I want to do small things, take the baby steps. I know.. I know. Weird. Not my typical “Go Getter Goal-Getter” attitude. I think 95% of the time, I am hyper-focused on the NEXT big thing, the next adventure, the next step, the next grow up/glow up. And it’s not that that side of me has disappeared, or really even diminished, but I think I am at a place in my life where I am hitting a wall – the steps (at least, the big ones) are slowing.
That sounds kind of morbid, like I am slowing down the pace that I am living life, until I am slowly just creeping by. That’s not it, I don’t want to be molasses, but I may want to be a tortoise. I want to move forward, but consistently, and regularly, and steadfastly. I don’t have to be the first to cross the finish line, but I sure as hell don’t want to just stop in the middle of the track. Right now, I feel like I have pulled over, car overheated and leaking exhaust, in the middle of the course of life. Somehow, I’ve ended up stuck watching everyone else race by. Let me explain:
My 20s were full of big steps: undergrad, first home, first job, first love, marriage, big trips, and all the exciting things. With the wedding behind us, it feels like the “big” events have started to taper off.
Inevitably, life has to slow down, unless you are a chaos-loving goblin, which I am NOT. If you place your value in those BIG steps, the little things and the everyday, become kind of mundane. The little steps get caught up in the tidal wave that is a massive life change or a huge accomplishment, and before you know it, you’re only celebrating yourself and your accomplishments when you’ve deemed it “earned” and your existence becomes repetitive. The day in and the day out, becomes so incredibly unimportant.. and consequently, the things you are doing day in and day out become equally unimportant too.
I am coming to you (and myself) right this second, to tell you that it is the little moments, the baby steps, that will define your life, cultivate those accomplishments and act as a lighthouse, guiding the (sometimes) lost home. Big moments simply cannot exist without the little, tiny baby steps that make up a big leap. So, I want to take small steps – ant- sized steps. I want to do little things, every day, to make the every day easier. I want to take the steps that I need to take to be happy, to be content, to be me. I think there are a lot of ways that I can accomplish this, and honestly, it’ll probably be ever-changing. As an environment evolves, I presume my mind will also have to evolve.
To start, I think I need to tackle discomfort in conflict (or assumed/interpreted conflict). If you think about it, an attorney, that dislikes conflict, is… pretty contradictory. If nothing else, it has to be considered sort of ironic. I don’t like upsetting people and I hate hurt feelings. I feel with my whole heart, and empathize, to the point that I hold someone’s disappointment and upset, as if it were my own to bear. Lately, I find that I am having trouble with identifying the line – blurring what my responsibilities are. I am not responsible for the feelings of anyone else, but it doesn’t stop me from trying to take on the world, single-handedly. I don’t ever want to disappoint someone, but.. if life has taught me anything.. disappointment is inevitable.
I know that I am not responsible for how others feel. I can be the nicest person in the world, but still be on the wrong side of the topic/event. I can be the kindest version of myself, and still be disliked or disrespected. Finding a way to resolve these conflicting truths – feels like a small, but necessary step. I truly believe that disappointment and pride; happiness and hostility; and accuracy and frustration can all (and DO) coexist. How you deal with this coexistence determines the space your mental health exists.
I’m not sure how a person goes about embracing all of these conflicting ideas, feelings, opinions and thoughts, that seemingly cannot coexist, at least not happily. To me, the smallest step, with the biggest punch, is going to be an attitude adjustment. I think going into any situation, where tension is likely, and feelings are challenging, a positive attitude is going to carry you (me) far. A small step, for me, would be able to find the good in disagreement, the excitement in new knowledge, and the chance at differing perspective. At the end of the day, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone is disappointed, which may or may not have anything to do with me. In the meantime, I gain new insight, I gain a different type of knowledge, I rediscover compassion, and I recenter my own goals.
Back to the ant, it is no secret that an ant can hold invariably more weight than seems possible. We’ve all seen it, the tiny ant with the huge crumb on its back. By taking on other people’s feelings, reactions and expectations, I’m picking up their emotions as if they were a crumb. Stepping like the ant and leaving behind tiny footprints, does not equate to being the carrier ant. It is not my job to feed the colony: it is my job to feed myself, my family and my dogs. When I take on everyone else’s feelings, I am trying to feed the entire colony. While a crumb may be substantially larger than the ant carrying it, it is still limited on its reach. It will only feed so many and will only last for so long. Carrying around other’s feelings is like walking around, breaking off pieces of the crumb to nourish every person/ant who you encounter. Then, when you finally make it to your own little ant hill.. you are so tired, and your crumb is nearly nonexistent, and the people that are stuck paying for it are the ones that mean the most. I can’t hand out crumbs and still feed my anthill. Trying to resolve feelings that are not mine to carry is giving out pieces of a crumb that I need to feed myself and my loved ones.
Today, I am okay with taking the small step, but I’m done with carrying the huge crumbs.. especially the crumbs that are not mine to hold. I’m putting down others’ crumbs. I’ll walk with the ant, but I’ll do it with a lighter load and a grateful heart.
Much like life is a marathon, not a sprint – life is full of steps – all different sized steps. Sometimes, the steps are huge dinosaur steps – the type that leave a mark of your legacy on the world and tell the history of you. Every step cannot leave a legacy, or tell a story, or be deemed “important”. Some steps will be smaller than the “big events” but still pack more meaning than the average step. And then… some steps are simply footsteps, subject to erasure by the sweeping sea of life. After all, even the human footprint, gets erased by the tide, every time. In contrast to the dinosaur-steps are the tiny little ant steps, with seemingly no direct path and carrying far more than seems possible.
Here’s the thing: No matter how small they are, you can always tell where an ant has been. With the smallest of footprints, ants manage to wind a path on a dusty surface, clear a walkway no matter the obstacle, and carry off far more than their little body should be able to manage. You will seldom find an ant alone, they are almost always in groups of likeminded and equally motivated ants. Ants surround themselves with a crowd of similar thinkers and life-experiencers. They may make tiny steps, but together they end up making a big old difference.
It’s not the size of the step, it’s the consistency of the step. It’s the determination behind the step. It’s the attitude and expectation behind the step.
There are Sunny Daze ahead, sweet friends, I just know it. 🌞 let me know what steps – big or little – you are taking this week!
One thought on “Ants leave footprints, too.”
Every big accomplishment was made by 1000 small steps. The ants know that.
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