Whenever I go for a hike, I’m always eager to get started, to walk through the beautiful scenery, breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on my face. I’m careful to keep my balance as I walk over rocks and roots so that I won’t stumble.
So as much as I’m enjoying my surroundings, I’m mainly concentrating on my feet…on getting where I am going.
Along with this is the aspect of time. If I’ve driven to the mountains for the day, I know my time is somewhat limited, so at some point, I’ll need to either turn around, or only spend so much time at the trail’s end before knowing it’s time to get back. So as beautiful as the lake is, or the view, or the mountaintop, or wherever it is I’m going, it’s not forever.
I can’t stay there. I want to get there, but I can’t stay there.
When I ultimately do turn around to go back down the trail, I’m always struck by how much more I enjoy that part of the hike. I see things from “the other side”. I notice so much more. Everything looks even more beautiful and I often see things I missed on the way up…maybe it’s an unusual tree. Or a lovely small waterfall trickling down the side of the trail. Or a view from a perspective I didn’t note on the way up.
The hike feels more inviting, more relaxing. Because I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do—hike the trail. Now I can really enjoy it.
But only when I’m coming back down the trail.
Lately I’m struggling with a crossroads. Trying to decide which path to take, or whether to simply be still. My heart pulled me years ago to move a great distance to answer my yearning for the beauty of the mountains. I did it, scared and unsure, but I followed my instincts and took the giant step. There were many who advised against it, just as there were many who applauded my determination.
Now, almost a decade later, I’m faced with some challenges that include, in various degrees, issues about money, aging, a strong desire to do something else with my life, and more. I’m considering turning around on the trail and going back to where I was before.
Mind you, I’m still just considering it. Yet already I’m hearing some of the same things I heard almost 10 years ago. How can you do that? Aren’t you scared? What if it’s a mistake? (And my new favorite):
How can you give up on your dream?
I’m not giving up on anything. I’ve accomplished my dream. I’ve lived it. It’s in my heart and it will always be there. I can come back and touch it anytime I choose.
But I’m not on the same part of the trail anymore.
Already, I’m “heading back” in many ways these days. It’s not so much a slowing down as it is re-evaluating. I’m asking myself:
What matters most to me?
What brings me joy?
Can I have more peace of mind?
What new adventures would I like to participate in?
I’ve been talking with some trusted friends and mentors about their experiences of “going home again.” One very successful man told me I’m “driving his Porsche.” He said he always wanted a Porsche, and longed for years to have one. Now he’s in a position to have one, but he no longer wants it. Instead, he’s enjoying married life with his wife and stepson. “But you went out and followed your dream,” he said. “You’ll always have that.”
Another wise friend reminded me of words written by author and teacher Parker Palmer, who talks about two kinds of heartbreak. The heartbreak when you are deeply hurt or angry and your heart feels like it’s in shards. And then heartbreak where you heart has to break open in order for the new good things to flow in.
I like that. Because thinking any kind of change won’t be painful is short-sighted.
Of course it is.
Giving up anything you love hurts. Yet, as I think Palmer is saying, it also makes you stronger.
I also like the idea that while I may never really “belong” anywhere—simply because I’ve lived in 4 states in my life—I’ll always “belong” with myself. Place is important, but it’s not what stays deep inside. I think I’ve always had this “place” inside of me, just as I’ve always carried other places with me as well.
Look at a labyrinth: you begin on the outside, following the wide path around the edges, slowly working yourself closer and closer to the center. Then suddenly, you find yourself walking back towards the outer edge, going back past the route you just took, yet you aren’t in the same place.
You’re covering new ground.
And in fact, you have to do that to eventually reach the center destination…before you turn around and walk back to where you began.
When you throw caution to the wind (at least metaphorically) and you do achieve what you’ve always wanted….a new address, a new relationship, a new job, whatever…you show courage and self-knowledge. No one can ever take that away from you.
Where you go from there is your decision. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to change your life and go a whole new way. There’s very little said about deciding at some point to return to your roots, and start life anew.
That’s really rockin’ the wrinkle!
I still don’t know what to do. I’ve been at crossroads before, many times wondering which path looked like the right one. But I can say that I’ve always trusted the trail to take me where I need to be.
And it’s always a welcome sight.
“Wherever you are is the entry point.”
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
“And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.”
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”