“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Did you know it takes babies at least a year to take their first step? And this is a first attempt, not fully practiced walking. Most babies begin to stand briefly and take small steps while holding onto support prior to walking by themselves. This is often called “cruising.” Not all babies walk at one year though- some do at 9 months, some at 17 months. It is an individual process. Once started, the journey of learning how to walk independently continues through many, many months trial and error: two steps forward, one fall down; two steps forward, one fall down.
– resource: Baby’s Milestones: Your child’s first year of development WebMD.com
We could interpret this “first step” in all kinds of ways metaphorically. In the 12 steps, the first step is about admitting powerlessness and unmanageability- not in a disempowered way, but in admitting your current (and past) way of walking in the world is no longer working. It is about taking an honest look about where you have fallen down, “hit bottom.” It is about reflecting, as you get up, on how you can learn to walk differently. How can you walk down the sidewalk in a different way or walk a different sidewalk? There is a well-quoted poem about the recovery process that goes like this:
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.
II I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place but, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
III I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. my eyes are open I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
IV I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
V I walk down another street.
resource: Portia Nelson, There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk, 1993. As you are learning to walk down the sidewalk in your recovery, in motherhood, in life:
- How can you allow for holes in the sidewalk?
- How can you practice taking steps down another sidewalk?
- How can you love and accept your legs and feet while you are taking each step?
Give yourself time to learn how to walk differently in the world in your recovery process, whether it be from an eating disorder, alcoholism/addiction, codependency, depression, or postpartum. Try to accept and appreciate your legs and feet as they are and not need to change them. Babies learning to walk do not judge themselves when they fall and they certainly do not worry about the size of their thighs. They get back up, again and again, and again, focusing on the task of learning their new skill. In recovery, this skill is to notice the judgments, not believe them, and keep walking. Here are two suggestions for how to practice walking steps in the road to recovery:
- Lean on Support
Ask yourself: How can I allow others to support me? How can I allow them to walk with me? Recovery is a time to let support in, not push it away. However, many people find it difficult to reach out and accept support from others. The truth is it’s much easier to walk the road of recovery with someone walking alongside you than making the trip on your own. If you are having difficulty accepting support, think about how you feel when you are given the opportunity to provide support to others. Remember, it is a gift. Resource: Life During Recovery: Questions to Ask Yourself from National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website, By Maggie Baumann, BA, Reprinted from Eating Disorders Recovery Today, Spring 2007 Volume 5, Number 2, (c) 2007 Gürze Books.
- Practice Mindful Walking:
Walk slowly and carefully walk feeling your feet connect at each point on the floor. Without controlling the breath too much, you can try pairing walking and breathing so that 1 foot touches the ground at each in and out breath. See how many steps seem natural to take during each inhalation and exhalation. Direct all attention towards the sensations of walking: you feet and lower legs. Which part touches the ground first? Pay attention to how your weight shifts from one foot to the other. What are the feelings in your knees as they bend? What is the texture of the ground (hard, soft, cracks, stones)? Differences in walking on different surfaces? From Coping Skills handout Compiled by Shannon Dorsey, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Licensed Psychologist, University of Washington, Evidence Based Treatments
Remember the one-year-old practicing her first steps for a whole year. As a Japanese proverb states, “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
Also, it is not only ok but encouraged to make time for pedicures and (non exercise-bulimic oriented) dancing. Your legs and feet deserve it. How are you going to take your first step today? What are you going to do to take care of your legs and feet?