How my 2 year old, an old wooden beam, and a neighborhood walk reminded me that the journey is the reward
I don’t know about you, but I’ve a very good taskmaster. I get very focused on the goal, put up my blinders, and to heck with everything else until the task is done. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
Going for a walk? There must be a goal: to get to the destination and then turn back and go back where I came from. Going to the store? Must have a list and check it off as the items are placed into the cart (and again once you get home to make sure you didn’t forget anything. Or is that just OCD me?). Doing absolutely anything? There must be a goal, something that can be reached, checked off, and barely celebrated before the rinse and repeat.
I know this about myself, and frankly, I don’t love it. Certainly it has helped get me to where I am today, and it has been why many of my friends and co-workers have come to rely on me along the way: being this responsible makes me reliable. I do what I say I will do when I say I will do it. Why? Because I told you I would. Because I can’t look myself in the mirror at night if I can’t say that I am a woman of my word. Oh, and because I get to check it off the list when it’s done and feel really good about myself for having been able to do it. There’s that too.
As much as this mode of operating has made me a reliable friend and employee, I also recognize how this habit has taken me out of the present moment over the years, how it has caused anxiety, and how it has caused me to miss the jewel in the crown: the journey.
I had an intuitive coach tell me that I married my husband to help me take flight, and he married me to help regulate him (I am little Miss Responsible, he is Mr. Let’s Ask For Forgiveness, not permission….and maybe not even ask for forgiveness if things go awry).
Translation? I need to take a chill pill and learn to calm the F down (and he, in turn, could benefit from a tiny dose of my ridiculous need to be so responsible. And I do mean tiny. I’m a little much).
I went for a walk with my 2 year old daughter, Madison, the other day, and she – as she always does – shed light onto this for me (hence the reason for this post).
We were going for a walk, so naturally, I had a goal: we would walk to the end of the street and back. With my goal in sight, I set out on our journey. My poor unsuspecting little nugget didn’t know about – nor did she much care to know about – my intended goal. For her, a walk is just that: a walk. A stroll. An opportunity to let life come as it comes.
Yet another chance to be present, because she doesn’t know any different (lucky duck).
As she daddled and strolled, remarking at every rock, weed and bark of a dog along the way, I was hurrying her along.
“Let’s go, babaloo!” I kept gently but firmly (and with mounting anxiety, let me tell you) telling her every time she stopped to literally smell the roses. And to her credit, she would respond to her crazy mother by taking a few steps forward, only to be dazzled by yet another miraculous object in front of her before long, “Poop! Mommy! Poop!”
“Yes, that’s right, sweetheart. Dog poop!” I would reply while laughing, but ultimately still concerned about moving us along.
“Yeaaaaah!” she would confirm with a big smile on her face. Because…dog poop!
And then we got to this wooden beam that runs alongside the top of the road, easily her favorite part of the walk (which, I should tell you, is very near the beginning of this journey).
“Baby on?!” she demanded as she climbed up onto the log, “Hold a hand, mommy!” she demanded, forcing her little hand into mine so I could hold her steady in case she fell down from the beam (Madison makes statements with question marks at the end of them. It may sound like a question, but it’s really and truly just a demand. The question mark is just a formality. You should hear her talk to Alexa, “Alexa!! Weez a bus round and round!”).
I went along with it and walked her to the end of the beam, intending to continue down the road so we could get to the end, turn around, and come back. Because…goals!
Madison had other plans.
She started walking back along the beam toward where we had just come from.
“Madison!” I chided, “Let’s go this way!”
“Noooooo, mommy! Stay on here! Hold a hand!” she replied, barely looking back at me and expecting me to comply.
I was about to protest when I finally heard myself. Then I just smiled.
There she goes, teaching me something again. My little Buddha. Here I was, thinking we had the same goal, when we couldn’t have been further from it. She wanted to go for a walk. But since when did a walk mean that there needed to be a destination? Since I learned it had to, that’s when. And for someone who hasn’t learned that yet, what then? Why, there is no goal, that’s what! The walk is the goal, no matter how far or how little the walk. No matter if we never leave the driveway, or if we walk ten miles.
So there she was, playing and walking back and forth along the beam, with her crazy mother trying to hurry her along to….to…..where? Nowhere. Nowhere near as important or as perfect as this little girl, walking back and forth with the utmost of glee along an old beam along the side of the road, giggling with delight, and wanting to spend time with her mama.
Who is the parent and who is the child?
Some days, I don’t hopefully know. But that day? I certainly knew this one thing was true: she was the wise one, and I her faithful and willing student.