There are times in life when circumstances allow us merely to stay afloat with our heads above water, struggling to swim upstream against the current. We all have these periods when the best we can do is just get through one day and then prepare ourselves to take on the next.
But eventually the tide recedes, the waters calm and we find ourselves treading water, just adrift with no idea which way to swim, our footing unsettled in the mud below.
This is where I found myself last year. And quite honestly, I don't like being wet, so I was rather anxious to find a way to dry land.
I sought counsel from the one we will call My Sage. My Sage is wise, indeed, and insightful and inspiring. And most of all, she is trustworthy, straightforward and direct. She does not speak in terms of harmony or inner journeys or finding the right energy. She cuts right to the core and helps me see issues in a new light.
I explained my current state of inertia, that I couldn't seem to move forward and didn't know why.
She asked me simply, "What do you want?"
"Well, I don't know. That's the problem," I answered. "I'm stuck."
"Do you have a bucket list?" she asked.
"I have some ideas, but not really an actual pen and paper list."
"Like what?" she asked, leaning back in her chair, ready to absorb my list.
I was blank. I couldn't come up with anything. I felt the tide creeping up my legs as my feet sunk into the mud. And suddenly a memory of that very thing came flashing back to me.
I was probably 8 years old when my sister, our neighbor, Debbie, and I ran down the trail behind Debbie's house to the bay that bordered our heavily wooded, Oregon Coast neighborhood. The tide was out and we decided to see how far onto the mud flats we could run.
I have no idea who came up with it or why we thought this was a good idea, but we started out on our adventure. Not far into it, we began to sink into the thick, sticky mud. We were stuck and the tide was slowing creeping in.
Being the smallest and lightest, I somehow got my feet dislodged, as did Debbie, but I think she lost a boot in the process. My sister was still stuck and we were all crying. We yelled for help, which in retrospect was a ridiculous solution. Why we didn't run for help, I have no idea.
Miraculously, our neighbor, Mr. Stender, heard our screams for help and came with waders on, shovel in hand. He dug my sister out and carried her to safety.
Now, we weren't supposed to go down to the bay at all. If I'm remembering correctly, I think we had somewhere to go later and we were wearing good clothes. Our mother had said specifically that morning, "Stay clean. And don't go down to the bay." We knew we were in big trouble. There was no way to hide the evidence of this misdeed.
And then sitting there with My Sage, it hit me. The fear we felt being stuck, the helplessness of the situation, the dread of anticipation for the punishment we were about to receive, all of those feeling were exactly what I was feeling in that moment when faced with the question of what I wanted to do next in my life.
Talk about a wild association! It was an Oprah "Ah ha!" moment. Fear was pinning me down, keeping me stuck. Fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of making the wrong decision, fear of the unknown.
"Take little steps," advised My Sage. "Start making a short list of small things that seem attainable, and then do them. Once you have accomplished one, stop and see how you feel. Then go onto the next."
And so I did. I could almost hear the sucking sound of the mud as I pulled my foot out.
The next time I saw My Sage, I had started my bucket list.
"I want to go to Italy," I stated emphatically.
"Be sure to send me a postcard," replied My Sage with a smile. "And take a shovel with you, just in case."
Linda Stamper Boyne, of Edwards, can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.