Italian Riviera, August 25, 2014.
An embryo doesn’t have to try to become a baby, and an acorn doesn’t have to set a goal to become an oak tree.
I have heard it said so many times, “Decide what you want and make it happen“. I no longer believe in that 100 per cent.
My experiences in the last few years have taught me that when we’re tightly controlling life, setting our sights on what it is that we think we want to create, be or do, we are often not going with the flow and therefore, not in the direction of the Universe/God, etc. We are attempting to mandate our destiny.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the goal-driven society we live in that we forget who we are. We think that we know who we are by our roles of mother, employer, Chinese, Hispanic, billionaire, impoverished, etc. Without all the personal history who we are and how we can contribute our talents to the world is something that is constantly evolving, not pre-planned.
The Wrong Train Stop, The Right Experience
Travelling is an incredible metaphor for life experiences and life lessons such as these, especially when it comes to allowing life to unfold as it is. For example, I was on the train from Tuscany heading west to Monterosso, our destination in the beautiful region of Cinque Terre. Just before arriving to La Spezia Centrale station, which is where we would have to get off and make a connection, I turned on my iPhone to take a few shots. It was a beautifully peaceful, green trek and the passengers were even more colorful than the scenery itself. I wouldn’t have imagined what would happen next.
With no real map or reliable train announcements, we hoped, we thought we had stepped off onto the correct station platform. Alas, we exited one stop too soon into the tiniest of stations just one before La Spezia! And I mean, tiny. Fortunately, I speak Italian and there was a bus across the street that would bring us to the station in time to catch the last train to Cinque Terre.
There is much more to that story, including a very protective German Shepherd, a chain-smoking, country woman who I’m forever grateful to, two seasoned bus conductors with a very different set directions who changed shifts in the middle of my white-knuckle ride on this bus, and a beautiful bartender with tattoos from head to toe. The rest of the story is not the point.
The point is that this bizarre navigational faux pas was the only hiccup in my vacation, but it was a necessary one because without it, my experience wouldn’t have been as poignant. And that experience sticks out in my mind in such sharp contrast to the final arrival in Cinque Terre….
That final arrival was nothing short of mind blowing. Weary and exhausted, the sudden, explosive and dramatic shot out of the train tunnel abruptly ushered an unexpected, breathtaking view of the most heavenly seaside cliffs and white, foamy ocean waves. It remains one of the top three amazing sensations of my life!
The Goal: More Train Rides and Fewer Goals
The stress of getting lost at a tiny train stop in the middle of nowhere butted up against this beautiful and euphoric experience. Since then, it has continual stayed in my mind.
Today, I understood why I needed that uncomfortable experience to happen. I learned so much from it, mostly about myself and about how life is not about sticking vehemently to your goals and plans. (What an itinerary bust!) I was also was able to relax, enjoy and feel gratitude for the little paradise that is Cinque Terre. I was able to deal with the uncertainty of the train schedules and the hoards of sweaty bodies in August heat as we visited the other small villages of RioMaggiore, Vernazza, Manarola and Corniglia.
I enjoyed the peace so much more because of the difficult experience that came before it. Because of this, I made it my goal not to have goals. (If you travel the train system in Cinque Terre, you cannot possibly stick to a time-sensitive schedule anyway!)
Everyone experiences the waves of good and bad times differently. For some, the train rides are fast, rough and offer more frequent stops. For others, the train ride is long, slow and bumpy.
Nevertheless, I find that we need the varied train rides – the tough times followed by good times, followed by tough times. These experiences build character and offer us opportunities for gratitude. With character, we learn to constrict less and expand more to allow ourselves to flow with life as it is.
To me, we need the this discomfort because when it finally passes, not only do we realize we have learned something valuable, we also learn to value and respect the bliss of peace even more. And last but definitely not least, I’m now convinced that without the rough train rides, we could not create art in the same way. Art relies on tension and tension can be the catalyst of artistic expression and the seedling of a symphony of valuable experiences.