Time to Twirl

I’m going to start by aging myself.  Do you remember the playground game “Mother, May I?”   Here’s a quick refresher: a group of kids would line up at one end of their chosen space and the “Mother” would stand at the other end.  One at a time, players would be given the chance to take different kinds of steps in different numbers (such as two giant steps), as long as they remembered to ask “Mother, may I?” and the “Mother” agreed. The most common steps were baby steps and giant steps…and we refer to those steps all the time—such as taking baby steps in  a new career, or taking “one giant step for mankind.”  Okay, so it was actually “one giant leap,” but you get the point.  We talk about baby steps and giant steps all the time.  

But my favorite step is the one no one ever talks about, the one all but forgotten: the umbrella step!  Remember that one?  You twirl your body once as you move forward—almost dancing.  If I remember correctly, we also put both sets of fingers on the center of our heads to be more umbrella-like.  Try it now… I dare you!  First, make sure there’s nothing around to trip over or bump into, and then give it a go (slowly as needed).  Seriously, get up right now and take a couple of umbrella steps.

How do you feel?  Ridiculous? Dizzy?  I actually did get a little dizzy just now (age will do that).  But are you also feeling a little lighter perhaps?  Did a little laugh or smile grace you?  I hope so.  For me, the beauty of the umbrella step is that it’s hard to take yourself too seriously doing it. (If you don’t believe me, try looking in the mirror next time.). And when we stop taking ourselves so seriously, we lighten up.  We might be able to smile a little more, laugh a little louder. 

The second perk of umbrella stepping is that it throws us a little bit off balance.  Being a little off-kilter can be a good thing — we don’t always need to be sure-footed, to know exactly where our next step is going to land. It’s freeing to know we can move forward even if we are a bit wobbly.    

Third, we see things differently when we umbrella step.  It’s impossible for us to see things exactly the same after taking a little spin.  Sometimes we get so fixated on winning, or being first, or on becoming the “Mother” that we only focus on what’s in front of us.  We don’t see what’s all around us; we forget to have fun playing the game. When we take an umbrella step, we allow ourselves to take our eyes off the prize, even if just for a moment, and that has the potential to change everything.

So next time you’re in the thick of things and you want to pull out your hair, try taking a few umbrella steps.  Or, perhaps you’ll be meticulously laying out an airtight plan for your future—the perfect time to put your fingers to your crown and take a few wobbly umbrella steps. And if you find yourself hyper-focused on the finish line, remember to take a few umbrella steps along the way.  Actually, why wait? Start umbrella stepping around the house…maybe on the well-worn path from couch to fridge, or on the way to get the clothes out of the dryer.  Smile wider.  Yes, you look ridiculous!  Laugh louder!  You are one umbrella step closer to free.  And, if you’re walking down the street and you see some “crazy lady” umbrella stepping, or better yet, full-on twirling with arms flung wide, that will be me.  Living wholeheartedly.  I hope you’ll join me. 

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