Keep Moving Forward
The title of this entry comes from one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King. In life, we have to keep moving forward because we don’t always see the finish line. Many times we are racing blind. Often we don’t realize we have crossed a finish line till well after the fact. Forward movement through life does not need to always be at the speed of light. Slow, methodical steps, even a crawl, can also bring us to our goals.
We’ve all heard the aphorism, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” But how often do most of us follow this? We live in a society that seeks instant gratification and values fast climbers. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that unless one is moving at light speed through to a lofty goal, no progress worth celebrating is being made. But clearly, this is not really true. One can make incremental progress and even though it is small, it is something. This makes sense. We all know that if one stops trying, there is no chance of victory. But that if a person keeps at it, even making only dispiritingly small incremental improvements, there is always the chance of making it through to your goals.
Three years ago I was deathly ill and bedridden. In a stroke of luck, the illness that had been crushing me for several years went into remission. I had a chance to get my life back. But I was terribly weak. I could barely make it the 20 feet to the bathroom. I had no stamina or muscle tone. I knew that I had to build back up. It was daunting. The first day I made it just to the stairs, about 30 feet away.
It was agonizingly slow work. Each day I only got a few feet further. And the return trip was often on my hands and knees. The day I got to the end of my driveway, I wept on the sidewalk and promptly fell asleep after crawling back into the house. Soon I was able to walk upright but could only make it a little way down the street. I had to stop often along the way and it was irksome to see people clearly older than me running with ease. There were times that I felt sorry for myself and was bitter and angry at these people who could flaunt their good health and energy.
There were days when I went too far and had to lay down on a bench or the sidewalk and feared I would not be able to get back on my own. Somehow, I always managed to make it home. There were days when I did not get as far as the day before. There were days when I felt like just staying in bed and I had to force myself to keep going. I would stop thinking and just go. For some reason, on those days I had terrible fears that I might drop dead, like I was teetering on the edge of a precipice. I don’t know where those fears came from. Perhaps it was the leaping forward into the abyss, despite my feeling weak and dizzy and disoriented, not knowing what would happen.
I eventually found my way back to healthy stamina and muscle tone. But I did it one step at a time and many times those steps were small, many times a crawl. I’ve realized that in life, it is important to keep moving forward. The distance you can go each time and your speed are irrelevant. As long as one keeps making forward progress, that is something. No one can take the smallest step or inching crawl away from you. And if you can’t crawl, roll, find someone to push or carry you. But keep moving forward.
In our society, there is an expectation of fast results and rapid, continuous progress. Anytime things slow down, there is a tendency to think that all hope has been lost and the only option is to quit and move on to something else. But any progress, no matter how little, is still progress. One can’t forget that, as long as one inches along, over time, that can add up to miles. So, if you keep moving forward, even if it is inch by inch, when you look back over the years, you will be astounded by what you have accomplished and what you can contribute.