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Control, discomfort, and finding our way when we can't even see our next step.
I remember when my kids were small enough to fit into a bath together. Those two and their cute little buns squeaking against the bottom of the tub. Their giggles and high-pitched voices spilling into the room. The nostalgia of their nonsense gibberish and soap-covered mohawks makes my heart so full.
My son's blonde ringlets gave way to a teenage flow. Stuffed under a baseball cap and paired with a uniform, we spent his elementary and middle school years watching those curls bounce around the field. If he was breathing, he was thinking about, practicing, or playing baseball. Plans for a Major League career had already taken a tight hold.
But a thirteenth birthday came, and with it went the obsession of baseball.
Before Easton shared the news he was calling it quits, he came into my room. Curious. Pensive. He hadn't yet made the decision and he wanted some help. He had been sick and was getting caught up at school. He was overwhelmed and had the wisdom to ask for some space to breathe.
We took long walks barefoot in the grass. We sat with our backs against the trunks of trees. We waded in the river with the silt between our toes. He slept. We talked. He evaluated the perspective he needed and who he needed it from. He listened to what his heart really wanted.
He made his decision. And then my doubt and fear of the unknown filed right in.
What if this is a mistake?
What if this is the wrong choice?
What if he changes his mind and he can't go back?
What if this doesn't work out in his favor?
What if he is haunted by regret?
What if this brings him pain?
What if he struggles in the discomfort as he finds his way?
What if I struggle with his discomfort as he finds his way?
Sometimes I hold on really tightly to the things I have in my life — even if it's something I'm not really enjoying and don't really want — just because it gives me something certain I can have in my grasp. The vastness of the uncertainty can feel so dark and bottomless that there are moments when I convince myself to stay exactly where I am. Don’t take a risk. Don’t change anything. Don’t stray from exactly this. I can see this and I can count on this. I know this and this is comfortable so it must be right and true for me.
But even those things are just as uncertain as what I can't yet see. And at the end of the day, there really is no way to know what will happen until I try something and learn. And if I'm not brave enough to listen to my heart, trust myself, and risk being "wrong," I won’t learn anything. And neither will Easton.
Many years ago, I remember reading the book Love Warrior. What I remember most is what we do as parents when our kids are in struggle. As by-standers to their discomfort, it can be unbearable so we try to control it. We want to alleviate their pain so we fix and solve and pave the path for them. We remove all the difficulties. We remove their barriers. We take away all of the opportunities for them to build their character and resilience in an attempt to save ourselves from our own discomfort. We forget that our most important role is to show up and pave the path with them. To follow their lead.
There are lots of things I want to teach Easton, but what I'm realizing is that it's more about what he's here to teach me.
Easton is teaching me that my best life is built from having the courage to move through all the pain and discomfort I experience from the decisions I’m making. All of the fear, all of the doubt, all of the disappointment, all of the heartbreak, all of the falls. He already knows — and trusts — that he is capable of feeling it all and finding his way to his feet. Stronger than ever and with clear seeing.
Easton is teaching me that my inherent wisdom and self-trust are completely separate from the results of my decisions. When decisions don't turn out as I had hoped, it doesn't mean I doubt or question myself or my worthiness. It just means I get to choose again. And the disappointment that I may feel as I'm learning through the uncertainty is nothing compared to what I would experience had I chosen not to risk or make a move at all.
Easton is teaching me that listening to and trusting myself — when I can't even see the next step — is the most important step of all. There's a lot of noise in our lives. A lot of opinions. A lot of expectations. A lot of pressure to be right and to know. The bravest humans I know acknowledge that life is a constant process of letting go of what we know — and have in our grasp — and getting quiet to find our way. They slow down. They make space. They rest. They listen. And when the uncertainty is too overwhelming, they lay on the ground to feel supported by the earth beneath.
They know, like Easton, that listening to ourselves and trusting our incredibly wise hearts is how we will always find our way.