I am aware that I have been in a reflective period for a while, as probably is the case for most of us who are a part of the circa baby-boom generation when things like Medicare and Social Security, which used to be something for old people, are no longer on the horizon but are, or are soon will be, crossing the threshold of our lives. I realize that I don’t feel old, like I thought I would when I was a younger woman looking into the future.
Now, looking back does not seem such a daunting affair, as it once was. I no longer need to notice the mistakes with regret or shame; I’ve made friends with them. Without having made the decisions I made, some that seemed like they were good and others that some would call bad, I would not be where I am in this mystical moment in my life ready to enter the next phase of my life, much different from the paths I took before, and I no longer feel the sadness about roads and paths I would not take or the decisions and choices I would make in my life ahead, a mournful sadness that brought me to tears when I first read Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken in my 8th grade Language Arts class.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The “ages and ages hence” have come now, and before I step out onto the next road that is ahead of me…
I glance back for a moment at the decisions I made:
…to go to college at 17, to get married at 21,
to divorce at 45 and relocate to China…and…other decisions…
…to return to the States at 47,
to move to Florida, and return to graduate school at 49 to get a PhD,
and then, at 62, to become a nomad, traveling around the country to find a place to write, though I didn’t know that was what I was doing at the time.
I look at the trilogy that I wrote, 3 completed books and over 1000 pages later, I have continued to write, unsure of where this writing will take me…with several more books almost completed, but not quite because I haven’t found their endings, not yet…and I notice that each decision brought me to a yellow wood and to two roads. And each time, I paused and stood, and pondered…and then took one.
As I made the choice and began the trek forward, it was not uncommon for me to look back, for just a moment, or to look back many times wondering if I had made a mistake.
But I knew if I ran back to take the other road, the very taking of the one I had chosen would have changed the one I did not take earlier…so I moved on, sometimes with pain in my heart, and sometimes with gratitude and determination.
In this time of reflection, I have learned that life is not a mistake or an accident. It is a gift. I have loved opening mine…and I will continue to open the gifts that are scattered along the road ahead, including the one I am just now beginning to take. The most precious gifts I have opened thus far have involved discovery of who I am and what I came into this life to accomplish. And…another gift has been to participate with others as they discover who they are and what they came into their lives to accomplish. I suspect, that the gifts ahead will continue to have to do with sharing those discoveries with people whose paths and roads may cross through my life.
Today, I find myself in another yellow wood moment…and I see the paths ahead that go off into the distance, but this time, I am aware that the road ahead is not as long as it was when I first became aware of yellow woods and diverging roads, and the awareness of the shorter road ahead poses little concern for me. With all the choices of roads in all the ages and ages past, I have come to learn that choices are a part of the very fabric of life each of us is weaving in the continuous unfolding of our discovery of who we are. This is the gift of life…the gift of the roads, the gift of the yellow woods…and the choices that we make as reflected in the beautiful Enya’s song…
Pilgrim, how you journey
on the road you chose,
to find out why the winds die
and where the stories go.
All days come from one day
that much you must know;
you cannot change what’s over
but only where you go.
One way leads to diamonds,
one way leads to gold,
another leads you only
to everything you’re told.
In your heart you wonder
which of these is true;
the road that leads to nowhere,
the road that leads to you.
Will you find the answer
in all you say and do?
Will you find the answer
In this very moment, everyone one who has found his or her way to this page is, in some magical, painful, curious, unsure way, experiencing a yellow wood decision or will soon be. And as you stand in consideration of which to take, the one that is right will open to you…because that will be the one you take.
May we all find our way to peace in our yellow wood times and be in acceptance of the road we take; it holds the richness of life offered that can happen only on that road…whatever it is.