I am in the fortunate position of walking to work, Whole Foods and my Bikram yoga studio. My daily pilgrimage to yoga takes my through an outdoor mall. Within two hundred yards I pass a Cheesecake Factory, Dirty Martini Bar, Brazilian Steakhouse and Sugar (a candy store). Not so long ago, these vendors would have enjoyed my patronage. But a lot has changed in the two years since my quadruple bypass surgery. I now understand why once a week I see a fire truck or an ambulance in front of these locations.
It’s not fires. It’s about people who have not been able to overcome their obstacles.
A few weeks ago, as I made my way past the outdoor dining area of the Cheesecake Factory, paramedics were attempting to revitalize a woman. From my spot it looked as if they were using a defibrillator. She clearly was having a cardiac situation. To my astonishment, a large number of people continued to eat their meals. Could they not see the situation? Or were they choosing not to see the situation?
I enjoy observing my surroundings. I like to analyze seemingly random situations and identify the coincidence or irony of their timing. The more I practice this exercise, the more connections I find. I suppose this could be defined as enlightenment. Literally, shedding light on otherwise easily overlooked moments. Many people choose to remain in the dark and prefer the world with less detail. Perhaps the diners at the Cheesecake Factory couldn’t see because they preferred not to.
To successfully pursue your own path to physical and mental well-being you will need to clearly identify the obstacles that impede it. My heart disease diagnosis was an easy one. I needed to follow a strict plant-based diet and avoid fat. I needed to lose weight and support a lifestyle presenting healthy options across the entire spectrum; not only nutrition. This meant making lots of changes.
In my mind, my short walk to yoga serves as a daily reminder of the obstacles I have overcome.
Cheesecake Factory = Fat & Oil & Excess
Dirty Martini Bar = Lifestyle
Brazilian Steakhouse = Animal Protein
Candy Store = Sugar & Empty Calories
The poor woman who experienced the heart attack was looking out as I looked in. She had yet to see her predicament. In time, as she recovers, she will understand the obstacles in her path.
They don’t put the finish line right next to the starting line for a reason! It’s all the stuff in the middle that is important.
My wife and I have a secret beach and it is a very special spot. We found it by accident. We used to visit a beach about a mile away but a local loose dog forced us to find a new spot. Palm Beach is very private and the particular beachfront we visit has minimum home price of $20 million.
Beach access is reserved for residents, however the waterline is public. By offering limited public parking the residents of Palm Beach can discourage anyone that doesn’t want to walk at least a mile.
Our spot is located in front of a lot that is undeveloped due to Indian artifacts. The beach offers a natural breakwater in the form of a reef about fifty yards offshore. During low tide an Olympic size swimming pool forms. Most days, we have the place to ourselves. With our picnic and umbrella we spend the day.
Recently something odd happened. Fellow beach goers tipped me off to a super-secret parking spot for the secret beach. The secret parking spot is only a two-minute walk, a far cry from the normal fifteen minute walk. So we tried it. A little nervous that our car would be towed immediately, we kept a low profile as we crossed the street and traversed the lot containing the Indian artifacts. We made our way through the tunnel in the sea grapes and voila. We were instantly there, no effort at all.
The funny thing is, my wife and I both felt different. It was too easy. Something was off. As we parted the beach hours later we both remarked, almost simultaneously; we hated our new secret parking spot.
We love our secret beach because it requires an effort to get there.
Life is not about taking the easiest path. The cliché exists because it is true. You have to move through obstacles, not around them.
I hope Robert Frost would enjoy my interpretation of his poem; The Road not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…
We have very deep emotions regarding the future. We have hopes and dreams, and those tend to be hard to see, sometimes hidden behind the “undergrowth” or obstacles. We hang on to the person we are because it is all we know at that time. So we are torn, between living in the past or letting go and embracing change. We naturally fear change as it upsets years and years worth of experiences.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same…
Letting go and creating change can be hard because the past is based on actual events you have experienced. It is all your memories. It is your basis for every decision you make and when faced with making a big change, the past can start to look pretty good.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Once the decision is made to do something different, you might console yourself. If it does not work out you can always revert back and pick up on the path you left off. The reality is once you initiate change it is unlikely you will ever come back to that original path.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
As with most big decisions and life altering changes, the analysis can only be done with the passage of time. The power in this last line of the poem rests in our ability to self-diagnose, overcome obstacles, and to revel in that decision years later.
Our lives will consist of hundreds and thousands of paths and forks in the road. Each obstacle will require a personal compass to determine direction. Only you can pick a general direction in which to travel. Sometimes you have to travel south to move north but you never stop moving forward.
If you are currently faced with a situation you deem is dangerous, or deep down you realize it will end poorly; you have to make an effort to change it. Identify the obstacles in your path. But don’t attempt to circumvent the obstacles …run right into them. Demolish them.
And once they have been succumbed resurrect their remains into daily reminders. Find strength in their memories.