There are times when we find ourselves at a fork in the road.
Sometimes it's by choice. Sometimes it's not.
You've been travelling down a familiar road for what feels like a long time. There are minor bumps along the way, but little of consequence.
Suddenly you're caught up in a tornado. You know it's not life threatening but you still take cover and when you eventually open your eyes, you find yourself at a fork in the road.
Have you been there? At that fork in the road?
It's a somewhat familiar place for me.
There you are.
Motionless, trying to figure out which way to go.
Everyone else is racing past you, leaving you in their dust. Going so fast, that they must surely know where they're going and why they're going there.
Meanwhile you're stuck, because your path has split into two. You can't keep going without consciously deciding which way is the right way.
Up until the tornado, you didn't think much about where you were heading.
Just like those other people racing past you. You kept going. On the same road. In the same car. In the same direction.
You stay on the path... a perfectly straight line as far as the eye can see. After a while, you suddenly realize you've been on this road for some time and you don't feel like you're going anywhere.
The road begins to appear endless, with no finish line. You get frustrated. So you decide to drive even faster to get to wherever it is you're trying to get to.
Surely that will work.
Just keep going.
But where are you going to? Where is the road taking you? Why are you on it? Are you aware of life happening around you?
Or is life passing you by in a blur because you're so set on getting to your destination.
Sometimes life seems like one big race on a road to nowhere.
Yet we often stay on the same path, travelling faster and faster.
Let's consider some of the reasons why we stay on the same path in life.
It offers some stability.
It appears to provide certainty.
(some might argue this is a false illusion).
It's effortless. We can afford to be lazy.
Following the crowd is a more culturally acceptable thing to do.
It seems less stressful.
On the other hand, a fork in the road may take us by surprise.
It takes us off auto-pilot mode and forces us to be more actively engaged in our lives.
In other words, it may bring us closer to pleasant and unpleasant realities of our life.
It's effortful. It makes us consciously think about where we're headed.
It often leads to indecision, which leads to self doubt.
This indecision creates fear and frustration.
The whole experience is generally uncomfortable.
We want to hurry up and get back on our path.
Now consider this for a moment.
An alternative way to look at a fork in the road.A way that turns it into a positive force in our life.
When we're stuck in auto-pilot mode, a fork in the road can prompt us to reflect, even for a few moments, on where we are headed and whether we are truly living life fully.
When life challenges us and throws us off course, a fork in the road presents us with a choice.
We can choose to be frustrated and fearful or we can choose to see it as a gift. An opportunity to learn some truths about ourselves and others.
To grow from the experience.
I was lucky enough to hit a major fork in the road this week.
My husband had knee replacement surgery a few weeks ago. It's a fairly arduous journey which (in the short term) requires full scale re-engineering of day to day life. In combination with looking after our two small children full time and keeping my business engine fully revved, life was testing us.
The tornado hit hard, wrenching me from my seemingly clear, straight path.
It was a small thing that tipped the scales. A break in our re-engineered routine. When the tornado eventually passed I found myself at a large fork in the road. It threw into question aspects of my relationship with my husband and whether I should continue with the launch of my company.
Jon Kabat-Zinn would say that we were experiencing the 'full catastrophe of living'.
Something which has become the normal status quo for modern day family life.
I became angry. Then fearful.
I wanted to give up.
I slowly became aware of feeling some despair. It was a subtle feeling. A loss of hope for a brief moment. Striking at the very core of my spirit and strength.
The next morning, during my run, something happened.
A palpable shift.
My awareness settled in and helped me to see that being at this fork in the road wasn't a threat, it was a powerful opportunity.
To see it in this light, required me to be accepting of both the positive and negative realities of my life.
I opened to the possibility that it might be an important moment.
The fork in the road suddenly became a beacon of hope.
I had two roads to choose from.
When the full realization sunk in, it came down to this:
I could let adversity, fear and despair take over for a while.
I could use the experience as a powerful life lesson.
A teacher that had come to teach me about who I am.
About what's important in life.
About finding myself.
About living life without regret.
About cherishing loved ones.
The dark clouds that hovered over me, gently rolled across the sky.
The sun was shining once again.
I knew which road I had to take.
I didn't choose the path of certainty, comfort and ease.
I chose the path of uncertainty, perseverance and purpose.
Some would argue this is the harder path to choose.
I would argue, in the end, it's the easier one.
(Image Copyright: Jean-Pierre Thimot/Shutterstock)