I can remember walking with my grandfather down the road from our farmhouse to the village school. He walked fast with a long stride. I was forced to take 4 or 5 steps for every one of his.
Trying to keep up with him felt impossible. He seemed as mighty as a giant on an immense road befitting one. It was wide and stretched on and on.
I walked the same road whilst visiting India recently and it blew my mind. The road is tiny. Only a few feet wide and the total walk from the farmhouse to the village was not more than 10 minutes.
I asked my 7-year-old nephew, Milo, if the road seemed vast to him. He said it was.
Comparing my two experiences of the same road made me realize that the only thing which had really changed was me. I had grown up. I was bigger and I had a better handle on the comings and goings of the world around me.
To the young me, the road will always seem daunting and immense while to the present me, narrow and short. The younger me felt overwhelmed and scared because keeping up with my grandfather was difficult. He was the adult and I had to follow his cues in terms of speed, time and focus. If I didn’t do as he did, I would be in trouble. At least, that’s what I had concluded.
Another child might have dawdled and made the adult wait or they might have run alongside, holding their grandfather’s hand. They may even have rebelled against it all by refusing to go to school. There are a thousand different possibilities and outcomes. I had narrowed into my conclusion and the world was colored by it.
Just think of how many conclusions we make about ourselves, our circumstances, our relationships every day that throw us off, spin us out, or make us feel small and scared. The way we see or feel something in a moment can end up influencing us for decades, even lifetimes.
“I have to keep up or I’ll fail.”
“I don’t have any money. I’ll always be poor.”
“I can’t say what I want because I’ll get into trouble.”
And that right there is life. Life as it is experienced, ingested and interpreted through us; it can seem difficult or easy. It depends on where we stand, how we feel and what story we are in the midst of telling about ourselves.
I am sad.
I am a loser.
I am a winner.
I am neglected.
I am afraid.
I am happy.
I am rich.
I am poor.
I am hurt.
The stories and memories are endless. They can be painful, or uplifting. Either way, I feel they could all do with a loving shift in perspective.
To that little girl, running after her grandfather, I would gather her up in my arms and say: “It’s ok if you fall behind. Go ahead, look around and talk to the birds and insects. How do you feel? What would be fun right now? What do you think is going on with your grandfather?”
I would listen to her, then lift her onto my shoulders to see the road from what will be her eyes and to take steps with the stride of her future legs. Finally, I would imprint in my mind our walking together to school, laughing, playing and being together. A shift in perspective for both of us.
Are there situations in your life that feel sticky, hard or impossible to overcome? What would shift your perspective? How easily can you imagine things having a different outcome? What would help you create that shift?