Look at Your Feet

I used to work with a former field hockey player. During a difficult time, she told me something her coach taught her during practice. She said, “Look at your feet. If you look at the goal, you’ll trip, or you’ll lose the ball, or your opponent will knock you off balance. But if you look at your feet, you’ll get all the way down the field, a step at a time.”

I talked to a good friend the other night, and she asked me what’s new. I told her that Jack is five months old; we just moved; we’re desperately searching for new tenants in our house in Virginia; my dad’s health and state of mind are in the shitter; and I start back to grad classes next week. I’m feeling overwhelmed. She was sympathetic and encouraging, saying I have a lot on my plate and that I need to take it easy on myself.

Yes. Amen. I do. And the only way I know how to do that is to take my old coworker’s advice and look at my feet.

I’ve had other opportunities to test that advice and find it solid. A few years ago, I took a cross-country driving trip, covering about 10,000 miles, the bulk of it on my own. Whenever I thought about how long I was traveling, as a whole, it freaked me out. But I could drive three hours today, five hours tomorrow, and so on. And in that way, I made it from Maine to Seattle to San Diego to DC. The same is true in my writing. The thought of writing a 200-page novel blows my mind. But I can write two pages today. That’s all I can do. And it’s also the best thing I could do. There’s a lot of wisdom to the twelve-step adage “one day at a time.”

So today I took a walk around the block in a summer shower. The rain spotted my glasses and I couldn’t see to the end of the street. But I could look down and watch my feet moving, one step, another step. Eventually I got to the next street. And eventually I came home.


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