The road not taken simply leads to other roads to take
It is a beautiful sunny day today. You could almost be forgiven for believing that Spring is just around the corner. Of course it is not, but it is not hard to buoy one’s spirit with that image. However, we know that the weather will once again turn. Before the next solstice, there will be the inevitable cold spell and like as not, sleet or snow.
In changing weather and changing seasons, life mirrors nature. There are incredible highs, but there are also the inevitable lows. These places of pain and sorrow seem as overwhelming as the strongest hurricane. Yet, such events end and life swings through another cycle.
Perhaps Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it most succinctly in his poem, The Rainy Day, “Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; Thy fate is the common fate of all, Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.”
I guess this is why I have always loved literature, although I don’t read much of it anymore. I do because the best of it so accurately describes the human condition (good and bad) in terms we can understand and to which we can relate. We all tend to believe that our situation is absolutely unique, that no one else could possibly have endured what we have. In that we are wrong. Over the millennia, all of humanity has experienced tragedy and loss, either literally or figuratively.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend. We got on to the topic of his father and the influence he had on him. The story kept me in rapt attention. It was perhaps the most incredible story of hardship strength and perseverance I had ever heard. From concentration camps in war-torn Europe to the birth of the nation of Israel to an immigrant’s success in America. I was in awe!
No matter what we may feel; no matter how difficult our situation may seem, there has certainly been someone who has experienced something far worse. I was almost embarrassed for thinking my life had held any trials at all.
Although no one can really feel what another individual is going through, there is a great comfort in knowing that someone else has both experienced pain and loss and survived. But, it is not simply that they survived, it is in knowing that they came through and succeeded. They found a different path.
Somewhere almost forgotten in my thoughts is the knowledge that not all paths lead to sorrow and pain. There are just as many roads to success. The difficult parts make the pleasurable ones all the more poignant.
Therein lies the lesson; life is never a straight path to anywhere. The first verse of Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘The Road Not Taken,” sums it up, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” The optimism of youth likewise believes in the closing lines, “I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
Over my life, I have faced many divergent paths and, like Frost, I once convinced myself that I could keep those untrodden paths for another day. However, I now understand that many of those paths are forever lost to me and others represent a change or risk that I am unwilling or unable to accept at this stage of my life.
However, that does not constrain my choices. There are always an infinite number of alternatives available to us, even if they are not the ones from which we wish to choose. The strength of the human spirit lies in understanding that no matter what the options, one must choose. And that making that choice will lead to an alternative path, different, but perhaps better than the one you were on. In that knowledge there is joy and hope