“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao-tzu

Today is an ordinary day. It’s bright outside but it feels ordinary.  There are no big waves of inspiration today. My thoughts on how to live consist of, “I don’t know, do what you like”. That may not be such a bad idea. If we always did the things we liked, we’d always like what we did.

On a day of low inspiration I remind myself to just keep on walking, taking steps. Take one more ordinary step. Do the next thing. I might do it without flourish, I might do it quietly and simply but that may not mean it is less important.

It’s the overall pattern that matters, not the impact of each step. Some steps may even be in the wrong direction but they’re one more piece of the experiment. I’m finding out what works. Shakespeare said “Life is not a dress rehearsal” and yet, the process of working towards goals may well be a dress rehearsal. It’s working out what works.

Working out what works is kind of what living is. Learning from mistakes, growing, changing, loving, hating, forgiving. That’s all human stuff and we never know how to do it until after we’ve done it. Reading a book doesn’t teach you how to do it. I really wish it did. Only doing teaches you how and doing is a series of steps.

Walking as a means of transport teaches you a lot. Step by step you will get there, even if it seems like a long way to go. Walking every step of the way shows you the terrain much more clearly too. You  notice much more by going slowly than by speeding through the journey.

Two kinds of red shoes

This reminds me of the story of the red shoes. In this old story, an orphan girl makes a pair of red shoes and wears them with pride, they’re her own creation, the product of her love, effort and ideas. They’re imperfect but they’re hers, made stitch by stitch from materials she found and fashioned together.

Later the child is taken in by a wealthy woman who gives her a beguiling and beautiful pair of store-bought ruby shoes. They’re very attractive but as she wears these shoes, dazzled and addicted to their glitz, they dance her to death. They’re too much, they have their own agenda, they take over.

The story warns to look for true substance. The life that is truly yours is made one step at a time, one stitch at a time. It won’t necessarily dazzle anyone else but it will be a true expression of your own soul. It will be satisfying and creative and healthy.

And so, I remember that a day without the fire of inspiration is a quiet day. It’s a day for catching up on chores and doing my tax (well maybe). An inspired day is too fiery for that. Today I am touching the earth and moving forward one step at the time. I am gathering pieces of fabric to make new shoes. What comes next?

How do you keep on taking the next step?