Monday, June 4, 2012

What Do You Believe In?

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

“My life has a superb cast, but I can’t figure out the plot.” I posted this recently as my Facebook status. It was one of those quotes that get passed around. I may have posted in jest, but in my heart the words struck a serious and somewhat melancholy chord. I love the people who surround me. I have family I care about, acquaintances who make me smile, and friends who make me laugh. I also have a couple of THOSE friends, the kind you can call at three in the morning to come and sit with your kids no questions asked. I have one who has offered a kidney if I ever need it and one who has suggested she knows how to hide a body should I ever need that. I am surrounded by people who love me, who lift me up, and who care about what happens in my life. It is the “what happens in my life” part, however, that stumps me.

What do you believe in? A speaker threw out this line in a recent commencement address. I didn’t hear much of what came next. I was lost in the search for the answer to the question. What do I BELIEVE in? What DO I believe in? I figured if I could answer this, I would know the direction I should take with my life. I have been at a fork lately or, rather, a question mark. If only I could answer this prompt, I was certain, the way would be clear. Some cosmic light would turn on to illuminate my path. A giant arrow would point to my head. “You are here.” Point A. There would be a picture of one of those little stick figures in a skirt somewhere further down the road. Point B. I have never been great at character development, dialogue, or plot. A dotted map of here to there would definitely make things much easier.

“Life is not a straight line.” I snap back into the speech at hand. The speaker may or may not be quoting someone. I haven’t heard. He may or may not be referring back to the “What do you believe in?” question. I am uncertain. But what he has done is to create a visual in my head that suddenly makes me understand that, as in certain essay questions, there IS no right answer. There IS no need to stand forever, deliberating. There is only a single decision followed by another and then another. Life is not Point A to Point B in a neat clean path. Life is messy. Life has many optional paths. We choose one. That one leads to others. We have a plan. That plan leads to others, leads to surprises, shortcuts, new forks in the road.

The Road Not Taken is one of my favorite poems ever. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I understood the significance of its meaning. I always thought it, and often misread it, The Road Less Traveled. Frost is not talking merely, however, about taking that path that others are not brave enough to tread as with Emerson and his, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I like that idea, pioneer that I am, and grabbed onto it as Frost’s message, as his words speaking to my strong girl spirit. But he is talking, also, here about the road not TAKEN. There will always be other plots, other possibilities, other potential lives. I could stand at the fork deliberating and worrying and wondering for stanzas for no apparent good. Change one thing. That’s what I need to do. Make one decision, then make another. My life has played out so far in the way that it has because of the choices I have made, the decisions others have made FOR me, the random strangers who have stepped into my path, the coincidences, the synchronicities, the karma, destiny, fate, and the laziness on my part when I chose to not make a decision at all which, technically, was allowing others to decide for me. There are a multitude of other lives that I may have been living at this point. That should not concern me. What should concern me is where to go from here, to choose a path with no looking back, with no regret, with no worry that I have chosen wrongly, but merely chosen.

“Maybe……you get to write your own script?” my nephew commented on my “can’t figure out the plot” post. Maybe. Maybe, indeed. Maybe there IS no grand plan, but rather many smaller plans guided by personal choice and happenstance. Maybe there are many ways this life could be played out, and I am too focused on writing the story by the book, too focused on the text and what is proper and expected, too focused on the grade. I am forgetting that I have a voice, a style, a creative nature that is all my own. I am forgetting that I can write, that I can get into the head of the reader in a way that makes him think and question and wonder and laugh and cry and move. If I can do this for the reader, I am certain that I can do it for myself.

I crumple that staid plot beginning I have been sweating over, toss it in the wastebasket and begin again with fresh eyes and renewed spirit. What do I BELIEVE in? Think. What DO I believe in? Peace and compassion, kindness and love. Yes. This will be a nice story. Indent. Paragraph one.

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