I came away from a Women’s Retreat weekend with a renewed awareness of how different our individual journeys are, in spite of what often seems like a lot of sameness.
In day-to-day life we, sometimes, just “go through the motions”. Our routines take us from point A—the time we get up, until point Z—when we go to sleep again. How often are we really thinking about what we’re doing or where we’re heading? It’s like driving home from work, the same way, day in and day out, and being on autopilot. We may even wake up on Sunday and think, “How did I spend last week?”
When I think about how I’m going to achieve my goals, or accomplish something (some days anything), I’m aware that I end up on one of four different roads.
Here, my path is direct and easily navigable—one straight line from beginning to end. I set out on the journey—ready to move forward, no obstacles blocking my way—confident that I’ll arrive as planned and feeling pretty good about “getting the job done”.
I know exactly where I’m headed, but there are some curves along the way. I still get to the finish line, but during the process I slow down and take in a bit of the scenery—I have a more experiential perspective than I do traveling on road #1.
This is the road I’m taking when I go around and around in circles until I get my compass pointed in the right direction. It takes awhile to get to my destination because I’m figuratively (and sometimes literally) running in circles. The circle-making profoundly impacts the journey, and I sometimes get a little dizzy, but I learn more about myself as I figure out how to circumnavigate the twists and turns along the way.
Then, there are those times when I’m downright lost! I start out okay but, often, have to double back to move forward. I find myself close to where I began, and have to remap the trip. Sometimes during those “starting over again” journeys I question the validity of where I’m heading. I have to become a master of maneuvering through the dark woods that I’m afraid of, around the potholes that I think I’ll fall into, and over the broken-down bridges I really don’t want to cross. I have to learn to respect the integrity of the quest, to have a conversation with God about what I’m supposed to do, and make a decision to move forward with passion. (And, yes, sometimes I get worn out and quit, thinking I must be going the wrong way.)
The straight path, #1, is easy. I head out and, in a reasonable amount of time, get to the finish line. In those travels, however I often miss the view…the little nuances that make the journey worthwhile.
The road with the curves, #2, adds interest—the slight bends along the way show me a different “life landscape”, but I still reach the end point in a way that seems effective.
It’s often those serendipitous journeys, on roads #3 and #4, however, that teach me the most. The detours, and stops, and starts along the way, make the travel more interesting, even when my first emotion is frustration, and I think (or yell out loud), “For the love of God (I mean this literally when I say it) what is going on?” They’re the ones where I make accidental, life-changing discoveries; the ones that open my eyes to a new way of “seeing”; the ones that make me stronger or more compassionate. They’re the journeys that shake me to my core and they’re also the ones that make me more “real”.
Sometimes when I’m going around and around in circles, or I’m lost, almost back where I started—in the “dark woods of life”—I think, “I’m going to get to a gigantic roadblock again and have to turn around”. Sometimes that’s true and I start over from the beginning. But, other times, those roadblocks lead me to a blessed place of peacefulness and understanding that I wouldn’t have known if I’d been able to run straight through. And so, I continue the journey.
As a life-traveler, where are you headed?
What roads do you take over and over again?
What outcomes are you expecting as you navigate through life?
What if you re-thought today’s journey?
What if you considered taking a different road, the one (as Robert Frost wrote) “less traveled by”?