I’ve always been able to read a map. My father taught me. He would show me the routes we would be taking on our family’s vacations, what to watch out for on the road and what we would be seeing along the way.
Once, he showed me which roads we were going to take west through the Allegheny Mountain range to get to the road that he wanted us to travel. It seemed kinda out of the way to me. When I looked at the map, I saw that for quite a few miles, we’d be traveling sideways across the country instead of downward to get to Texas. When I asked him why we didn’t just go straight down through Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, he said,
“I know which roads I don’t want to take and this way gets us there without going places I don’t want us to go”.
I was young. I didn’t understand that it was the late 60s and early 70s. Not everyone was open to a family of color traveling through their small southern towns. If I had to do it, how would I know which roads are the ones I don’t want to be on and what direction is the best one for me to take? I had a ton of questions but I never asked him. I was just glad to spend the time with my daddy, listening to him, letting him show me something he knew.
I can be stuck doing the “how do I do this” thing a lot. Sifting past decisions and possible outcomes can leave me feeling wishy-washy. I remember years ago, telling someone that I wanted my life to be more, to be different; that I was tired of being dissatisfied and unhappy. She asked me, “What does being happy look like to me”? I had no idea. I had never consciously known what happiness looked like for my life. Then she asked me what didn’t I like about my life, what did I want to change about what I was experiencing? I didn’t know that either. I couldn’t say specifically what was causing my sadness. Only knew I was miserable. I realized if I was going to make any headway, I had to find out. I needed to start asking myself, what I didn’t want. I had to start reading the signs in my life.
Up until then, I had only up-close examples of how to pretend to be happy. But pretense wasn’t good enough anymore. Like Pinocchio, I wanted to be a real person. I didn’t want to just a job. I wanted to enjoy what I did for a living. I didn’t just want a relationship; I wanted to be in love and to be loved in return. And since I knew I didn’t have a clue how to be joyful, I did what anybody does when he or she need directions; I asked somebody who had been there. I was fortunate to find people that were more than generous and shared their knowledge of how they had made the trip. They showed me which way they went and I followed their example.
The first thing they said they did was to stop stopping.
They said Life would go on with or without my permission so it would be a good idea to learn how to let go of my expectations. They said that gratitude was more than a feeling; it was an action. They had to start recognizing the journey was more important that the destination. Then they would ask themselves what it would take to turn a no or maybe into a yes, to be okay with being scared and to accept the dark spots on my soul.
So that’s what I did. I became active in finding out my Nos and my Yeses. I sought out yes every chance I could. I learned that saying what I absolutely didn’t want freed me from the limits in my mind by allowing me to let go and to imagine, if I can, everything else I could possibly want.
I accepted I could move on even if I was afraid. I began to understand that sometimes I might have to take a turn in a direction that looked like I was traveling off course. And I realized that it was ok that sometimes the road turns. I also discovered that I had more than one choice. I could choose again. And again. And again.
Changing my mind didn’t feel so bad. I liked being connected to my inner GPS. I felt more comfortable in my skin. It made the Light inside me shine brighter and settled a smile on my face.
I quickly came to the understanding that happiness is the result I receive when I look for and I find myself. I wasn’t running from sadness. The place I was really trying to get to was me.
So, now I have a new direction each day: the me I can be. I have no judgement on how I get there but I know when I was not me before and I have no desire to go back there. I have seen the me I can be; it’s a few miles past the valley, around the corner, off to the right. The trip there is not so bad. As Dad said, it’s just knowing which roads I don’t have to take to get to where I want to go.