We humans can do a lot when we’re standing on solid ground. We even like etching some routines into stone…as long as we don’t feel we’re in a rut.
We can handle a little slippery. It can be kinda fun!
And we can handle a little stuck. But not for long.
I was 7 years old, walking to school one damp, cloudy morning, wearing my favorite purple school dress. Feeling especially carefree, because it was spring and spring does that to me, I swished my ponytail, half skipping, half galloping. And my dress was so lovely with its deep pockets and pink flowers and matching triangle scarf on my head. My friend Janice was ahead of me, waiting at our usual spot—-an empty field, in front of the 5-foot-high dirt pile. That’s when I took note of the most amazing sight: this ordinary heap of dirt was now a shiny, glistening, beckoning blob of mud! Today, and today only, while supplies last. It was meant for climbing.
Why, oh why did I do it? I was standing on solid ground! And it is that very fact that gave me the confidence to shake things up a bit~!
Janice warned me. But Mom had insisted I wear my rubber boots “just in case it rains,” so I, in turn, insisted to Janice that I was dressed for the occasion. But, you guessed it. Halfway up that muddy mound, I slipped and slid and rolled to the bottom in a soggy heap. I stood up bawling, with so much sticky goo on my hands I could only smear more mud on my lovely purple dress. I literally had no idea what to do next–failing at my ascent had never crossed my mind. What’s Plan B when you’re 7 years old??
To my dismay (and I do recall scolding Janice for this), she ran off to school and I hobbled home by myself, sobbing. Well, Mom was gentle and kind about the mishap, and cleaned me up nicely and drove me safely to school, where Janice and Teacher smilingly awaited my arrival.
That’s my best memory of mud. But it’s a wonderful metaphor. While some personalities are more comfortable steadying themselves on things that are “rock solid,” others of us go out of our way to add that little piece of messiness, with no explanation. Conquering mud heaps just seems obvious!
There are times in each of our lives where we feel nudged toward whimsical, adventurous things. Other times we crave routine, stability, assurance. And RE-assurance.
So, why did I make that choice to leave my path and climb something? The Big Answer is…I-felt-like-it. And for the very reason that I was feeling secure, I ventured forth. Had I not been able to take for granted that the road beneath me was sturdy ground, it would not have occurred to me to deviate from the routine. In the middle of an earthquake, spontaneous fun is out the window.
Here’s another reason I circumvented the routine–I could count on my good and loyal friend to be standing at our designated spot, lunchbox in hand. Would I have noticed that mound of mud, otherwise? Would I have expressed my joyfulness at its playful beckoning if I were alone? Was it perhaps her presence that nudged me to feel free to explore it?
Another Security or Assurance need that was met–despite my utter failure at reaching the top–was that I knew where to turn for help when I faltered. Once I overcame the shock, I was pretty sure Mom would be home and would open the door for me–or at least hose me off! Though it’s true I wondered how mad she’d be, I was secure in her love. AND I had every expectation that she had the know-how to get mudstains out of daughters’ favorite dresses.
The mud pile was an invitation to try something different and fun. But what if I spent my whole life on a slippery slope? Would that be fun? Instability would become my focus. I’d spend enormous energy grappling with simply keeping my balance. Who wants that? Forget about anything whimsical or novel; I’d be too busy getting my feet back under me. The lack of Certainty would be a constant demand. The search would consume me.
It’s not hard to imagine what Security does for my students. Those whose parents are in and out of the home, in and out of jobs, in and out of jail–their family suffers because of that. There are certain things that we humans just need to take for granted. When we don’t have to worry about the ground beneath us, we feel safer to take risks. Is that always a good thing? Of course not! But with a sure foundation, our feet have something to push against as we launch. If that launching is an epic fail, and we have enough stability to ground ourselves, we can regroup and try again. Or go for another hill. Or dust ourselves off and declare, “Lesson learned!”
Everything that happened that day, minus the little slipping incident, is evidence to me that I could count on key things to stay in place. How important it is to have stability! I had such assurance of being in control that when I broke out of my routine and explored something different, I was completely confident to do so. When the resulting fail stunned me, I knew where to go to regroup.
Let’s recognize and celebrate those ways in which we stand on solid ground. And to share our appreciation with those people in our lives who help supply a sense of security. Whether our attempts are small mounds or huge mountains, we thrive when we recognize that stability is often the birthplace of a magnificent launch!