I awoke in the middle of the night (like I often do); but this time with a vision in my head. It was of me walking down a dirt path with rocks lining it. I was moving forward on the path totally alone and completely at peace. As I walked along the path, I saw my 10-year-old daughter (who suffers from anxiety) off the path ahead. As she started to have an anxiety attack and reach out for me, I jumped off the path to join her standing on the grass near my path. I dove into her emotions with her in an effort to comfort her, and completely lost myself inside her pain. I lost my peace, I lost my tranquility and I lost sight of the path I was just on. As this realization of loss sunk in, I became frustrated. Why does she always do this to me? I demanded to anyone who would listen. I received no answer.
Suddenly, I was back on the path moving forward. I felt peace and tranquility again deep inside my body. As I walked, I saw my husband on the other side of the path in a different patch of grass from my daughter. He wasn’t reaching out to me but I could instinctively tell he was having anxiety. I jumped off the path and dove into his emotions in an effort to prove my love for him, even though he hadn’t asked. I again lost sight of the path, my tranquility and peacefulness. Upon realizing the path was no longer within my reach, I was immediately angry and resentful of him. I felt years of this habit weighing down on our relationship and I asked myself how much more I could take of dealing with his anxiety and my own.
I found my way onto the path again, feeling peace and tranquility. As I walked, I saw a person off the path I used to work for who was emotionally abusive. I saw a representation of a frustrating experience with a family member. I saw my parents and felt their disappointment in me. But as I walked past these people and experiences, I quickly realized that as long as I stayed on the path and moved forward, I was able to leave the feelings associated with each of these people and frustrations behind me. And most importantly, I was able to maintain my peace and tranquility.
As I continued to walk in peace, I realized I was alone. That made me feel sad and a bit lonely. But for the first time I understood being alone on the path isn’t sad. In this world, we are offered other travelers who walk on their own path next to ours. They can bring joy, sadness and partnership to us, but they are always on their own path adjacent to ours or sometimes wandering in a different direction. No matter what relationships we engage in, we are truly on our path alone.
We think we have the option of hopping off of our path onto someone else’s. And that’s where things get tricky. Because we have free will, we can abandon our path for long periods of time and become completely immersed in someone else’s path. But abandoning our path leads to dysfunctional interactions that don’t help us or those we think we are helping in the long run.
Although staying on our path is our destiny and is where we find ultimate peace, it can be extremely difficult to stay on that path. Everything in our life can serve as a distraction or an escape from our path. Why would we want to be distracted or escape our path? Sometimes it’s an accident. An accident that becomes a habit. And sometimes escaping the loneliness of the path makes us feel good; until it doesn’t. Although walking on the path is our destiny and is ultimately beyond our escape, walking down the path alone self-assuredly of our purpose is not easy and is never a given without work.
That work to stay on our path can be scary, even defeating; in fact it can disrupt everything in our life that we’ve so carefully curated. Every relationship we hold dear may be changed by our allegiance to our own path, and our life’s purpose or career may drastically change. But dedication to our peace and tranquility must overcome any dysfunctional habit or fear. Because no matter what we tell ourselves as we wander off our path and dive head first into distractions, we are always walking the path alone.