At the Crossroads
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
Last week I stood at the crossroads. Literally. There’s a powerful intersection where Indian Hill Road and Christiantown Road meet in West Tisbury. I considered how the intersection of two cultures many moons ago still affects us all. But, that day I was there for me. . .and for my mother.
On January 31st (today), my mom is teaching her last day at the Wedgwood Elementary School. Twenty-one days ago I attended her retirement dinner. It was a lovely event—81 people were in attendance, many of whom spoke glowingly of my mom, sharing stories of how she had touched the lives of her students and their lives on a daily basis. It was clear that her hard work and her giving nature were cherished and had made a huge difference to her community. I sat there hoping that she was able to really take in all that was being said—all of the acknowledgement, the appreciation, the love. And I was aware of how it was affecting me as well. I was both hoping that when I reach the threshold of retirement that people would share similar sentiments about me AND hoping that I am able to recognize and embrace love and appreciation NOW, in the moment they are given.
Observing my mother giving her all in the final days as a special education teacher, I wonder and worry about what will happen for her when she shuts her classroom door for the last time. What will she feel on February 1st when she awakes in the morning with no obligations? What will she do? Who will she be?
My mother is at the crossroads of ending a career and beginning retirement. I am at the crossroads of a business expansion—bringing the fledgling business that I have created into its next incarnation. There are so many opportunities to grow. I get to decide which path to take or continue to linger in the crossroads, without choosing.
That morning, as I stood in the center of the road, I felt awkward. Simply acknowledging that I wasn’t sure which direction to turn felt shameful.
A car approached the intersection. I quickly turned my back toward it, retracing my steps toward the quadrant where I had parked. The car passed and I returned to the middle.
I lifted my hands over my head, arching my back slightly. Another car approached the intersection. I quickly dropped my arms, embarrassed, and trod the same path to the side of the road. I became aware of my choice: that I was retracing the familiar path, with my head down.
This time when I returned to the center, I felt a bit more sure of myself. "I am here, I don't know what I'm doing, I feel a bit ridiculous. . .and it's o.k. I love that."
I faced the first direction, bent down, scooped up some air, flinging it overhead. Turned to the next quadrant and repeated the movement. . .was interrupted by yet, another, car. I smiled, thinking about how long I had been hanging out in the crossroads, intending to get still and listen, then make a decision about my business, and getting sidetracked by all of the distractions, the “cars” of my daily life. I scooted to the safety of the next corner, head up, making eye contact with the driver. She continued on her way and I stepped back into the crossroads.
Now I stood calmly facing the first direction, tuning into my bodily sensations—how was I experiencing each possible choice in my body? The first direction, I felt a constriction in my heart. I turned 1/4 turn to the next choice. A fast-driving car interrupted my contemplation. I stepped aside, made eye-contact & waved while he passed, “Hi! Here I am, you might think I’m a crazy lady that doesn’t know what she’s doing—there’s an element of truth to that. AND I’m here in my process. It may look silly but it’s important-- I’m choosing my path.” He sped past, unable to hear the voice in my head. I returned my focus to the crossroads.
There were two choices that led to the noisy, well-traveled road and neither felt good in my body. I was attracted to the wooded lane that drove off straight into the distance. I made a mental note and then turned toward the final option: a winding, wooded lane. Everything settled within me. I knew in the way that you just know sometimes. This was the one. I allowed myself to take in the totality, the complexity of my choice. I gazed upon and really saw the pavement that turned to dusty, graveled path; the beckoning trees growing over the road; the bend that disappeared into the unknown; the roadside sign. I smiled.
It was the sign that confirmed it: “Private Road, Use at your own Risk. Go Slow”.
I don’t have to rush into a million things at once. I don’t have to travel the familiar, paved path. I can take this journey, my journey, down this private road, taking risks, going as slowly as I need to. I don’t have to speed through toward my destination. I can enjoy the twists and turns toward the unknown, at my own pace.
Chapter 64 of the Tao Te Ching states that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. I don’t have to map out the entire future of my business, just as my mom doesn’t have to plot the trajectory of the rest of her life, we just need to make one decision and take the first step.