Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He said and did so much to inspire many generations. A quote that really resonates with me is this one:
Easier said than done. That staircase represents change. Often we wait until we're ready to climb, expecting to effortlessly bound up those stairs without losing a step or falling.
That's not how change happens. It's slow, often facilitated by blind faith, with many falls, stumbles and blocks along the way. As author and Huffington Post blogger, Iris Ruth Pastor says, change is a result of "mouse steps, not kangaroo steps."
In her upcoming book, Iris writes a moving account of her recovery from an eating disorder. I'm thrilled to share her wisdom about patience - in eating disorder recovery, and in life.
Take it away, Iris!
Lessons Learned Along the Way
by Iris Ruth Pastor
Within minutes of Nelson Mandela’s death in early December 2013, we are deluged with information about his life: a conqueror of apartheid, the first black president of South Africa, a master compromiser and a champion peace broker.
One facet of his multi-layered life particularly fascinates me: how did he emerge from 27 years of wrongful imprisonment devoid of bitterness and rancor?
Myriad sources cite Mandela’s anger in his early years of confinement. As time passed, however, Mandela noted that he began to recognize that “hating clouds the mind and gets in the way of strategy.” (The New York Times, Dec. 6, 2013).
If he wanted to achieve lifelong dreams and ambitions, he realized he needed to control what was still left for him to control - his heart, his head, his thoughts and his attitude - or his captors would have indeed triumphed. Nelson Mandela entered prison as a revolutionary and emerged as a statesman.
I wonder how much time we all spend in a cage of our own making – raging about things we can’t control - rather than concentrating on strategies that will strengthen our wills and help achieve our desired results?
Clearly, quite often I find myself stuck in neutral – trying to keep from unraveling as I try to come to terms with my disordered eating. I witness normal eating among my peers, and yet remain unprepared for and incapable of fully and effectively embracing that paradign.
Perhaps I should think about shifting gears like Cheryl Strayed did. Reeling from the loss of her beloved mother, her life at age 22 was spiraling downward. Her family had fragmented and scattered. She was dabbling in heroin and free sex, estranged from her husband and employed in a series of dead-end jobs.
In a desperate attempt to cure her of herself, Strayed decides that hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone - from the Mojave Dessert through California and Oregon to Washington - will be her path to salvation. That walking with no discernible reason but just to observe the wonders of nature would prove restorative. Years later, she documents her journey in Wild, a book gracing The New York Times Best Seller List for over 35 weeks.
Strayed suffers from her inexperience: not budgeting for enough money to adequately see her through from outpost to outpost. She ignores admonishments about weighty backpacks, neglects to talk to anyone who has actually hiked the trail before her, and does woefully little physical training to prepare her for the rigors the trek will present.
She encounters dessert heat, frigid mountain air, rattlesnakes, eroded trails and a near rape from a lusty, lecherous mountain man. She endures massive foot blisters, bruising, hunger, thirst, exhaustion and loneliness.
Among her many notable trials and triumphs on the trail, I am most drawn to one part of it: the beginning. She wakes up the morning she is to start her journey in a seedy, cheap motel 12 miles from the trail. She has trouble even lifting her back pack to position it across her back. And when she finally maneuvers that feat, she is already exhausted. Nevertheless, she closes the motel room door and steps into a parking light drenched in daylight.
She realizes quickly – with great trepidation – that she is going to have to hitch a ride with strangers unless she wants to walk the 12 miles to the trail’s entrance in the searing heat of a June day. Two men in a minivan with Colorado plates offer her a ride. She climbs in gingerly, hoping she won’t get murdered. Thirty uneventful minutes later, they drop her off on a silent highway. She begins walking toward a fence post supporting a palm sized sign reading “Pacific Crest Trail.” She staggers the first few steps down the trail. She finds the trail register in a metal box nearby and signs it. She resumes walking.
Her journey had begun. There were no crowds heaving fistfuls of graffiti. No cheering loved ones throwing kisses. No photographers eagerly snapping pictures documenting her first steps. No massive send-off parade. It was just an ordinary day in an ordinary town, as she took her first tentative steps off the highway and into the wilderness. And though the beginning was neither dramatic nor pain free, she emerged at the end of her trek an altered person.
Like Cheryl Strayed, I hope all of us in the New Year can push to take those first faltering baby steps - as subtle and unnoticed as they may be by others - so that we can begin to achieve what really matters to us.
Like Nelson Mandela, let us resolve to work diligently on strategies for achieving what we want in life. And let us give less credence to the wrongs heaped upon us.
No matter where in our journey we may be, let’s celebrate the small incremental mouse steps we take so that when the kangaroo leaps occur, we are ready for our hard earned success.
IRIS RUTH PASTOR
I am 5’2” – the truth
I weigh 115 lbs. – a lie
I like to dress funky.
Do what’s not expected.
Push the envelope of what‘s customary.
Surprise. Delight. Entertain and Connect.
I am an aging baby boomer, wife, mother and grandma,
Who writes a column entitled “Incidentally, Iris,”
Blogs for the Huffington Post,
And speaks on all topics related to mid life and baby boomers,
Though I graciously decline,
The opportunity to get one.
I have entered the social media age
Kicking and bitching and screaming
In order to motivate, inform, entertain and educate,
Foster connection and offer tidbits of authenticity
For myself and for others.
While doing so,
I try not to be judgmental, cloying and hypocritical.
Whiney, clingy and snippy.
Sometimes I even manage to carry it off.
My philosophy of life used to be Coping -
Just getting through with dignity -
But I’m no longer content
To settle for less.
So I’m tearing down my carefully built facade.
I’m repairing, remodeling, improving and updating.
I’m soaring and I’m jumping.
I’m preserving my bloom.
And I’m inviting you to join me
In preserving your own bloom too.
Want more from Iris (I know I do!)? Sign up for her weekly newsletter of inspiration at www.irisruthpastor.com. And please read, like and leave a comment at www.huffingtonpost.com/iris-ruth-pastor.