No one looks at the middle. We see beginnings and we see endings, but it’s the stuff in the middle that really counts. Without the actual journey there would be no adventure. It’s the best part of the story. Yes, the warrior’s calling is exciting. The moment of realization, that mission to complete, gives you a burst of energy. And the promise of the happily ever after keeps us going. But we all know where the true tale is. The place in the middle. It reminds me of the classical poem, Ithaca.
When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven
I have the bad habit of forgetting about the journey and just remembering the result that I want. Even thinking that I’ve messed up, when really I just need to keep walking. It’s difficult to recognize the path when you’re travelling. Obviously you know where you started. You gathered your supplies, you’ve gassed up your car, bought new tires and began your journey. You have your maps and your GPS programmed, so you know your destination. What about the middle? Stop at a rest stop? How do you know you’re still on the right path? That’s the moment I often panic. There’s a blank, somewhat boring, unscripted moment that comes after I’ve started. I look around at the scenery and don’t recognize any of it. Probably because I was sidetracked. I was off smelling the flowers and petting the dogs. I forget to set up mile markers for myself. Rest stops. Ah, but the flowers and the dogs are all part of my journey.
If the journey is the thing to enjoy, what would that look like? It’s not all about the destination. It’s not just about the rest stops and the progress markers. What does enjoying the journey look like? I do think I’ve missed the point in life. Life is in the living they say. If that’s the truth, then I want to know what it is that I’m missing. When you have a baby you certainly aren’t thinking about their end game. You enjoy the baby with the soft skin and chubby cheeks. Yes, there are dirty diapers, but we usually don’t dwell on them. We enjoy the process of them growing up. Is that the way it should look?
What about the Zen Buddhist way of thinking? They talk about experiencing the whole process. Not just the good but also the “bad.” Actually they teach not to label any of the experience. Don’t label anything as either good, bad, pretty or ugly. That’s difficult, but I think I understand. While a dirty diaper is unpleasant, it isn’t a bad thing that’s avoided. It’s part of a healthy digestive system. Sickness is unpleasant but it’s a part of life. An experience as much as childbirth.
So my journey, if it is long or slow, short or fast, will be my journey. It may include writing, flowers and petting puppies. If we catch up on the other side, when we finally make it out of this dark forest, I’ll listen to your journey and you can listen to mine. Good times! Check out I Walk.
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