“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry that I could not travel both”
From, Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening (Robert Frost)
One of Robert Frost’s most famous poems evokes many things in me, not the least of which is the wonderful reverence I have for basic acts of contemplation and reflection which are both so central to my client’s capacity to heal themselves of their pain. The therapeutic process allows them to sit and consider the past but we also understand it’s never a good idea to get swallowed up by it completely; a reflective visit is always best. There is also room made for the present moment, a place where many paths, past, present, and future, are open to immediate interpretation, pondering, and careful consideration, especially when it feels like major choices are appearing that need more than casual attention.
The poem by Frost has always evoked the sometimes not so gentle tug of death, our own mortality, which can cause us to go into those deep woods of thought. But the practical realities of the day call us back to ourselves, to the present, over and over again. We all have miles to go before we sleep – but none of us knows how many or when the journey will end.
In therapy clients also get to look down the pathway of the past, which can be beneficial as it can support purposeful decision making for the future. But just looking is the key; it’s a challenge to not go too deep or delve to long else we re-live all of our past traumas and pains far in excess of their value to us, crowding out the wonder of the beautiful now that is always with us.
So while looking back is helpful, in moderation and with great care, lifting our heads high and gazing on any possible future pathway, and engaging in the uncertainties and various scenarios with purpose and forethought, makes a huge difference in how you can see yourself as a life traveler. A decisive, thoughtful, and meaningful mental trip into your future possibilities usually feels empowering regardless of any possible doubts you may hold inside.
The entire Frost poem is in many ways a current reflection of the past, but at the same time he extends an arch into the future:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
This idea resonates with some clients who happen to appreciate it very much, the ones who can go back in time and see the nature of their choices – their decisions and the consequences – and also try to see where this will lead them in the future. What will that past, as they lived and decided, mean to them down the road? This is the power of being present – to stop in the moment you are in and to determine if lessons from your past will benefit you or if trauma from your past will misdirect you. When you stop to consider domains of time, the past and future, laying before you in your mind, you can make more confident decisions about which road will take you to where you want to go. And if not that exact, you’ll know which is best by what excites and enlivens your spirit the most.
Hopefully, where you are and where you want to be are the same place but if you’re like most of us, life has bumped and jolted you along to places you never completely planned or even desired, in good and in not so good ways. But even so, today is where you are now. And any time you devote to contemplating your own paths, diverging or just unclear or even frightful, will greatly aid and develop your capacity for thoughtful reflection on your past as well. And this may help you move into your future undaunted by any uncertainties you face.
Uncertainties are always going to be with you but when you step out and try new ways of thinking about your life, taking your own road less traveled, you will find this does indeed make all the difference.
Living for the love of it,
Dawna Grigsby and Alan Daigneault
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