I had a difficult conversation with our son recently. During that talk he said there was no sense starting something now because it would take a long time to reach the result we were talking about. I told him he was looking at taking a long path, not reaching a destination. I’ve been thinking about those words a lot since then. Plus thinking about how far down that path he would be if he’d stepped out on the journey three years ago. It doesn’t help to dwell on ‘what might have been’.
My husband and I used to go for walks together. When we did, there had to be a destination. He isn’t one to just go on a ramble with no known end in sight. Where we used to live, you could head out into the trees and walk as long as you wanted. There was the road, there were trails, there were logging roads. By myself, I could walk until I was done, then turn around and go home, whether I’d reached a goal or not. But that used to drive my husband nuts. He needed to know where he was going. Which was fine with me, too, because for me the goal was walking with him.
I think about all the actual paths we’ve walked, and of course I think about the metaphorical paths we’ve walked. Most of those metaphorical trails we’ve followed in our lives still have no known destination. We’re still meandering along wondering where this rough path is going. Maybe hoping for a log to sit on and rest some day.
There have been so many paths that I have turned around on before I got to the destination. But I loved doing that. Just heading out for a ramble, being out in the trees, no destination, no timeline, no goal.
There are also a lot of paths I’ve chosen to never step out onto, for so many reasons. A lot of those reasons had to do with fear. Fear of holding back those I walked with. Fear of failure. Fear of letting those I care about down. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of falling. Do I regret those? Not really. Except for the walks I turned down out of fear of holding back others. One of those friends I worried about disappointing died unexpectedly in a car accident. I no longer have her in my life to hold back, or to disappoint, and those things don’t seem as important any more.
Circling back to that conversation with my son…I have to step off that path. I can’t share it anymore. I can’t lead the way. If there is a destination, it’s different for both of us.
When he was little, my husband took him up a trail known locally as Lookout Point. It’s steep and narrow and honestly, the only trail I’ve ever been on that completely creeps me out. I swear it’s haunted. I don’t hike it. But on that day, my husband told our son to stay close to the uphill side, not the edge. Our son of course went too close to the edge and disappeared. That fast. A log bordered the outer edge but the land under the log had slid away. Our son slipped down into that gap. My husband saw him, down in that gap, hanging on. I don’t know which of them was more terrified. After that, our son stayed on the uphill side.
Whether he’ll do that now, follow our advice, or go his own way, we shall see. And my husband will always be there to grab him and keep him from falling. I’m not sure I can.
Many years ago my husband and I were walking a trail near Troublesome Creek. We were just friends going for walks (so I thought). There was this slight incline in the trail. He went ahead and turned to give me a hand up. I was surprised that he thought I couldn’t make it up on my own. Later, when I finally realized there was something else going on, he told me it had been an excuse to take my hand.
Even back then, he had the destination in mind while I meandered along the path.