Where the Rocks Lie
Updated: Jun 24
The events of 2020 have rocked our world, evoking a wide range of thoughts and reactions. As a result, more and more people are finding it difficult to leave isolation to reemerge and return to their life journey. For some, remaining in a quarantine state seems more palatable than navigating this new and unknown environment. After all, we can no longer depend upon our once reliable methods for managing the day to day. So, how and when do we return? What is safe, and what is no longer appropriate?
When so much change occurs in such a short period of time, it can be frightening to leave the solitude and safety of our home. Isolation may function as a warm blanket, comforting and protective. Perhaps we’ve found new ways to spend our time and energy.
Yet, a critical part of this universal experience of the pause and reset is the return. Even though reemergence can be difficult, this phase is critical to the process.
During the past months, we’ve had time to dig deep and turn inward, learning about ourselves and what we value. In essence, we’ve been allowed the space to identify our priorities and prepare ourselves to face what lies ahead. Sure, we’d all love to avoid the rocky roads of the unknown future and travel the smooth and easy paths of the past. But the undulating terrain of uncertainty is where we can discover who we truly are. As awkward as it may be, the return is the necessary impetus for us to evolve into the people we are meant to be. And this will require us to leave our comfort zone and venture onto the unknown paths that lie ahead.
We all look forward to the gorgeous sunny days when there’s a cool breeze in our face while we stroll on the beautifully manicured walkways of life. It’s times like these that we can easily quicken our pace into a jog or perhaps even a faster run, confident that nothing will be in our path to “trip us up.” We bask in these predictable, yet enjoyable routes, taking in the beauty surrounding us.
Yet, there will also be the cold and cloudy days when we find ourselves climbing rugged terrain with narrow paths that wind around unforeseen trees and boulders. Roots appear out of nowhere. And, sometimes fallen trees require detours. These are the challenging times in our life when we may question ourselves and our capabilities, unsure if we have the tools to proceed.
Yet, while these paths can test us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, years of running on these trails have shown me that this is the exact space where we can learn so much about ourselves.
Rocks on trails and in life are unavoidable. Whether in plain sight or blended in the path, they serve to teach. If we are aware of our environment, we can avoid many of these obstacles. Still, there will always be certain rocks that we cannot dodge. It's when we are not present that it’s easy to stumble over them, falling flat on our face. But maybe if we understood the messages these various types of rocks offer, we’d have a better chance of navigating nature’s land mines. So, let’s examine some of the rocks we may find on our path as we reemerge into the new normal.
Boulders are easiest to see, as they are huge and cannot be missed. I envision these as the big milestones we encounter in life, those major decisions that we know are coming such as whether or not to go to college, what career path to follow, and who to choose as a partner. In essence, these gigantic rocks do not appear from nowhere, forcing us to make a quick decision as where to move next. No, we can easily spot them ahead, allowing us ample time to figure out a solid game plan.
Then there are the medium sized rocks. These are also obvious, and with some skill, can be avoided. Perhaps this is the train wreck of a friend who you have fun with but know you must limit how much interaction you have with her. Or, maybe it’s something else which is not good for you…. too much TV, alcohol, smoking, gambling…. whatever. Medium rocks are the elements in life that we are able to consciously navigate so that they won’t negatively impact us. Yet, if we ignore them, they can trip us up, causing serious injuries.
However, not all rocks are harmful. For example, consider the large, flat rocks. These aren’t a problem at all. In fact, I find it beneficial to land directly on them, as they provide a strong foundation to push off of. This is especially true if the surrounding ground is somewhat unstable. Perhaps there’s been a lot of rain lately, and the path is muddy and slippery. Or, maybe, it’s been extremely dry, and the dirt is giving out beneath our feet. That’s when the flat rocks are most helpful. Think of them as our support system, our family and friends who are always there for us when life becomes challenging.
Yet, of all of the rocks that I’ve encountered on the trail, the ones that I find most troublesome are those buried in the soil, camouflaged into the terrain. Only slightly elevated from the ground, it’s easy to catch our foot on them, causing us to stumble, especially if we’ve left our guard down. These sneaky rocks mimic the situations in life that blindside us, like the unforeseen cancer diagnosis, the unfaithful boyfriend, or the unexpected layoff. We may think that we’re paying attention, but we’re missing the signs, unaware of the subtle messages. And when we trip over these, it can hurt like hell.
So, what is the secret to successfully navigating the trails in our life, avoiding as many rocks as possible when we leave our quarantined state? How can we proceed confidently on our journey into this new normal without the fear of falling?
It might be helpful to consider these questions:
Are we picking up our feet, doing our best, or are we just lazily shuffling along?
Are we present, or are our thoughts elsewhere?
Do we have a direction, or are we aimlessly wandering?
Do we trust ourselves and feel capable of being on the trail?
Do we have faith that if we fall, we possess the ability to pick ourselves up and try again?
It’s a given that we will encounter various sizes of boulders and stones as we reemerge from the pause and reset. Actually, these rocks are present to teach us lessons. Yet, we can learn the hard way or the easy way. If we maintain presence, awareness, purpose, trust, and faith, we are less likely to stumble. Yes, there will be difficult experiences, but embracing these traits will better equip us to maneuver around the variety of rocks in our path.
Still, we cannot fully live our lives worrying about tripping over rocks, for doing so would keep us in isolation forever. That’s why it’s critical that we go outside and enjoy the trails. See what life has in store for you, then embrace whatever you encounter. And remember, if things become a bit rocky, remain present and know that you have the power within to navigate your path. While remaining safe and comfortable inside can be quite appealing, the true growth occurs where the rocks lie.