A Senior Moment – ‘Two Roads Diverged’


Last Friday, I found myself hiking for the first time along a groomed path through an extensive and winding forested trail between Port Elgin and Southampton. My walking companion and I were so engrossed in conversation while absorbing splashes of yellows and reds decorating the autumn trees, that we paid little attention to direction.

Several times on our journey through nature’s sanctuary, we would arrive at a fork in the trail where the path offered to lead us either left or right. Being in unfamiliar territory, I was quite relieved, at every point of decision, to spot a tiny map nailed to some nearby tree. It quickly provided direction. A verse from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” instantly came to mind:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel them both—

How often in our own journey along life’s winding path have we come upon a fork in the road? A decision is demanded of us but we remain unsure whether to go left or right. As Frost reminds us, we cannot travel them both. Finding that “right” direction can be uncertain around major decisions—-to marry or end a marriage, to start a business, to buy or lease a new car, to sell one’s home and relocate. Even routine daily life offers choice—to exercise or rest, to keep track of all taxable income, to order a green salad or munch on French fries, to confront an awkward situation or just let it go by.

Overnight, as most of Canada shifted from Daylight to Standard, we gained an hour of time. Putting it differently, in the dark middle of last night, we were given one hour to live over again. How often I have wished for a chance to relive an hour, to revisit some past choice, but this time to make a decision to travel on that other road.

Most times over our life journey, decisions are not difficult; the right road clearly beckons us with flashing lights. We have laws, ethical teaching, conscience, common sense, reality checks and intelligence. Yet, there are those other choices that can prove challenging. When there is no little map tacked to a nearby tree, how can we discern which path to travel when we come to a fork in the road? Here are a few guidelines which some travelers use as compasses:

INTUITION: I just follow my gut! Perhaps crudely stated, but the meaning remains clear. Some folks seem to go by inner emotion; if it feels right, I will go for it.

CO-INCIDENCE: But they would adamantly assert this is not really a random “co-incidence.” When the universe or God provides directional signs and circumstances suddenly align, I know it is the right path.

DOOR-KNOCKING: If I knock on a door which refuses to open I will find another door to try. But how many times should I bang on that same door before giving up?

GETTING ADVICE: Two heads are supposedly better than one. But that depends on the wisdom residing in that second head. Too often a friend will tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to know.

SHORT TERM PAIN: Think of exercise which can be boring or painful, but pays long-term dividends.

SHORT-TERM GAIN: Think of too many orders of tasty, ketchup/salt/vinegared French fries and long-term pain.

ME OR THE OTHER ONE: Sometimes we make a choice based on what is best for another person—a partner, a child, a boss. Sometimes we can make a decision which is best for us, even if unpopular with someone else whose needs are then set aside.

Last Friday, my walking companion and I traveled mostly on a straight path. Where the trail did diverge, we found a handy map. Yet, even if we had made a temporary wrong choice, at the journey’s end, we would not have deemed it a ”wrong choice” but simply as a learning experience for next time. Although we cannot turn back the clock to relive past mistakes, we can end self-condemnation and begin to see those choices also as learning experiences. From them, we grew both wiser and stronger