Maybe it is just the wrong road. Turn the F around!

C.S. Lewis said that making progress might mean making a u-turn because you’re on the wrong path and you have walk back to the right road.

Siri often says to me “make a legal u-turn” when I don’t want to.  It annoys the hell out of me.  Sometimes I’m taking a detour on purpose, and I know I am straying from my destination. Sometimes I know a quicker way. But still, to be told endlessly over and over to u-turn . . . it can make me laugh; other times, I want to scream.  Not much different than progress really. It can feel regressive. And at the same time, it is good to know the difference. Are you truly progressing, even if at times it feels regressive, or are you really being regressive and you need to turn around? Is the road you’re on leading you to a cliff to nowhere? And isn’t this the trickiest thing . . . knowing when to turn around.

Kenny Rogers said it too: know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em, and know when to walk away. I suppose it is an art truly. Sometimes art is graceful, and sometimes art is in your face and ugly. It makes us uncomfortable, but hopefully it makes us think and feel. I think that’s what making progress is about, thinking and feeling. If we are stuck in patterns, then we are not likely making progress, just like in art or poker (to stick with the Kenny metaphor). And why am I writing all this, and mixing all these metaphors? Well, basically I’m trying to think through it myself. But also . . .

This road to Holy Island in Scotland can only be driven at low tide. The timing must be just right to cross and then cross again without getting stuck. This feels so like so many things in life to me — come, but don’t stay too long, or you’ll be stuck.

I sat in a coffee shop this morning and had a conversation with an acquaintance that left me with this confused feeling of regression and progression. This being stuck, but afraid to do anything differently, being afraid to move in a new way. This feeling of needing to be right at the expense of purpose or outcome. It made me feel so sad and hopeless, immediately in that place of paralysis and defeatism. It reminded me of fear. And it reminded me of this poem that I have pulled out more than a dozen times over the years:

Autobiography in Five Chapters

  1. I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost . . . I am hopeless.
    It isn’t my fault.
    It takes forever to get out.
  2. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I’m in the same place
    But it isn’t my fault.
    It still takes forever to get out.
  3. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it is there.
    I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.
    My eyes are open
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.
  4. I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.
  5. I walk down another street.

Quoted in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. Stonebam Publishers for poetry from There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk, by Portia Nelson, © 1989.

The thing about this poem that has always stuck with me is the “it’s not my fault” progression, followed by the “I walk down another street.” It has taken me so long to understand that even when chaotic shit happens that is out of my control, the streets I walk down, and the holes I go down, are of my own choosing. They are my own patterns. Also how long I sit in those holes, are my own choosing, even if the events themselves are just thrown at me like mudpies. Those holes belong to me. Those holes are not the shit itself.

I have sat in some holes for a very long time. And sometimes I just need to get up, climb out of the hole, and turn the F around and walk back the other direction, even if it means a long hard walk that will take twice as long. The shit will be there either way. At least I can enjoy the view at sunrise and sunset.

Most problems are a good sign.  Problems indicate that progress is being made, wheels are turning, you are moving toward your goals.  Beware when you have no problems. Then you’ve really got a problem…problems are like landmarks of progress.

Scott Alexander

So the new plan . . .

to humbly take a new road

When the road is called Devil’s Punchbowl, one should never take it. Someone named it that for a reason. Take the advice and don’t be daft!

2 thoughts on “Maybe it is just the wrong road. Turn the F around!

    1. Me too . . . literally and figuratively too. New ideas and thoughts come of out of it. Sometimes it leads to a “well, I’ve sucked all the juice out of that turnip” teehee.

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