About three weeks ago, when the weather rose above freezing and the snow was beginning to melt, I ventured out with my dog Nellie to some nearby woods.
At first glance, everything looked fine – we were both excited to get out of the house and to venture into one of our favorite places (not that Nellie goes anywhere much to be picky, the woods are about it!). But, as we got out of the car, I saw the mud! Every step squished under my boots so that I literally had to pull my foot out of it to take the next step. As I was about to go downhill, I suddenly saw a mud slide on my horizon (or a slide down a mud hill!!!)… I seriously, seriously contemplated turning around; but that little voice inside my head (which I know by now to listen to as it is usually right) urged me to keep going. But, still, I wanted to retreat……badly!!!
But on I went, holding onto slivers of branches as I somehow made it to the bottom of the hill with surprisingly little difficulty. The path flattened out and I took a big breath of relief since I had made it down the hill without ending up on my backside. However, my contentment was short-lived because as I turned the corner an ice path awaited me! Nellie wanted to go faster than I felt comfortable going – so for a short period of time I had to let her off the leash. Who knew that the ice would be much harder for me to navigate than the mud? Again, I wanted to turn back. But I knew that returning to the mud hill, which I couldn’t slide up, was a bad idea without gravity on my side.
Again that little voice chirped at me, so I kept going. The ice was trickier, which made me timid. My boots did not help me much as they added to the "slippery-ness" with the treads on the bottom filled with (you guessed it) MUD!!! I clung on for dear life to a few helpful tree branches, and a couple times some skinny, skinny twigs. And, I must confess, my butt touched the ice a couple of times. But, yet again, I made it through the stretch of icy pathway – and then, for a while I was not slowed down by ice or mud!!
Looking back at that moment, I was grateful that I stuck with it and allowed myself to truly enjoy the adventure. It made me think of all the times in the past that I would have turned back and gone home because it was more challenging than I had anticipated. This time, I was proud of myself for sticking with it. Suddenly, I realized how this walk in the muddy, icy woods, with its obstacles, was a metaphor for my life. For the next 20 minutes or so, as I was observing and enjoying the woods, this article started formulating in my head.
Often, when something feels uncomfortable, we don’t want to even try to face it. Instead, we create a scenario in our head that is much worse than we would probably ever experience in reality. But the truth is that made up story is really what keeps us stuck. Over and over and over!!! I realized that I had found myself doing a version of this exact thing – in anticipating climbing back up that mud hill to get to my car. I had different versions of myself rolling down the hill or climbing up it on my knees, covered with mud from head to toe. How would I ever let myself in my own car looking that way? Would I even make it back in one piece? I realized how easy it is to get caught up in the stories we create. The reality was almost mundane – I had actually made it up the hill with relative ease and was actually surprised, especially after my vivid imagination almost blocked me from this amazing, muddy journey.
Last Sunday, I ventured back into the woods again. It had recently snowed, but the weather was much warmer and I was up for the challenge. The difference this time was that I was mentally ready for mud, ice and snow, and was not at all caught by surprise. I recognized that doing something the second time is always easier than the first. But, even more so, however wonderful our lives are, we ALL hit muddy patches from time to time. For me, the MUD helps me appreciate the smooth sailing so much more. The key, for all of us, is to expect it, which makes it easier to slide through.
Personally, a lot is shifting for me lately, and it feels uncomfortable. It is my own version of mud – but I am learning and growing. Sometimes, my footing is unstable and I am not sure of my next step. Like my adventure in the woods, I am so tempted to hide under the metaphorical covers. But I also know that is not an option for me.
Here are a few things I do when I feel like muddy slopes are ahead.
1. Realize that I’m probably going to learn something from the experience, and pay attention to the lesson, so I don’t need to repeat it.
2. Take a look at what I’m eating and see if it is playing ANY part in what I am feeling or how I am reacting.
3. Get help if it is something that I cannot figure out on my own.
4. Go to kickboxing, which always, always works for me.
5. Realize that some habits need to be revamped from time to time. And, if my resistance is high enough, it might be just the moment to create a new habit.
It is important to keep in mind that in order to learn and grow, we have to keep evolving, and the only way we can do that is to get out of our comfort zones once in a while. Do not be afraid to raise the bar of your life! Looking back, I have done this many, many times, and, in retrospect, it was ALWAYS worth it – even if I was terrified of hurtling down the hill at the time…