Remember Your Feet
“I have faith in longing, wherever it finds me. And often it finds me at unpredictable and inconvenient moments. It’s like a door that suddenly opens. I am never prepared. There is no preparation for the way it takes me and leaves, for the fierceness of the ache. It is the voice of the parts of myself I have left behind in the deals I have tried to make with life, trying to trade pieces of my dreams for promises of safety.”
-Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Invitation
Once a mind and heart are open, there is no going back to sleep. No amount of temporary comfort or satiation that will satisfy the longing that has awakened. It’s a blessing and a curse, all at once. Once you’ve chosen to be mindful and accountable, it’s simply not possible to chase distraction without noticing that is what you’re doing. That’s all it is, really. A soft inhale, exhale and observation: look, I’m distracting again. And you make a choice. A wide awake choice. You either gently stop, examine what is driving your bus and acknowledge it- or you don’t. There’s no judgment in the examination, it’s just a ‘noticing’. Just like you might look down at your quads after working with heavy sets of dumbbells and notice that your quads are bruised. There’s no particular need to do anything about it, no need to “solve it”, it just sort of… is.
It does make it harder to swim in the shallow end of the pool. Small talk and banal chatter become annoying background noise when you crave a meaningful connection, conversation. There’s a simple magic in choosing to forego easy comfort for the sake of actual hard-earned peace of mind. Do the work, and surround yourself with others who are choosing to do the same. It’s easy to wall off your heart, to cold-block emotions, to internalize, to refuse to deal with your feelings: that’s easy. Anyone can do that. And every single one of us has, at one point or another, for various reasons. Choosing to build a life with a construct of emotional barriers and blockades is one way to go- I know. I have lived in two marriages with two very different people for a total of twenty years and that is the one thing they both had in common. I chose differently. I choose differently, every single day. That’s the beauty of being human: we have a choice.
Today, this day, I choose me. Exactly as I am. Bruised quads, bruised heart and all. I choose love. Even if it means walking alone, there is more love in my heart and life today than there has ever, ever been.
This life offers each of us an invitation: grow or die. You can live your life as a dead person walking, emotionally shut down, choosing to magnify the importance of a job and its demands over the time spent with family and friends- you can choose to numb each day’s end with alcohol and mindless television. You can choose to shop until your bank account bleeds. You can mine social media and the ‘news’ and harvest the endless angst it offers. You can choose to run endless miles until your brain stops screaming at you to… stop and listen to your feet. None of these things, in and of themselves, is a bad thing: work is important, diligence is necessary, alcohol is good medicine, television may have its place, running is essential… but when we take gods and make them into demons, we break. We disallow our own intuition, our own strength, our own healing. Deep down, each of us knows instinctively the difference between necessity and distraction. Our fault lies in forgetting our own wisdom- nothing else.
Remember your feet. They have carried you every step of this life’s journey. They have folded, toes tucked under, as you wept beside the bed of your broken, sick, feverish child. They have splayed, toes wide, as you gave everything you had to bring that same child into the world. They have broken as you pounded a heavy bag with ten thousand high turning kicks. They have mended, as you gently flexed your fingers between each toe as you melted into your yoga mat. They have gripped other mats with every ounce of toe strength as you grappled with an opponent that outweighed you by fifty pounds and twenty years of experience. They have frozen. Hard. Trapped and swollen at altitude in mountaineering boots that wouldn’t be removed for another eighteen hours. They have blackened. They have blown their very ends off like little hideous volcanoes, rupturing nail beds and leaving you vomiting hope at basecamp. Your feet have carried you. They have relentlessly stretched to accommodate a 150 pound weight gain and loss, they have flattened under the weight of 80 pound packs and your injured child who could no longer walk to the outhouse at -30F. Your feet have run those marathons, those ultras, those sprint hill repeats. Those feet have ached like a thousand burning suns and they have given you the compassion to cradle your child’s feet in your weary hands and massage hers after she worked a long shift on a hot summer day.
Remember your feet. Trust your feet.
Your feet long for the open road, for sun and wind and sand and dusty trails and paths never traveled. Your feet long for you to wake up, to acknowledge the sacred, beautiful life that you have. Your feet were made for walking, for climbing, for running and trekking and swimming and cycling- they were made for sand castles and rope swings and iced tea spilled on an 80 degree bluebird day. They offer an invitation… all you have to do is listen.
Wherever this journey takes you, your feet will carry you there and they will bring you home.