Or, be dragged kicking and screaming. You’re going either way
The future comes for us whether we are ready or not. While I practice living in the present as often as I remember to, I am aware of how quickly the future approaches, based on how quickly preceding years have seemed to fly by. Mindfulness helps slow the passage of time, but nothing can stop it, short of death. Most of us agree life is better than death, which includes the future, so why do we struggle and fight against it?
Andrew Knott writes stories about raising his children that remind me of my own struggles raising my son alone. Those reminders lead me to remember the lesson’s my son taught me when he was a toddler. They can be amazing little gurus.
Have you ever attempted to pick a toddler up off the floor when they didn’t want to be moved? Unless you are a bodybuilder, a professional wrestler, or a wizard with a levitation spell, it can’t be done. In Aikido, we teach the same skill of grounding yourself so powerfully no one can lift you, at least not without extreme effort. This is useful for stubborn toddlers and those of us who prefer not to be knocked off our feet. But there is a limit to it’s usefulness.
The toddler may temporarily win the battle, but they eventually have to get up. Staying supine on the floor means that not only do they not have to do what the parent directs, or go where the parent wants, it also means they don’t get goodies like toys and food. The Aikido practitioner stays on their feet, but at some point they have to actively engage the opponent, by moving into the attack and sending the opponent flying. I’m sure toddlers would do the same to us if they could.
Toddlers, in general, do go boldly into the world and the future. They have no preconceptions to hold them back. As R. Buckminster Fuller pointed out, toddlers don’t learn to walk right foot, wrong foot. They learn to walk right foot, left foot. When they fall in the attempt, they may fuss for a minute, or not, but either way they get up and try again. My own son, when walking between my sister and me, fell and turned and glared at her like it was her fault. But then he got up and kept coming to me. Milton Erickson, the reknowned hypnotherapist, was paralyzed as a young man. He taught himself to walk again by watching and modeling after his baby brother as the baby learned to walk, lizard crawling first, then crawling, then finally walking.
Staying sedentary, or stuck in flight or freeze does not stop the future from arriving. Nor does it slow it’s approach. As any toddler can tell you, if they had the vocabulary, heading into the fray is the only way to approach the future, friends, skill building and the rest of life. When I took my son when he was three to check out daycares, he made me understand I had kept him home too long. When we got out of the car, my son spotted children on the playground, shouted, “Kids,” and took off toward them at a full run.
Children embrace life, until we inculcate them with our own fears. They taste food to see if they like it, and spit it out if they don’t. They play in the rain and mud given any opportunity. They ask “Why” over and over until we give them a satisfactory answer. When and how do we lose that capacity to experience life as we get older?
I recently spent nearly a year more sedentary than normal after a knee injury. I injured it in dance class, hearing a loud “pop” while executing a move. I was first unable to dance, and then afraid to for months, and that had been my major movement exercise. Plus it’s fun. I gained weight. Life was less enjoyable. Eventually the other knee started hurting, and then my lower back. Every medical professional I consulted said the same thing. Move More. I now do restorative yoga, pool exercises and, yes, I am dancing again. Nothing hurts while I dance and for a long time after. Movement really was the answer.
There are many reasons people shut down and become as heavily weighed down as a toddler who doesn’t want to be moved. Depression, anxiety, life disappointments, trauma, stubbornness, fear, laziness, injury, addictions. These are reasons, but they must not become self-fulfilling. You can get help with any and all of the above. No one will drag you kicking and screaming to get help, but life will keep on happening just the same. So get up and walk, even if you have to learn all over again.
Realize that there is no right foot, wrong foot. According to R. Buckminster Fuller, everything thing we try has an outcome. Not a right or wrong outcome, simply an outcome. The great inventor didn’t believe in failure. When a baby spits out a food, it isn’t because the food is intrinsically bad, it’s just not what is wanted at that time. When we do something and fail at it, we learn better ways to do it, and like a toddler learning to walk, we pick ourselves up and do it again. Or, we move on to another activity and endeavor and do it. As Yoda says, “There is no try, there is only do.”
“What you can do begin it; Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Goethe