I recently got cleared by my podiatrist to take a fifteen-minute walk outside.
That sentence does not adequately express the magnitude of this permission.
Trust me when I say that being able to do this after a year of excruciating pain and months of immobility felt miraculous.
When it was time, I excitedly dropped my 14-year-old daughter off at tennis practice. I parked at the swim center where I used to enjoy walking across the bridge above the trees to reach my quiet path.
Six minutes into my gentle walk, I stopped.
There, next to my quiet path was an abandoned shopping cart.
In the countless number of times I've walked that path, never had I come across a shopping cart there.
I tried to walk away… I really did. But my brain and heart joined forces and said, “You should return the cart.”
But my foot…
But the heat…
But the looks I’m going to get…
None of those excuses held up, and before I knew it, I was pushing that dumb cart up the hill.
Along the way, I passed a fellow walker. Naturally, I felt the need to explain.
“There’s another cart behind the library dumpster,” the woman said to me.
Are you kidding me?
She wasn’t kidding.
Sure enough, there was another cart, a very long way from home, even more faded and stiff than its counterpart.
I joined the two carts, feeling weirdly better that they were now heading home together.
Being able to hold on to the handles and lean on the shopping carts as I walked allowed for unexpected support.
‘I got this,’ I thought confidently to myself as I crossed over the bridge, pushing the two carts, now joined together.
Up the grassy incline where there was no sidewalk,
Past the gawking breakfast diners,
Alongside the heavy morning traffic,
Through the blazing hot parking lot,
I pushed those abandoned carts
Until they were safely home.
Of course, I needed to sit down immediately after that adventure and rest my foot, which was good because I really needed to have a talk with myself.
Once seated in a bit of shade, the questions came rapidly.
What in the WORLD!?
Why the heck did you do that?
What were you thinking, Rachel?
Why couldn’t you just leave the cart there and take your nice, little fifteen-minute walk as directed?
I tried very hard NOT to judge myself or think about what my doctor (or my concerned family members) would say about this decision. I tried very hard to be compassionate, curious, and open.
So, I very gently asked myself the real question:
Why was this so important to you?
And that is when the tears started to fall.
The truth is, things have been really, really out of sorts for me lately.
Physically, I’ve been derailed. Sitting and not doing, learning to exist in ways that are all new to me has been hard.
Professionally, I’ve been challenged. Creating my first audio series for a renowned publishing company, working in ways that are new to me has been hard.
Emotionally, I’ve been disoriented. Coping with depression and hopelessness in ways that are all new to me has been hard.
Relationally, I’ve had the rug pulled out from beneath me. Learning to love and understand my younger daughter in ways that are all new to me has been hard.
The relational piece… that is the one I’m reeling from the most.
To find out that while I was so busy handling the logistics of my child’s on-going medical issue that I missed the emotional trauma it inflicted… well, that pretty much causes a person to doubt everything.
When talking to a mental health professional together last week, I saw with painful clarity how far from home… how faded and bruised… my child had gotten.
I realized that returning to some sense of normalcy… a place of peace and trust… is not going to be easy.
It’s not going to be a quick push in the right direction,
a short sprint,
an easy fix,
or a minor adjustment to get back on track.
Returning to a thriving place is going to take real effort.
Going uphill through the mud,
With unwanted stares from passersby,
One step forward and ten steps back.
But… there’s something really, really hopeful about the fact that NOW YOU KNOW.
‘This is not supposed to be here,' your heart and brain say with clarity.
And you know it’s not an accident that you're the one who is here, seeing something you never saw before.
Return the cart.
I don’t know how or why or when… but I’m starting up the hill.
My heart and mind have joined forces, bracing me with unexpected determination to take this leg of the parenting journey one gentle step at a time.
Who knows? Perhaps along the way, ONE will become TWO.
I hope it is so.
Together, we can walk each other home, no matter how long it takes.
My friends, I can honestly say I would not have been able to face these painful truths and use them as catalysts for growth, connection, and awareness had it not been for the work I’ve been doing over the past three years with my Soul Shift groups. Although I will be taking the month of July away from social media as I do every summer, I will continue listening, learning, and collecting insights to share in the upcoming Soul Shift online course that begins on September 6. If you’d like to be notified when registration opens for this supportive, self-paced journey, click here. There is also a very special opportunity to experience the Soul Shift weekend workshop in person this year at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. For all of the details about this restorative experience, click here. Whether you’ve done the Soul Shift course once, multiple times, or never even heard of it, the weekend workshop is connective, transformative, and deeply encouraging. (See testimony from a past participant below)
My friends, thank you for allowing me to be human… to live, learn, laugh, and grow with your hand in mine. I love you dearly.
Testimony from a Soul Shift Retreat participant:
“The Soul Shift weekend retreat, led with loving hands by Rachel Macy Stafford, fueled me far more than anything I have experienced throughout the past five years my life. Not only was I able to connect with myself and nature, but also the connectedness I felt with the other participants was unprecedented. Everywhere I turned, there was a welcoming face, gentle hands, and encouraging words to support my path. It is this softness that I still carry with me today. The way things look and feel are different, because I am different. I am more ‘me’ than I have ever been. I look forward to continued solace and growth as I take steps to integrate the components I learned at the retreat along with the ways my heart felt connected to something much bigger than myself.” -K.L.