a tentative, shaky foot moves forward,
pulls back, afraid.
silently the mind
to whom the foot belongs
screams in fear "nononono icantdothis!"
soothing words and a hand extended, reassuring.
"it's allright, little one. this is good and true and right and you can do it. this is your birthright."
the foot moves again,
still shakey but slightly surer.
"come on, dear. you need this. I'll walk beside you, show you the way."
the foot doesn't lift--but it shuffles.
it moves a bit at least.
and nothing bites it, nothing hurts it.
is it safe after all?
lift. plant. lift.
still tentative, still cautious, but so so close.
it's a beginning
and everything must start somewhere.

as i move forward, guided by my friend...
i wonder at the fact
i may yet learn
to live
to be free
after all. .

Baby Steps was a book written by the shrink, played by Richard Dreyfuss, in the movie What About Bob?. Bill Murray plays a neurotic being treated by Dreyfuss. The idea of Baby Steps is that you should not concentrate on your final goal, which may seem impossible, rather focus on the small attainable goals on the way to your final destination. I always thought it was weird that one of my mantras came from a Bill Murray movie until I looked up Baby Steps in Google and found dozens and dozens of other people who also took this message to heart.

If you focus on something distant and difficult you are more likely to intellectualize it and worry about all the random possibilities, when your energy is better spent actually doing something.

I don't know how many of you have been lucky enough to witness a baby taking its first steps. These days, I'm sure every parent armed with a video camera is ready and waiting to record junior's first unsteady steps into the unknown.

Mostly all babies start out the same. They roll over, they crawl and then they pull themselves up and balance themselves on whatever piece of furniture that's at hand that is most suitable to get them into a standing position. Then they smile and stick out one of their hands in the direction of mommy and/or daddy with a look on their face that seems to say "Holy shit, I can do this!".

It's usually at this point in the proceedings that either mommy or daddy or both will station themselves a few feet away and try to coax junior from his or her perch. They might dangle a favorite toy or a cookie as some sort of encouragement and the cooing and soothing words are usually rewarded with disappointment the first few times when junior plops back down on his padded ass and crawls his way over to cash in on the reward. The parents might offer each other concerned looks and wan smiles but they know in the back of their heads, they can't stop the inevitable. One day, junior will drop his or her hands and from their point of balance and stand on his or her own. Soon after that, it will be off to the races.

I've always been what you might call a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" kinda guy. Way back in the days of my youth, I was the guy that thought they could out drink, out smoke, out fight, out fuck, out talk, or out do anything that was put on the table. If my friends were, drinking beer, I was shooting Jack Daniels, if they were smoking Marlboro Lights, then damn it, give me the reds. If there was gonna be trouble with the neighboring tribes, then I was after the biggest dude they could produce and if I was gonna happen to get laid at some point or another, it was gonna be from the pick of the litter.

When the time came for me to leave home, there wasn't any talk of college. It was either get a fuckin' job or get the fuck out. I got out by looking towards the Marine Corps. When the time came for me to come back home, I was even more determined to reinforce my status as the "alpha wolf". Even though I had a family to look after, I still caroused the bars and would only come home when I was damn good and ready.

I don't know what it is in a person's make up that causes them to act the way they do. Were all of those actions on my part just some kinda freakish cry for attention or were they just me being me. I'll leave that for the shrinks in the house to ponder because I'm done wrestling with those ghosts and the ghosts have won. The past is just what it is, gone.

Nobody changes overnight, they say they might but chances are that any changes that happen that quickly are more of a forced one than that of a concerted effort. I'd liken to being tossed in jail for some minor offense and you swear to anybody who'll listen that you'll mend your wicked ways and take the straight and narrow. For some folks, they'll stick to their word, for the vast majority of us, it's another story. The more recognizable changes come when nobody's looking.

I don't know when mine started, maybe after beating your head into the wall for so many years, you finally discover that the wall won't yield and the wall will win. Maybe it took me years to realize that it just felt good to stop. Sometimes it's easier to just walk away and take the wisdom with you.

So these days, I'm more likely to head home after one or two, I've pretty much quit smoking and I can't remember the last time I hit another human being in anger. I'm pretty selective on the people that I let into my life and I've learned more by listening than I ever did by running my mouth.

Sometimes I think I'm just like the baby who first learns to crawl and then props itself up on unsteady legs with its hand or hands holding onto something to achieve balance. I'd compare the act of letting go and racing across the room to find something else to hold on to to those early years of my life. The excitement of the time spent in that race won't ever be forgotten and the wobbly legs that carried me on that wobbly path can only be replaced by the comfort of reaching that destination and holding on and looking back, a smile of contentment etched on my face.

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