When we hike, Charlie loves to explore the terrain, often popping out of a thick cluster of trees or brush, covered in mud, and his expression saying “This is GREAT!! Who knew life could be so fun and exciting!” He does not care if he is covered in mud, leaves, twigs, grass seed, or soaked because he discovered a fabulous swimming hole. After all, it is all a part of the extraordinary expedition of Charlie’s life.
Watching Charlie’s exhilaration as he explores and gets muddy has become one of my highlights each week. His joy is contagious and no matter my mood, my heart soars when I see him have great fun.
I have learned from Charlie about getting in the mud (literally and figuratively) and have decided to no longer hold back to avoid the mud puddles. They are as much about the journey as the beauty and serenity of the trek. For me, getting muddy has added to the experience because I am no longer afraid or tenuous about my shoes covered in mud or my pants splashed with mud and dirt. I can always wash it off. When I am not worried about this, the hike is much more enjoyable and feels “down to earth” (again literally and figuratively), which fits my personality. The same thing happens when I am “playing” in my garden. I rarely come out without mud or dirt streaks on my legs and arms. For me, it feels real and grounding.
Mud has some great benefits. It provides a home for different animals including worms, frogs, and snails; some animals, like pigs and elephants, bathe in the mud to protect their skin from the sun; humans use mud as a detox, as a property in making ceramics or to build homes, as a sealant material, and to just have fun (playing barefoot in the mud, mud pies, mud wrestling, mud bogging, mud volleyball, mud runs, etc).
As Charlie and I have played in the mud, I realized that in life, by avoiding the difficult or “muddy” times, I miss out on the total richness offered by these experiences. When faced with a difficult situation (maybe even emotionally painful) I have learned to plunge forward and work my way through the challenging event instead of trying to avoid it altogether. Can it be a little scary? Heck yeah! And it is not necessarily comfortable. Ultimately, I have learned that I will be okay. There can even be a sense of exhilaration knowing that I did it and survived; maybe even thrived. Like Charlie, I can wash off the mud and prepare for the next adventure.
The “mud” in life does not always have to symbolize the difficult times. It can be a sign of having a great time with the requirement of getting a little dirty in the process. (Maybe a lot dirty if you are playing mud volleyball).
In order for me to live life with passion and intention, or to experience the magic in exploration, I sometimes have to wade through the mud to get to where I want to go. It might be weird or yucky in the moment, but the rewards are amazing!