We have all played that childhood game of walking along a narrow beam of wood. That beam lines the garden plot of our childhood home. Or perhaps it’s an abandoned train track (I hope). Or maybe you were bored and found a piece of wood lying near a park. The game was to walk along the beam without falling off - to rebalance yourself when it changed. Perhaps it was slippery from old moss and rain like the one in my childhood garden. Or it was uneven, punctuated with nails or of old uneven surface.
You’d walk along the wood, almost stumbling along. Sometimes you’d steel yourself to gain your balance and put your arms out like a cross until you stopped wobbling. Other times, you’d realize that you’d never quite be able to get back to balance. So you’d run across the beam as fast as you could to get to the end without falling off.
You might have raced with siblings or neighbourhood friends to see who could make it from one end to the other without falling off or letting their foot touch the ground.
This is how, in our own sneaky childhood way, we learned to change our foothold to meet our surroundings. This is how our brains learned to assess when we’d have to move faster or when we’d have a moment to slow down and regain our balance.
For 2019, I’m choosing the word Adapt as my word of the year.
My tendency has always been to hold on to everything for dear life. Anything that could be used to pad out a safety net for myself is something I would keep, even when it became useless. This isn’t to say I have an inability to change - it simply means that it’s never been easy.
Part of the strength of being able to be steadfast to my own truth is that I’m fully and completely aware of the person I am and why I became her. But that’s never the entire story. When we hold fast to the only things we know, we shut ourselves out of the opportunity to know other parts of ourselves.
I’ll be the first to admit that I get bogged down more and more the older I get. Sometimes there are just too many things to do, not enough focus to do them, and too many people who are counting on you to be just so. But on days when I’m sitting by myself I realize it’s because I’ve accumulated so much without letting some of it go.
In order to journey forward, I’ll use this year to adapt my load to the next journey. Some habits may have worked in the past, but they don’t work now. And rather than resent their exit, it’s perhaps better to wave goodbye and make room.
Life though, has a funny way of putting you through the things you never imagine for yourself - for better and worse. And in the end the difference between the ingenious solution and the part where we fall short is our ability to adapt. Not all of it is going to be good and not all of it is going to enable us to think beyond our own capabilities. Some things in life are a downright slog. A breeze, a noise in the woods, your own thoughts can cause you to lose focus for just one second. Before you know it, you’re on the ground again. But even when the going gets tough and we can’t regain our footing, we can run toward the end or step off for a moment. That’s adapting too. It’s knowing that you just have to stumble through until you’re on safe ground again.
The ground isn’t that far away and it will always rise up to meet you until you’re ready to hop back on. And that’s comforting.