don’t, create bitterness and chaos in their wake. The time for stepping down from roles and positions we have had will come to everyone one of us. Perhaps when it comes, we will know it is about freedom, a welcoming of what can come next in our personal lives.
When I was nine years old, I came to the U.S. for the first time. We left the customs building in N.Y.C. and walked out to the street. A man was lying in the gutter, out cold. One could only step “on” him or “over” him. The shock of seeing people simply step over the man is etched in my mind. What country was this I wondered? That wondering has changed over the years to what person am I?  Conscience asks me what I step over without being aware of it, or because I’m afraid, or because I’m in a self-made rush. Reasons like these belong to all of us in every country in the world. What do we unconsciously step “over”? I hope that conscience question will never stop being asked.
After the vaccination shot, I felt pretty awful. I wanted to be like an animal that goes to ground under the porch. It’s not unusual to have that instinct. For healing we sometimes need to step “under” something, to hunker down into a deep quiet and safe isolation where we aren’t disturbed and where we can wait things out, allowing healing to happen in silence. It’s not a mistake that people say they are “under” the weather.
Every once in a while it might be good to check and ask, “Am I walking my talk?” We can spruce up that question and add, “Am I stepping like I mean it?” That will show up in our bearing, our smile, our pace, our “yes” and our “no”.  
No matter what, isn’t it still one step after the other . . . right foot, left foot . . . and the courage to step “fully” into life?