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The Path We Take

November 18, 2010

“She said it ain’t about an exit past
A dot on the map no, that ain’t where we’re goin’
It ain’t about the road we’re on
How far we’ve gone as long as we keep rollin’
It’s not about the path we take
Or the end of the line
It’s not about us getting somewhere
As fast as we can drive
She said Baby
It’s all about the ride”
-Mark McGuinn,”All About the Ride”

Today’s post is brought to you courtesy of the current title being played in my head, Mark McGuinn’s “All About the Ride.” Unfortunately, no one’s uploaded a youtube video and I can’t find an MP3 of this song, either, although there is a sample on Amazon, but it doesn’t include the chorus.

The idea that the destination isn’t as important as the journey isn’t new or revelatory. It’s easily forgotten, however, as we get fixated on some arbitrary point in the future, at which we think, ah, once I’ve done that, got that, I’ll have it made. We’re bad at figuring out what will make our future selves happy. Bad. How many times have you been certain if you just manage to do this one thing, then you’ll be happy, and you get it done, and bam, you’re not?

We need goals, short term, interim, and long term projections of where we want to be headed, and we need to be able to shift those goals as circumstances change, to be able to adapt and transition. Without goals, we are rudderless. However, if our emphasis is on getting there, getting it done, getting it over with, we rob ourselves of the many opportunities along the way to appreciate the journey and the wonderful way, if we’re open, that our paths can change.

I try to remind myself of that often, to see the possibilities and to go towards the most logical, practical (and soul-tugging) direction. I try to project possible consequences and avoid screwing the future me. Unfortunately, when present me is eating chocolate cake, I could give a shit about future me’s waistline, but hey, it is chocolate cake!

Despite our best intentions, we end up at destinations we never intended. If we’ve gone with the flow, been in the moment, let it play out organically, we’re more likely to end up at our destination more satisfied with the journey.

When my girls were still little, and they, the bright boy and I were home together, all day, every day for years on end, I told myself to enjoy it, to remember that those days would pass, be gone, be out of reach, and I would, hah, despite the aggravations of being a 24/7 caregiver bring, miss it. Ah, and they’re growing up, and I do. I miss having them to myself, sharing our lives completely so that we were intertwined and aware of the nooks and crannies of each others’ lives.

We all five of us have moved into different stages, different places in our lives. Rick is back on dayshifts and the time we spend as a family are condensed to a few hours in the evening and the weekends instead of endless hours each day. I now work full-time and am gone a couple evenings a week, so that I am away from my kids and husband more than I have ever been. The girls are at school full-time, and the bright boy attends his day center three days a week and volunteers one morning at the animal shelter. He and I spend the most time together, as we have Tuesday mornings together, and most of Fridays just the two of us. We go eat lunch together and he helps me shop for the week. He helps me with dinner, too, so we get lots of time. It’s sweet and bittersweet, that my soon-to-be-21-year-old and I get that time together, time I think we can all admit, were he not autistic and intellectually disabled, I would not have with this lovely young man.

We cannot know, we cannot predict, what the future will bring. We do our best to project, to get ready, to go armed into tomorrow. If we are wise, we arm ourselves for a range of futures rather than focusing it all on one outcome. When we are intent on the destination, we lose focus of the journey and all the wonderful places along the way.

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