Dan and I spent the weekend up North in the country with the family pup Molly who we borrowed for the weekend.
While Montreal streets were littered with plastic bottles and soggy papers– the garbage revealed when winter snow’s disguise melted away, the country roads and paths were covered in white powder. The lake that we swam in throughout the summer was still a desert expanse of snow.
As far as the eye could see there was no sign of spring here.
After settling into country life with a hearty breakfast, we spent the afternoon wandering off to a nearby path with our snowshoes in hand and Molly on the leash, prepared for an adventure.
During the first hour we followed a path led by pink ribbons that wrapped around birch trees twenty feet apart from each other. We walked in rhythm to the crunching sound of our snowshoes which clung to the surface of the snow so we didn’t fall in two feet deep.
This, contrasting with the silence around us, was a meditation.
Eventually we reached a point in the path where we weren’t sure whether we’d end up looping back around towards home, or if we had to retrace our steps and go back towards where we came.
Dan, ever the adventurer, opted for the first choice. “Let’s see where this path leads.” He said excitedly.
I should mention that while I am the cautious worrier who when we travel likes to stick to the map and directions– Dan’s the one who likes to “see where we end up.”
(This is probably the only time in our relationship when we get short and impatient with each other as I try and steer us to safety, and he steers towards adventure.)
While we walked and walked seeing if the path looped around, we ended up finally reaching a road.
I was ecstatic. I started to remove my snowshoes and talked about how much fun that just was.
Meanwhile, Dan had taken out his phone to check what road we had reached, only to discover it was a dead end that was REALLY far from where we started.
“What does that mean?” I asked incredulously.
“It means we have to go back.”
(For fans of the show Lost– this reminded me of what Jack tells Kate once they finally got off the island they were stuck on for years!)
In that moment I wanted to cry. We had been on our feet for what felt like hours.
A part of me was seriously thinking about the option of just staying on that road. Hoping that maybe a car would pass by (who wasn’t a crazy axe murderer) to pick us up. But those hopes were dashed since I was just informed that the road to our salvation actually led to nowhere.
Dan made the quick calculation that we had about three hours till it got dark out and decided it was best if we just retrace our steps.
“Are we lost? Are you sure this is the way?” I asked, doubting my former footsteps.
“Myrite, you can’t stop to doubt. Just pick a way and see where it takes you.”
Wise words indeed. One hour later, and with enough sunlight to spare– we finally made it back home safely.
After a huge celebratory lunch, dry warm socks and a fireplace going, we finally debriefed what had happened and here are some of the deeper life lessons I wanted to share with you.
Don’t trip looking backwards or get overwhelmed by the view ahead: Take small steps one at a time
On snow shoes if you look down but not ahead, you’ll get hit in the face with a branch. If you look ahead but not down, you’ll trip on something or fall down a hill. If you look backwards, again- you’re likely to get hit in the face with something.
Bigger Lesson here: Be present with where you are right now. Be aware of the next step in front of you. Any time I looked too far ahead I panicked (that must be an hour away!) Instead, stick with the small steps one at a time, what can you do right now, today? The small steps will take care of the big changes.
Don’t second-guess or doubt yourself
If I were to second guess moving forward because I wasn’t 100% sure it was the right way, then I would end up wasting hours sitting around doing nothing. Or maybe I would wait for that car to come by and pick me up leading to a road to nowhere.
Bigger lesson: There are times to make calculated risks and times where you just have to go for it. As Dan said, “don’t doubt just pick a way.”
You can’t really get lost
What I learned from Dan was that he never thought we were even lost! (Unlike me)
Bigger lesson: I know sometimes it feels as if we’ve lost our way. We might be in a relationship we’re not happy with or a job that feels unfulfilling but there is this saying, “you can’t get off your path.” So there really is no wrong way, there are only different choices along the way. If you think of life in a linear sort of way- then there is somewhere that you are trying to get to. There is someone you think you have to be, some achievement you’re meant to arrive at. But when you realize that life is more like a squiggly line (to take a line from Mitch Joel) then it’s more like a million different routes instead of one path and you might pop out of different dead ends or paths and it’s up to you to navigate to use your inner compass. As soon as you hit a dead end, as we did, you just turn back around and try again. There are times we might be guided by what we don’t want, and that’s just information we can use to steer us in a different direction. We are never lost, we are just finding our way and making a new path.
What you focus on expands
I noticed how quickly a fun day of snowshoeing could turn awry. When we weren’t where I thought we were, when we hit a dead end all I noticed were the negatives. My legs, that up until that point felt strong exercising, were now tired. My boots and socks were wet with snow that melted into them, and I was suddenly starving and ready for lunch. I also realized we didn’t pack anything as a back up. The more I focused on all the reasons we were in trouble, the worse I felt because what you choose to focus on expands.
Bigger lesson: Knowing that, what do you want to focus on? Do you want to focus on what sucks or what’s going well? This isn’t to dismiss what’s actually happening, it’s about giving yourself the time to feel whatever you need to (the anger, frustration, sadness) and then, as my friend Kassy’s mom wisely told her, “When you’re going to the dark places, don’t pack your suitcase.” In other words, you can visit, but don’t move in.
If you’ve been through the “dark woods” lately, feeling lost or lacking purpose, it would be my honor to help support and guide you on your journey to personal fulfillment.
With love and light