I don’t know where this old expression came from, but it seems like it used to cover a whole host of vague issues that had no other label, and it certainly makes me chuckle to think about it. It took me back to a memory I have of a long-ago trip.
When I was a young girl, one of the things our family did was to drive to New Brunswick each summer to visit our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Both of my parents were born and raised in New Brunswick and the summer was their chance to ‘go down home’ to visit their parents. We were just the lucky passengers who got to spend precious summer days with our beloved cousins. The summer right after Mom died, our Dad continued with this tradition. With six little kids in tow, ranging from 3 to 14 years old, he loaded us into our station wagon, hooked up the homemade trailer, handed the road map to our oldest sister Mary as he proclaimed her to be the official ‘navigator’ for the trip and we were off. We always took three days to drive the distance and this year was no exception; day one took us to Cornwall, ON, day two to Trois Rivieres, QC, and on day three we arrived at ‘the farm’.
I don’t have a clue how my Dad summoned up the energy or will to undertake this trip alone, but if he had any doubts about how we would manage, he never let on. On the first day as we approached Toronto, Dad reached down beside him and produced a tin of mints he had stored there. He was delighted with himself as he made quite a production of telling us that these were ‘nerve pills’ and that they would help us to calm our nerves as we navigated our way through the maze of expressways around Toronto. We each gleefully took a mint from the tin and passed it on. Of course, we were thrilled to be in on this wonderful strategy he had concocted. Looking back, the truth was that he needed us to have something to keep us quiet as he and Mary tried to figure out how to guide us past this huge city. The ritual was repeated with the same sense of excitement as we were piloted past Montreal the following day.
In a similar way, he turned what must have been an overwhelming, and lonely, trip for him into an adventure for us as we were each assigned jobs to do when we stopped by the side of the road to make lunch and when we camped in the evening. We gathered wood, fetched water, set up the trailer and one extra tent, knowing that Dad needed our ‘help’ and yet also feeling like we were part of a great adventure.
It’s interesting as I look back; I know we had a wonderful time in New Brunswick that summer with our cousins. I know that we loved being with them. But above all else I recall from that trip, it was our journey in the car that stands out in my mind. From the ‘nerve pills’ to rescuing a couple of motor bike riders caught in the ‘tail end of a hurricane’ in Quebec, to spending his last dollars on ice cream cones on the way home, it felt like a very big adventure.
This was far from what would be considered a perfect family vacation, but over the years as I’ve thought about it, this trip and others like it gave us far more valuable gifts than ones our Dad couldn’t afford to buy.
I’m sure our Dad could not even picture how he was going to get through those first few years of being a single parent. I’m sure he couldn’t picture how he would find someone to care for us when he worked shift-work at the factory. But what he did know, and what he taught us by example was that the journey is much more important than the destination.
So often in life, we try to map out our goals and our plan for success. We believe that if we get all our ‘ducks in a row’, they will swim nicely in the direction we plan for them. In reality, often, no matter how we plan, sometimes we end up staring at a map of our life that doesn’t even have street names we recognize. We might think we should be turning right onto the Street of Success, when in fact we find ourselves turning left onto Crisis Crescent instead.
This week, I was sent a poem by the instructor of the course I am taking, Tara Mohr, and this sentence jumped out at me: The curriculum is given, not chosen.
Oh, how true. We may choose our goal, but we often do not get to choose our path. Our job is to set goals, to make plans, to have ideals and dreams, and then to embark with open arms on the journey that takes us there. We set goals, not for the achievement of the goal, but for discovering who we will become on the journey toward the achievement of those goals.
I know that some of my unsettled feeling this week comes as we await the birth of our first grandchild. I so want to write this script. I want to ensure our daughter is safe as she navigates this upcoming birth. I want this baby to be safe and healthy. I want to feel in control. Yet, the absolute best thing I can do, is to embrace these days of waiting, and to decide how to make the journey, not the outcome, one that I love and am proud of. And perhaps go in search of a tin of ‘nerve pills’.
Each of you will be involved with many, many journeys in your life. What journey are you needing to embrace this week?
My inquiry for you this week is ‘How will I embrace this journey?’
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to navigate your most important journey of all; the journey of your life.