Tuesday, 13 December 2011

I took the road most travelled

I found myself a few months ago walking down a path in the woods. A path travelled by many people, some like myself out to see what was there, others, on the path heading for a particular destination. I had no destination. The path meandered through the trees and across small streams, where wildlife of all kinds flourished. I felt watched. As I walked I thought about how my life was going and where it was leading me. I thought about my family, my friends, my career, myself. I took in the peace of it all to reflect on middle age. I walked for miles.

I came across a crossroads on the trail, one more trodden than the other. As I stood there for a while trying to decide which to take, others walked on past, some took the trodden trail, others, without hesitation, took the overgrown and underused trail. I saw them in the distance ducking branches and jumping streams until they were out of my sight. I stood there again for a while, considering my family, friends and career, and I opted for the heavy trodden trail.

I began walking again, and again, watched my surroundings. I listened to the wildlife, but it became less prevalent. I watched for trees and streams, but they were fewer. I even watched for other hikers, but they seemed to walk on past me without a word. The trail became a highway. It opened up into two lanes where now bicycles began to pass me. Then, scooters, finally cars. The trail had become what I didn't want - a rat race. The trail had become my fears. The road now, as it was, led to places I was afraid of and had no desire to be. It led to stress, anxiety, and a sense of foreboding the likes I had never experienced. It led to all the places in my mind that were wrong. As cars whizzed past me I was afraid of where I was going, I suddenly wanted to go back. But I didn't know how. I couldn't turn around, the traffic was coming right at me. I couldn't keep up with it, I was still walking. I sat down and fell into panic and fear.

I sat there for a long time wondering what to do. All the time the sights and sounds of the rat race flew by me in both directions. I couldn't see my family, friends or career. I couldn't even see myself anymore. I had become anonymous to all but the fear. I sat there, watching the rat race fly by me, destroying what I knew. It destroyed my inner self, it clouded the sky, and even ran over the wildlife. All around me were things I didn't want to see. I needed to get out of this place. I needed to get back to the trail.

I looked around me and saw across the road a small opening in the fence with a clearing behind it. I had to run for it. I bolted across the oncoming rat race and jumped the fence, and fell. It seemed like I fell a hundred feet, but it was only a fraction of that. I fell into the brush, listening to the rat race whiz by me overhead. I was off the road, but now in my own fog. Now I was in the trees with no path. Again, the panic gripped me, the fear grew inside me, and I couldn't see my family or friends. I had to keep moving - I had to find the small path, the one I should have taken the first time. But I had no idea where to look for it. As I moved farther from the rat race the sky began to clear and through the trees I picked out familiar shapes in the sky - trees and wildlife that I had seen before. I heard a stream, peaceful and tranquil. I headed for it.

I had to pick my was through the forest, making my own trail. I climbed over rocks and over swampy areas still saturated with rain. Ever closer I moved toward the sound of the stream but it seemed like it was so far off - it seemed like the closer I got to it the farther away it moved. I began to hear my family calling. I began to hear my friends calling. But I still couldn't see them. I walked for what seemed like months, through the trees and over bogs that held me back. Swampy land that made me find another path. Several times I fell down and cried because I couldn't shake the fear and anxiety. Several times I collapsed. But each time I knew I had to get up and keep moving. The stream was still there, in my head. It was in front of me, but I couldn't see it. I kept going.

Finally I came to the small trail, the one I had lost. Finally I had made it there. The trees were as picturesque as I had remembered them and the wildlife was all around me, and they all seemed like they were egging me in a certain direction. The direction that would lead me to my lost family and friends. I could hear them, but I could still not see them. Again, I panicked and and the anxiety caught hold of me. I sat down against a tree and stared up. I thought long and hard if this was the right path. Were there three? After all this progress, after all this falling down and getting back up again, was I still on the wrong path? How could that be when I could still hear the familiar stream, which was still so far distant. I knew they were there, I knew I had to find them.

I must keep going.