The Road Less Traveled

It was a cool and cloudy morning as I strolled though downtown Flagstaff. It was about 40 degrees, the air smelled of rain, and the clouds were settling low in such a way that you could not see the Mountain. The traffic was minimal, and it was fairly silent; aside from the occasional train passing and the strange guy standing by the trash cans yelling.  I didn’t plan on taking this morning walk, but it formed out of mere happenstance; and it was good.

I didn’t realize it at first, but I had landed in a serendipitous moment. I had recently read an article by my friend Eric Hanson* about serendipity. Serendipity is kind of like stepping into the unknown and finding unplanned experiences or joy in that space. He shared stories of his own experiences, and challenged the readers to seek serendipitous experiences once in a while to experience the joy that it brings. What I discovered during my walk this morning is that it does not always take grand events to ignite joy.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.  – Robert Frost

The idea of adding some spontaneity to our lives is key to our personal growth. Before I go on, I would to like to give you some context of how I approach life. I am a planner. I wake up on Monday morning thinking about what I can accomplish on Saturday, I keep a detailed ever growing to-do list at work so I don’t drop the ball, I think of Spring Break plans in January, and I can tell you exactly where to find items in my closet. I tell you this to convey that I have a very strong belief in a structured foundation, and that there is great value to setting goals and staying organized.

I love this quote because it is inspires me. I also love this quote because trail running and hiking are an important part of my life, and there have been many times that something as simple as taking the rabbit trail instead of the main trail has brought me to unexpected and unplanned beauty. Not only have there been breathtaking views, but there has also been somewhat eerie places very deep in the woods where I can only assume that each sound I hear belongs to the other creatures who inhabit that area. The feeling of heading out that trail does something special inside.

Stepping into the unknown, no matter how small that step, ignites energy inside of us.

As I walked through downtown in the midst of the calmness and overcast weather, I became energized and inspired. Though my plans had fallen through, that time became sacred to me. I cannot think of a more simple and minimal step into the unknown than taking a walk, and in that simplicity, I have found a vastness of joy.

*Eric Hanson is an author, adventurer, film maker, and all around good guy. Check him out at Erichanson.tv

 

 

 

The Upside of Being Down

“You Change Your Valley Into A Peak When You Find And Use The Good That Is Hidden In The Bad Time.”

– Spencer Johnson

The following post has been written over the course of the past week, and is a journey through understanding and responding to sadness. It transforms and grows as you read through it, and my hope as always is that it connects with each person who reads it

I have felt downhearted more times in the past few years than I can recall. Some of the loneliest and saddest times have peaked as well. Be it a form of depression, feeling meaningless, or just feeling unimportant and ineffective; Today though, I find myself in a space of reflection and insight. While currently in the middle of this struggle, hope is also present.

This post is not intended to discourage, on the contrary, the intent is to encourage through transparency. Being transparent with our struggles is the only way to have a meaningful conversation about the inner workings of our heart, the feelings we experience, and the impact it has on our life. Therefore, I will be as honest as I can with the state I am in, in the hopes that it connects and empowers you the reader as I seek to connect and seek empowerment as well.

The theme of this article will be about the effects of sadness, and the power it has to teach us. At the core, sadness may be the greatest indicator of our purpose. You cannot be sad without trying to identify the source of it, because we desire joy and peace; and once you find the source, you find a choice. A response is needed: do we just lay down and accept that things just are what they are, or rise up and choose to do the work that must be done to climb out of the muck and the mire.

Sadness is necessary to move forward. In Disney’s movie Inside Out there is a scene where the character Sadness has to step in and help another character (Bing Bong) come to grips with the change that has taken place in his life.

Sadness-with-Bing-Bong

He cannot go on, and the character Joy has done everything in her power to help cheer him up. Sadness steps in, and instead of trying to cheer him up; she simply sits with him and acknowledges that his sadness is justified. In this simple act, she helps him accept that what has happened as the past, and she helps him get through the feeling of giving up in a way that the character Joy could not. He finds a new strength at this point of the movie. He finds the ability to move on, and team with Joy once again.

Sadness has it’s place in our life, and it has an important role in our growth and our purpose.

A common theme and open struggle that I’ve shared in previous blog posts, is my current inability to be comfortable being alone. I have come to understand that this longing for constant community comes from deep inside of me. I grew up as what I thought what was an introvert, and it turned out that I was actually just a shy extrovert; so the feeling of being torn when alone has been in my life since my adolescent days. I developed a habit of wanting to be involved, but being too scared to step out and join. I eventually became more comfortable with stepping out, but the habit of longing for more connection and involvement has stuck around. So there are times I find myself in a state of sadness because I feel disconnected, but I can see sadness as a teacher.

Here are five things sadness has taught me:

1. Aloneness is a part of life; so there must be a level of acceptance in those times. There are opportunities to grow in knowledge, strength, or creativity. Whether it is reading, writing, playing guitar, exercising, or being still; all of these activities are beneficial for me and ignite hope within me. I have written about loneliness and solitude in previous posts.

2. Sadness is a window into the soul. If you want to know what you desire, be attentive to your feelings. Just as energy and excitement in a station let’s you know you like what’s happening, sadness shows you what you need.

3. Take the time to grieve an unfortunate situation. There is a time for sadness, and we do need to acknowledge when a situation arises in life that brings heartache. Whether it is the death of a loved one, a personal injury, a missed opportunity, a feeling of failure, or the state of our nation; take the time to process that feeling inside.

4. Do something about it. If feeling disconnected from community, put forth the effort to connect. If grieving a death, remember that life and ask what they would have you do in this time. If you don’t like the state of our nation or environment, take baby steps toward making a difference. Do not let hopelessness take over.

5. Sadness calls us to be intentional, and that is why I choose to write about it today. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is a quote that holds a lot of truth. We can blaze a path through this life, we can even choose which path to follow; but if we are unintentional about our decisions, we forfeit ownership of the direction of our life.

I have learned so much while writing this article over the past week. I started in a state of despondency, hoping for insight to move toward meaning; and today, I find myself hopeful. There is a fine line between heartache and hopelessness, and we must recognize the difference, because there is always hope. I thank you for reading this article, and that it brings hope if you are in need; or in the very least, it will challenge you give sadness it’s place when it comes to you.