“What I have found to be true in every case––in my personal life and my writing life––is that the death of the dream creates the space for what is actually intended to come through: what is, in the end, a better fit than we ever could have imagined.” ~Sage Cohen
I had an interesting talk with a friend today about how difficult it can be to stick with progress that comes in the form of baby steps when we were conditioned early on that it was not worth doing anything that we couldn’t do perfectly (or at least awfully close to it) from the start. I am slowly getting better at celebrating my baby step progress in some areas in my life while still being woefully reluctant to even try anything that I don’t think I can do perfectly from the start in others.
Our conversation got me pondering this discrepancy. Why am I willing to persevere with my baby steps in some areas while refusing to even try in others?
Sage Cohen’s recent blog post The death of the dream could be birth of unprecedented possibility helped me find one answer. It’s been the death of a dream of some kind through this process of transformation over the last year or so that has created the spaces where I am now content with baby steps. It’s those areas where everything I’d ever aimed for has come crashing down so completely that the only way I know to move forward is with baby steps as I wait for new dreams to show themselves.
In this sense, I am taking baby steps not only in the sense of taking small steps in some direction, but also in the sense of taking the unsteady, risky, teetering steps of a baby learning to walk for the first time. When parts of my life have died so thoroughly that I need to learn how to walk anew in order to navigate my space, I am learning to be content with the small, faltering steps of a baby (including the frequent abrupt halts from landing flat on my butt) because those are the only steps available to me to move from death to new life.
In these areas, if I wait to move until I can walk with perfect grace, I will spend the rest of my days waiting among the ruins, and I’ve decided that life is too short for that. And so I am willing for the first time in my life to truly celebrate my baby steps, imperfect as they are.
I look back at the list I made a little over six months ago of all the things I would do if I were brave, and I find that I have made progress on some of them: I did quit my job, I’ve continued blogging steadily for over six months now, I am training to be a yoga teacher, and I am coming out to more people all the time. What a joy to look back and see where my baby steps have taken me already!
The areas where I’ve made the most progress are the areas that are closest to my heart and the areas where the biggest deaths have occurred leaving me with greater freedom and incentive to baby step toward progress. Other things I haven’t even thought much about since then (like mountain climbing) are not as dear to my heart and are completely disconnected from any area in my life where I’ve experienced the death of a dream. (If I had been facing health challenges, this might be a different story, and climbing might have moved up in priority for me.)
I wouldn’t wish kind of death of a dream (or dreams) process on anyone, but I have to agree with Sage that it is bringing with it a continued opening of unprecedented possibilities in so many ways. I’m growing in ways and in places where I’ve been stuck for as long as I can remember. I’m even finding my whole worldview (and selfview) shifted. It’s frightening, it’s exhilarating, it’s a work in progress. And that’s ok.
I’m excited to discover that I’m learning to appreciate my baby steps—small, slow, and faltering as they may be. Even with all of the landing on my butt that I do, it’s still forward progress back into the land of the living. Even better, it’s steering me into a land of truly living from the heart, a place I’ve never been but am longing to experience.
The next time I’m feeling not-so-brave and am tempted to hide away until I can get it right, I’m going to remind myself of how far my baby steps have brought me so far!
A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a very fragile place, and it takes a good deal of vulnerability to share this personal journey of transformation so openly. Therefore, I need this to be a safe place for exploration and sharing for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight—or the expression of that experience or insight—are NOT welcome here and will be deleted.