Back in June of this year, my husband and I hiked a small, overlooked park in our area—the Conway Robinson State Forest. We followed the straight and narrow path for at least a mile. I admired how nice it was to see straight ahead, to have clarity about the future of our hike, to bask in the sun’s warmth and march toward our destiny. I might have even commented on what a great year we were having—new job opportunities, accomplishments being checked off the list, a comfortable future coming into view. Then things took a turn.
A literal turn. We found ourselves in a darker part of the park where rocks protruded from the ground to stumble upon, footpaths that crossed muddy creeks, and a crooked, winding path that gave little indication where it was leading. Things seem to have changed in an instant.
I’ve always considered myself to be someone who can handle whatever life throws my way. “A real trooper,” a friend of mine used to say. Challenges are nothing more than circumstances we haven’t figured out yet—I would tell myself. But I’ve discovered that I prefer challenges that I choose vs. those thrust upon me. (Who doesn’t, right?) By choosing I can examine the risks, asks questions (lots of questions), and I can determine if I have the skills or can obtain the skills to survive and grow within that challenge. A new job or role at work, a new character or scene that requires a different kind of writing, a new path to explore.
Challenges that suddenly appear with no warning are different. They require quick action and evaluation and sometimes prayer. We make mistakes in those circumstances more often and don’t have time to debrief to figure out what went wrong. Do I think my way through this, or do I hug my way through? These challenges require friends and family to lean on for advice, information, random acts of kindness, and plain ol’ love.
When my husband and I found ourselves on this darker, more twisting path, we started out cheerful. We can figure this out, no problem. But then uncertainty began to creep in. Had we missed a turn? Were our instincts incorrect? Were we heading out of the park or farther into it? Is that horse poo or bear poo?
The second half of this year has been decidedly different than the first and challenged us on many fronts. As we begin to unwind this more difficult time and digest what we might learn or what we can take away from our experience, I‘m left with the view that life is a combination of both of these paths—welcomed or not. There are so many cliched quotes about getting through a difficult period. Rainbows needing rain or flowers that bloom in adversity or tough times needing tough people.
I don’t know. Sometimes the twisting path just requires a little bit of grace until we find ourselves back on the straight and narrow. The only thing for certain about life is that we will experience both paths in time. And I’ve discovered that it’s so much lovelier to walk these paths with friends and family who are there to talk (or text), or comfort, or look after your cat, or make you a delicious Mai Tai, or simply give you a warm hug and a new pair of shoes. It all makes the journey that much richer.
Thank you for making this bumpy path a little smoother.