I distinctly recall, being a child, trying to walk in mud. Warm, late summer days, the sun glowing off behind the west treeline of the family acreage as I approach a mudhole along the east trees. The mud’s depth tapers, becoming thicker and tougher to navigate as I step in further. Like most kids I don’t know any better, and soon I can’t move anymore. Can’t backtrack, can’t press on.
Even as a child I eventually realize that the mud is only half the problem – the other half is the boots. What the science of it is I can’t explain now, the way rubber boots or sneakers get stuck in mud while bare feet don’t. Regardless, after a few minutes of a gratifying struggle to walk out with the boots still on, the solution eventually becomes apparent: leave the boots behind. I have to step out of the boots before I can step out of the mudhole. It’s both embarrassing and fun; a defeat and a pleasure. The mud does feel nice as I dip my sweaty toes in. I almost wonder why I’d gone in with boots to begin with.
So the boots are a necessity it seems. The irony: you don’t want to get your feet dirty, but you want to play in the dirt. And you end up dirty anyway. But you start off with boots just the same.
They are what weigh you down. You lift and lift and strain and burn your legs trying to pull your feet and boots out. But the footwear won’t go that way. You have to step out, grip them one at a time by the rubber lips with both hands and haul them out, and hope you don’t fall butt-first in the mud (or maybe you’d like that too).
You’re dirty anyway now, and really you’re okay with that. So why the boots? Why the safety? Why the protection, the security that only weighs you down in the end?
It’s bad enough having to slog your way through life. It hurts all the more when you are the one weighing yourself down. The self-imposed burdens of life like a pair of your own rubber boots. Your own boat anchor, your own sandbag tied to both ankles. Making it immensely difficult to lift your legs and move forward. An endless, burning strain as you try and heave yourself from the mud, step by step.
But you know you have to. You know you have to move, to find your bearing and stand up and go. Of course, it isn’t easy. But gratification can be found not just in the destination, but in the struggle itself. In realizing that you’ve been struggling needlessly, and don’t have to. You can change your approach. You can step out of your boots, get muddy up past your ankles and move on that way. There’s gratification in that.
Even as an adult, there’s a child’s joy.
© AndrewHallWrites 2016