On reaching the landing
|Look how far we've come. July 2022.|
In my 100-year-old house, our staircase does not go straight up but rather hits a small landing and then turns left for the final few steps. My now-1-year old, who recently surprised us by nonchalantly zipping up the stairs without incident on his first try, has a particular love for this spot. Every time he climbs the stairs now (which is often), he starts giggling as soon as his knees reach the landing, and then he spends a blissful moment spinning around, touching the walls, and reveling in the space before he carries on to the second floor.
For me, the past couple years have felt like interminable stair-climbing between pandemic upheaval, the new baby, and the book deal. Each circumstance has required me to learn new skills, hone existing ones, and accept that I am always practicing and (mostly) trying. Most days I am convinced that I am doing nothing at 100%—parenting, writing, career-ing—and most days I am correct. Still I climb the stairs, sometimes slowly, sometimes begrudgingly, usually vertically.
Watching my little one's joy in his quotidian triumph, though, has reminded me of incrementalism's quiet power. Take parenting, for example. This time 2-ish years ago, my husband and I felt confident enough in our ability to raise a human that we decided to add another to the mix. Turns out that 1 child + 1 child does not equal 2 children, but instead an exponential boatload of emotions, development, and logistics. Yet last night we ate out at a restaurant as a family of four without major injury or incident. Yes, my toddler ate only three bites of macaroni and cheese. Yes, my baby kept grabbing my steak knife off my plate. No, it was not a remotely relaxing 45-minute experience. But we were there. We made it out of the house, everyone was fed, and no one had to clean our dining room floor afterward. The adventure was a brief, enticing landing—a glimpse of what awaits us on the second floor.
Or another example: publishing a book. This time last year, I was on maternity leave and contemplating doing one more #PitMad just for the hell of it. Turns out that spontaneous decision was the spark laid to the tinder of 10+ years of writing work. Within weeks I signed a deal, laid out a timeline with my publisher, and embarked on a new phase of my writing journey, one with many stairs I'd dreamed of and wondered about but not yet touched. Now as I tick through my to-do lists for book production, marketing plans, and platform growth, I'm striving to pause after each checked box and celebrate its completion, taking that opportunity to spin around, touch the walls, and marvel that I managed to do it after all.
One of my favorite picture books to read to my kids is Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee, and its closing lines often loop in my head when I watch my own baby clamber up the steps: Every day, everywhere, babies are loved—for trying so hard, for traveling so far, for being so wonderful ... just as they are!
I love us for trying and traveling. No matter the shape or tenor of our individual journeys, we all deserve the grace of the landing from time to time. May you sigh with relief—and maybe even a little excitement—when you reach yours.
Prayer #380: How Far We've Come
Adventurers reach for their binoculars, astronomers reach for their telescopes, but I am not interested in magnifying where I'm headed; I want a better view of where I've been.
I want to bend over the bridge railing and watch the rushing water I'm traversing.
I want to turn my back to the scenic overlook and regard the rocky trail I climbed.
I want to look down from the skyscraper and observe the traffic-gnarled roads I traveled.
I want to lean my forehead against the airplane window, one tiny human in a vast sky, as invisible to the humans below as they are to me, and contemplate how the simple act of landing will unite us again, returning to scale the specificity of our existence, the universality of our experience, and the magnitude of our humanity.