Floundering Towards Grace:
Making Big Moves with Small Steps
I think one of the things that has made me successful in life is I’m willing to do things that are not flattering. I have been willing to not have it “all together,” and to still believe I stood on a path that promised more security than any other road in the world. I left a fancy legal career and waited tables, yes, touched food, so I could explore my life and my writing. I counted my dimes and quarters. I lived in a tiny hat-sized apartment. I lived a life that did not look grand. But I had the humility, somewhere inside me, to know that I was making big moves with tiny steps.
I remember when I first changed my career, I was terrified about THE FUTURE. I couldn’t see where I was going and part of that, was because I had my head wedged in the fridge, looking for solace and clarity. But an inner voice told me at the time, “If you stick with the courage to do this, you will be an expert for others in years to come.” At the time I thought, yeah right, who needs an expert in freaking out? But today I do speak to thousands, and fans have told me repeatedly that my book This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love is the Bible for anybody in transition. It turns out, I do know how to freak out, but I also know how to keep going–and how to claim grace.
You know, these many years later, I do have something to say. It’s this. It’s all worth it. It’s safe. If you stay true to yourself, you will find your way. The way may look like the end of all you know, or a back alley filled with litter and stink that couldn’t possibly lead to the solid ground and garden that calls to your soul. But don’t be fooled by appearances. Take your steps with your heart and not your eyes. This is what it means to be humble. It means you’re willing to stay true to your spirit, to stand in a mansion, even when others see you as crawling on your knees. It means you’re willing to take small steps, steps that may seem nameless and unremarkable to others, but steps it may have taken you an entire lifetime to dare. There is no size or shape in matters of spirit. Big and small are measurements from a world of sadness.
Ours is a culture that does not encourage emotional honesty. If someone speaks a truthful feeling, it’s like spilling grape juice on a white linen tablecloth. Everybody wants to dab at it and clean it up as soon as possible, disturbed by witnessing imperfection. Humility is staying true to yourself, admitting your feelings, and knowing that you are part of a larger Perfection and even though you’re feeling shaky, you’re right on track with all that is important.
It takes so much courage to stand in the middle of the storm of actual life. Most people run for cover. Most will make impulsive choices, just to have a title, a definition, a proper role, and an answer at a cocktail party. But you can’t force love, strength, or progress. If you run for cover, the storm will never pass. It will live in the chambers of your heart and the lining of your stomach. You can’t grow strong by hiding from your fear.
Despite how it seems, your confusion is not a million miles deep. Give yourself time. When you quiet down and face yourself, you will sort this out. The Big You, the creative, sacred, shape-shifter will whisper something in your ear and you may feel holy and alive, even while an old life is dying. It is possible to stand in a pile of wreckage and know an “embarrassment of riches,” instead of just embarrassment.
It’s up to you how you choose to see your experience. Only you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s the motivation that gives the action (or inaction) its magnitude or debasement. In the process of building my speaking career, I have spoken for free at different organizations. Others told me to “respect myself,” and not give away my work. But I was respecting myself. I was building my skills, confidence, connections, and visibility. Humility allowed me to put myself in positions that didn’t flatter me, though they did honor me; they helped me shine from the inside out. This willingness enabled me to build a growing and thriving national organization.
Humility is taking child’s pose, the resting pose, in the practice of yoga. It isn’t an indignity. It’s a necessity if you really want to grow. If you don’t take small, organic steps, you can hurt yourself and set yourself back a thousand years. Taking a pose that isn’t flashy, doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re patient and resolved. It means you respect the journey and yourself, and you trust you will arrive when it’s your time to arrive.
The other day I saw my new champion of humility. I saw a large, very overweight woman beginning to run on a trail in the park by herself. I felt tears fill my eyes, the same kind of tears you get when you see a ballet or an Olympic athlete tear through the finish line. I was moved by her quiet bravery, her courage and commitment to herself. She was as breathtaking as the yellow roses taking their place in the sun. I wanted to hug her and thank her on behalf of all of humanity. This was a human being exposing herself to new life, even while in pain, straining and shaking, shimmering in vulnerabilityand power.
When you watch a baby take a first step, you know that dancing, hiking, and running will follow. The world is in that wobble and fall. This is what I want for you. I want you to encourage yourself to stay with the process, stay in the unknown, take steps that no one else will applaud, and encourage and empower yourself. I want you to commit to the Grandness of Your Soul Expressed and to take every choppy, half-baked step to get there. I want you to know the nobility of floundering. This isn’t a walk on the red carpet. But it is a ride on a flying carpet. I want you to soar inside yourself because you know how frightened you are, and yet you’re still choosing the truth inside you, even on days when you can’t remember why. Dare to give yourself that wobble. Dare to give yourself the world.
With my love and blessings,
©Copyright 2009 Tama J. Kieves. All rights reserved.
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