We all have a limit to what we can give of ourselves. We have a limited amount of patience, of sacrifice, of grace. We have a well that is only as deep as our experience has dug it out. We draw from this well when we treat people favorably in tough situations, when we love people who have hurt or wronged us, when we give generously of ourselves and our resources. If we aren’t mindful we can empty ourselves pouring into others and as we go back to the well one day we realize we are thirsty and there is no fresh water left to drink.
This is how I have felt recently. I’ve felt empty – like I have nothing left to give and yet am unable to retreat from life’s tasks.
When I was at the beginning of this particular section of the journey I am on I had the distinct impression that I was “taking a step in the right direction.” I interpreted that to mean that I would spend some time learning valuable new skills that directly influenced my life’s trajectory. I interpreted that to mean that I would potentially be launched into something new like I have had the experience of before. I put a lot of hope and expectation into the new path I was choosing, wanting so badly for it to heal some wounds, refresh my view and make me stronger. As I look back I feel like I am more aware of my wounds, a little more broken than I realized and much more disappointed that I am so weak and tired. I have rarely walked away from something with so little to show for it and it makes it hard to believe that the time and effort was really worth it.
Processing all this led me into the forest this weekend. It is the place where I usually gather myself back up, allowing the deep roots of the trees to be part of my knitting back together and accepting the sweet smell of the woods to soothe my soul. I stepped onto a trailhead that curved away from the road and quickly was struck with the fact that I had no idea what was around the corner, but I felt anxious to put my feet on the path. I walked steadily and breathed deeply and soaked as fully as I could in the green and leaves, in the river and rock, in the moss and chirp. I walked and would stop for a moment noticing drops of water, mist rising, the feel of sunshine on my face. I walked and would stop to gaze at a tumbling waterfall, a tree thick with age and wisdom, the intricate growth of ferns and flowers. I walked and stopped along the path for several miles and several hours with no sight of another person and saturated with beauty and light. It was more magical of a path then I expected and the time was refreshing as I buried myself deeper into the woods.
Walking along at one point, just before I turned to retrace my steps out of the wonder, I realized that on this path I would walk ten or twenty or thirty unremarkable steps just to stop at something inspiring. Those ten or twenty or thirty steps went by without thought but were just as important in getting me to the place were I stood in awe as the final one that revealed it. Ten or twenty or thirty steps that were barely noticed. Ten or twenty or thirty steps that seemed to have little purpose, but were integral in the milestones of my short walk.
With this wisdom from the woods, I look back on what seems an unremarkable thirteen months of life and I find myself a little more thankful. I am one step closer to something worth stopping and gazing at with awe. Maybe I have taken one of the steps in the right direction after all.