. . . or not to be.
Should I stay or should I go?
These two roads diverging in the woods . . . which one should I take?
It often seems that life is just a series of choices and their consequences. In retrospect, a choice can seem destined and profound, the initiating event of what came next. Or perhaps it is married to regret and remorse. Ideally, whether seen in the rearview mirror as positive bellwethers of future good or as negative gatekeepers to coming pain, our choices set the stage for everything else to come.
Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” about those roads diverging in the woods, is often used to demonstrate the beauty of not following the crowd. The final lines of the poem say, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” But, these are perhaps the most misinterpreted lines in all of American poetry. We think they’re saying “Ah, what a glorious rebel I have been, and it paid off.”
But, you see, the two roads described aren’t that different from each other. The poem says “the passing there had worn them really about the same” and that the roads “both that morning equally lay.” Frost’s final stanza starts “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence,” and that “with a sigh” is important. He’s actually writing about our tendency to romanticize the past, to look back at younger selves as courageous and daring rather than just . . . human, making human choices, and having no more idea than anybody else how it might all turn out.
The rightness or wrongness, goodness or badness of our choices is often determined by the way we move through the results of our choice rather than the choice itself.
But while we’re still on the front side of the choice, still standing at the fork in the road, is there any way to get a sense of direction?
I was once faced with a big decision and unclear how to make it. My sister gave me some good advice. She said, “Get off by yourself where you won’t be interrupted. Spend a few moments in meditation. Quiet your mind. When you feel completely settled within yourself, take your mind to the place where you have already decided on option A, and see how you feel. Then clear your mind again and take it to the place where you have already decided on option B, and see how you feel.”
So, I did it. I followed her advice. And you know what? I knew exactly what to do. My intuition, my inner guidance, my emotional self did not let me down. It sent me a clear message.
Ultimately, though, whichever choice I made was mine. My choices are a primary way in which I co-create my life. Should I stay or should I go? No one can tell me . . . but me. And by “me,” I mean the higher version of me that lives in the quiet places.