“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;
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.”
–Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
I am always moved when I read this poem. I feel as though Robert Frost stood not just at a parting roadway, but perhaps a roadway with one path to the future and one to the past. But only the path forward, the path into uncertainty, was worth taking.
It is the beginning of a new year. I am grateful. And in gratitude, I take the time to look back and to look ahead.
What wisdom comes from six months of travel, six months without a home or an endpoint? Without certainty, possessions or security of place?
What have I learned? Here are some of my go-to lessons to cope with life, travel and, oh, yeah, cancer!
Some Lessons From The Road
Life Lesson #1: Have A Sense of Adventure
Some travel to take tours.
I say travel for the detours!
Set sail, and go with the wind. I actually knew a pilot that would simply take off and fly into high pressure (i.e. good weather). He landed wherever he landed. He visited the most unusual places!
Life Lesson #2: Take The Time To Be Still
Only when you’re still can you progress. I know that sounds contradictory, but consider: A life well lived implies some creativity and creativity needs quiet to take root and grow. Quiet is nurturing; restorative.
Sometimes it is the change of place that allows one peace. That’s where travel comes in.
To capture that peace day to day, that’s where discipline comes into play. (see Life Lesson #9)
Life Lesson #3: Believe In Yourself
Look to your own inner guidance. Believe in it.
The most powerful voice is the one that lives in your head. Learn to calm your mind; observe your thoughts. Learn to carefully craft them as well. This is a conscious choice, one that involves ongoing effort. (See Life Lesson #9)
Life Lesson #4: Be Optimistic
According to Oscar Wilde : “The basis of optimism is sheer terror”.
I laughed (see Life Lesson #7) when I read this because there are days when I have to agree.
I like to think of optimism as positive energy. It’s where I prefer to dwell. And why not? It takes considerably less energy than living in fear; it’s fun; it is the energy that makes good things happen. Optimism means taking the time to dream, and pursuing those dreams.
Optimism alone isn’t a cure all. (See Life Lesson # 9). But the energy it creates can drive events and it certainly makes the journey much more fun. (See Life Lesson #7 again and be sure to at least smile).
Life Lesson #5: Be True To Yourself
Only in truth, do we find our way. Stop, be still, listen to yourself. (see Life Lesson #2 and #3).
Life is short. Live it well.
Life Lesson #6: Choose Beauty
Beauty is everywhere if you choose to see it. It pleases the eye and fills the soul. Do you choose to see it?
And if so, did you notice, that it’s hardly “perfect”?
Perfectionism robs us of beauty. Instead we look for flaws. And they’re always there if that’s what you’re seeking.
When I saw the picture below, and the weeds in the field of flowers, it seemed perfect to capture the essence of this life lesson:
Life Lesson #7: Have Fun
Make fun a priority. It’s really quite easy. First it’s a decision; secondly it’s an outlook. It becomes a mindset.
I’m not talking about partying ’til dawn. Fun can be gentle, quiet and kind. I’m talking about enjoying the moment here and now.
How does one survive life– much less cancer!– without a sense of humor and fun? Make it a habit to cultivate both.
Life Lesson #8: Be Curious
Be ready for some twists and turns; be prepared to double back on yourself, and always be learning! Learning breeds curiosity, curiosity makes us focus and with focus we can enter “the flow”, that wonderful, timeless place of maximum creativity and productivity. Only in the flow of life can serendipity occur.
Curiosity breeds serendipity.
Life Lesson #9: Be Dogged
Things do not magically happen. On a daily basis, do what must be done. Meditate. Work. Eat well. Be persistent even when the climb seems insurmountable.
An old Zen saying:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
Life Lesson #10: Embrace Change
For whatever reason, change is hard for most of us. Yet staying stuck in an outdated past can be deadly on so many levels.
Why not learn to cultivate curiosity about change and integrate it into your life? Since change is inevitable, why not make it pleasurable as well? (see Life Lessons # 1, 3, and 5)
Life Lesson #11: Be In The World But Not Of The World
This is a saying attributed to the Bible (which I must admit I’ve not read–organized religion just isn’t my thing). And it’s one of my favorite phrases.
To me it speaks of being here, now. Being fully alive. But remembering that the meaning in the experience isn’t the trend du jour, the bigger house, the newest car or the coolest electronic.
The meaning in life comes from within.
To looking within; To helping out.
Looking ahead to 2018, May it be a year of prosperity, wisdom and peace for all of us.
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