Life is hectic, plain and simple. Despite how well we plan, new and unexpected challenges constantly arrive on our doorstep. In fact, some days it feels like a constant uphill battle. Yet, we’re well trained and utilize our most efficient and effective strategies to “get it all done.” But what happens when our laser focus on checking off our never ending “to do’s” comes at the cost of failing to notice the precious, small moments?
I’ve found that this happens a lot during Holiday season. That’s often when my days seem filled with unending “hills” ahead. It’s been my practice to go into autopilot and charge full speed. After all, haven’t we been taught to take the shortest distance, the least resistant path? Isn’t the best method of attack a direct route? I steadfastly held that philosophy in order to “make Christmas happen”… until I discovered an alternative way… the long and winding road.
This past October while in Oregon, I noticed that a mountain bike path had been “built” paralleling the perimeter of one of my running routes. So I decided to test it out, gladly leaving the unforgiving macadam for softer trail. I found myself running tiny up and downs. Some of these inclines were very steep and twisty, forcing me to become aware of the various rocks, unstable ground, and dips in the trail. I noted that this elusive way creatively added distance as it wove through the trees and brush instead of going in a direct path. It exposed me to parts of the community that I’d never seen before. This new mountain bike trail showed me beautiful tucked away spots not visible from the road. I realized that it was fun to mix it up both physically and mentally. My mind wasn’t focused going up the hill… instead I was present, paying attention to my surroundings. Zigzagging in and out of trees, climbing over obstacles, and testing my agility gave me a new perspective that morning.
All of the sudden, I found myself at the top of the long hill, the one I used to dread, that’s at the end of my run. (You might have read my blog about the mental challenges I encounter when running up hills. https://www.michellemdavis.net/blog/running-up-hill) It hit me that I’d been so involved with experiencing this new path that I hadn’t realized that I’d already reached the top of the hill. I sensed the Universe’s mischievous message… Was the “long and winding road” a better way than my usual direct path? After all, I had attained my destination without hyper focusing on the actual run and all of the hills. Instead, I stayed present, enjoyed my surroundings, and explored another avenue.
Like I often do, I decided to see if this “aha” moment might apply to other areas of my life. A self-proclaimed Type A who’s worked really hard to become more “chill,” I reflected on how I’d attempted things in the past, when I wanted something desperately and would “go for it.” I’d usually take the most direct route, never considering the long and winding road that would help me reach the same destination.
But what if I had not gone full steam ahead? What if I selected a different path, one that took longer but provided better views? Maybe an alternate route might have tested different abilities or offered me new perspectives. Could I have achieved the same results but in a better way? Might I have learned valuable lessons along these journeys?
Discovering this new bike path prompted me to look at things a bit differently, especially this Holiday Season. I wanted to know how I could I take what I learned on the trail and apply it to other aspects of me life. Would altering my enthusiasm and not charging full steam up hill provide me with a better experience? Would Christmas happen if I don’t go into hyper doing mode?
This past Saturday when my husband and I were “shed shopping,” we took the wrong road, ultimately traveling over twenty miles through the country going the opposite direction. We he realized the mistake, he hesitantly approached me with, “You’re not going to be happy, but....” No doubt he was anticipating a reactive response based on how I’ve behaved in previous situations where I perceived time to have been wasted, especially valuable time two and a half weeks before Christmas. But, instead of flipping out, I laughed. We hadn’t been on this road in ages, and my husband was reminiscing about his childhood and the places he and his family would go to in these towns. Had we taken the “right” way, he never could have shared those experiences. Our long and winding road, west instead of south, eventually got us to the shed company. It just took a little longer. But was that a bad thing? I think quite the opposite.
There are times when the direct path is the best route. But, there are those situations when its important to pause and consider which way you wish to go. Sometimes you need to charge ahead and take care of business. But, there are those moments where taking the long and winding road may provide you with the exact thing that you’ve been looking for!