One of the hardest things to do is take that step. Whatever that step might be for you, at some point in our lives, each of us has had to take a step that we were fearful of.
Unsure where it would lead or whether we could face where we ended up, it’s a step that makes us feel vulnerable and changes what is known and familiar into something that might not be. It is a step that will shift us from where we are or who we are.
For me, curiously, knowing exactly where that first step would lead is precisely what often trips me up. It’s as though seeing where I’m heading and what will be needed of me is what I am hesitant of. Maybe it’s like that for you too. So how, when you feel you can’t take that first step, do you actually take it? How, when you feel you can’t face another moment or another task, or another decision do you generate that which you need to just take it?
My daughter has multiple disorders. One of them is neuromotor and another includes multiple seizures daily which make her unsteady on her feet. It means much of the time, our lovely girly was growing an off-center unicorn horn on her head until she lost the ability to walk independently. So, there’s that saving grace…less unicorn, but also less walking.
It also means that despite my wish to not always look like a PSA for special needs, every time we go out I have to pack on my inner armor; and it has taken many steps — most of them invisible and many of them teeny-tiny to get me to a full set of armor. Like the emperor’s new clothes, only I know I’m wearing it.
Each step an invisible internal clunk. clunk. clunk.
Though unlike his, which are spun of light whimsy, I know the heft of my inner armor; how long it takes me to put it on and how tired I am at the end of the day when I take it off. It isn’t guilt or shame around my daughter’s disorder and all the stare-inspiring behaviour it causes that has made me don an armor. It has more to do with noticing that I experience life as an on-going war — sometimes typical daily tasks feel like a battle — and like knights before us who dressed for battle, when my daughter’s seizures rage in her beautiful head and her falls make nausea surge in my stomach, I feel like I am losing ground on the battlefield.
So who or what, really, am I waging war against?
A few things, really. War against imbecilic attitudes, against fellow parents who don’t teach their children empathy, against the fearful and insecure parents whose asshole children grow up without a drop of decency or mindfulness. Against school systems that under the guise of inclusion create an abyss of seclusion, health and social systems that build jobs on the backs of our children yet fail at actually servicing them. Against the absence of funding for therapies and equipment; against a system that will pay for cancer care, kidney care, lung care but won’t care for tens of thousands of children to gain the necessary therapeutic interventions that can ease the burden and pain of so very many disorders.
Though if I’m frank — with both you and with myself, a war against my own moments of self-pity and sorrow; a personal crisis’ of self-doubt around whether I am doing enough. Moments that come with the regularity of a menstrual cycle — complete with all its symptoms, except that it’s my eyes which bleed. Remember that though armor can protect you from stabbing and slicing pain, you nevertheless bruise and hurt in battle. Grim? Yes. Moments in life can be. It’s the counterpoint to joy.
While evermore beautiful and meaningful our lives are because of our daughter, so too it is equally harder. My dad used to say that our children grow us up. What he meant by that is that we expand to meet their needs and we know there is a need because our children show us there is one. That stretching is possible because we take the steps.
When you have a child whose everyday life requires indefatigable energy from her, you, and those who work with her; the expansion can be pretty significant. Needs so vast that they require we take some of the hardest steps to take as a parent. Needs that require strides so long that they eclipse our own.
So how does one take those steps?
How do we go from where we stand to where we need to be? By remembering three simple ideas:
- Ask others how they took the step. How they faced it, and how they keep putting one foot in front of the other. This first step will do two things: first, it will acknowledge their hard work (and everyone could use that) and sneak open a passage to possibility; it will awaken your ability to speak your questions out loud. Second, you’ll learn a new skill that can help with taking the step and seeing it done by someone else can help you take that step and own it.
- The step doesn’t have to be a stride. It can very well be a baby step. It might look like a shower or changing the clothes you’ve been wearing for a week straight (including to bed). Maybe it’s filling in a form, or following up on an application. After all, for those of us who walk, baby steps are how we all start walking anyway. Even the tiniest imperceptible step counts as a step.
- Falling on your face counts as a step. You might get up from the fall and think, “well, that sucked.” but it shifted something in you and that counts as a step. Working up the courage to take an action that felt impossible is a step.
In fact, sometimes, the step isn’t physical, it is letting the scariest words form in your head, even when you are nowhere near letting them fall out of your mouth, and those are the hardest, those are the ones that one by one, make you a warrior.