Lao Tzu is quoted as saying, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I have taken many single steps on my journey, and I know I’ve traveled many more than a thousand miles. The other day I took a single step that may take me in an interesting and unexpected direction. That’s the interesting thing: sometimes we can only see the first step, until something shines a light on the second or third. With any luck, we have enough light or visibility to see a few steps ahead, but more often than not, we’re operating in semi-darkness.
This can be disconcerting, particularly to someone who likes to see and predict what’s coming. The truth is, we can only really see what we think is coming or where we think we’re headed. It’s often a little less cut and dried as we’d like it. Sometimes, though, we take a step into the void, not knowing if there’s something to hold us up or we’re going to go splat. We step into the unknown, based on a feeling that something just beyond our periphery is worth reaching out for. Sometimes it makes no clear sense to do this, but something compels us, so we take the step and decide to see where it might lead.
I am someone who likes predictability. I want to know what’s happening and what’s going to happen. My actual life has been anything but predictable, but I like to pretend that it has been. I look back at decisions I made, at the single steps I have taken that have caused me to go a bit off course from where I thought I was headed into a completely different direction. I’m sure that anyone watching me might have been shaking their heads wondering what on earth had gotten into me. You see, besides me liking predictability, so do some of the people around me. As one who mostly did what was expected, it was kind of nice to surprise myself and everyone around me by taking an unlikely left turn when everyone thought sure I would stay in the straight lane.
The truth is, we really aren’t promised any of this. And as trite as it’s come to sound, we really do only have this moment we’re in right now. In an instant everything can change, and unless and until I can dance with uncertainty and trust that no matter what happens I will end up in “the place just right,” I’m only living a partial life. I’ll keep waiting and watching for something to happen, and not take a step in any direction, but remain rooted to the same spot. So I might take a wacky turn from time to time, but my hope is that I’ll learn what I need to from that phase of my journey.
These 40 days might be just the right time to make a shift, if only to shake myself from complacency. How about you? Are you ready to take the single step on your next 1000-mile journey? In a sense, we walk our paths alone. In another sense, we are all walking our individual paths at the same time, our paths intersecting with one another in interesting and unexpected ways. Such is the journey of these 40 days and beyond.