The Long and Winding Road

“Every step is on the path.” –Lao Tzu

I spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions – both big and small.

Will this take me in the right direction? Does it align with my values? Am I being influenced by others?

This game of twenty questions paralyzes me. I keep waiting for that flash of insight – that jolt of knowing – so I can unequivocally say YES! This is the right decision! But unfortunately, that’s a rarity. Life is too complex. And in my case, when a spark of intuition does come, I immediately question its validity. By ripping it apart with my rational mind, I lose the larger message.

While walking in the park yesterday, I had an epiphany about my indecisiveness.

As you enter, there is a primary path that follows the Wissahickon Creek. This creek empties into the Delaware River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. As I walked, I imagined that my destination was the ocean – I was following my life path, returning to the source of everything.

The Scenic Route
It occurred to me that creeks and rivers do not follow a straight line. They meander toward the ocean. Just because the water isn’t flowing exactly eastward doesn’t mean it won’t arrive eventually. If I applied this concept to my life — I can’t expect that every decision will help me make direct progress toward my life’s purpose. As long as I’m facing the ocean, a thoughtful compromise is better than a deferred decision. Making no choice is like standing still in the water, full of tension and fighting the current. I am categorizing decisions into right and wrong, when there are no absolutes. The complexity of our world means that I must make compromises or I will never move forward.

The Element of Surprise
The creek is definitely flowing east – just not in the most efficient way. It sounds like a bad thing until you realize that efficiency doesn’t allow for beauty or the unexpected. Knowing exactly where you’re going is boring. The creek’s curves provide interest and anticipation for what’s around the corner. It also creates choice when the water splits in two directions. As long as I’m heading east, the choice isn’t life or death. No agonizing required.

Let Go
If something feels hard and scary, does it automatically mean I’m “going against the flow?” Not necessarily. Intuition is the only way to know for sure. I’d like to imagine that this sensation means I am teetering over a waterfall, holding back. It takes all my strength to avoid sliding down. I know what to do, but…it’s steep and it’s not directly east. If I’m going to take this chance, shouldn’t it catapult me like an arrow toward the ocean?

That’s how I feel right now. I’ve been grasping at slippery rocks for too long, waiting for the creek to magically shift so there is no question about its destination. But this concept gives me faith that as long as the water carries me, I’m on my way.


For a lovely video of The Beatles song (The Long & Winding Road):


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