The Myth of The Straight and Narrow

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. - Buddha

If you haven’t navigated a boat by landmark, the idea is straightforward. You choose a fixed object in the distance and aim for it. As currents, waves, wakes, and wind knock you off course you compensate until you need to compensate again. Back and forth. Again and again. It is impossible to maintain a perfectly straight course between two points on the open water.

Likewise, there are similar dynamics at work in the art of walking. Virtually ever human has a minute discrepancy between the length of their legs. With that difference comes a tendency to veer ever-so-slightly either to the left or right. The difference in leg length, often so fractional, it is unlikely you are even aware of the compensation you make to keep on a straight path. Nonetheless, most of the time one does not walk a true straight path, You veer. You compensate.

In environments without distinguishable landmarks, deserts and forests for instance, scientific research has pRosen most people tend to walk in circles.

I am encouraged how much my journey has changed with my new-found ability to identify landmarks. Some closer than others, such as developing healthier habits like walking on a  regular basis, and eating more healthfully.

Other landmarks are more distant, more nebulous, like reestablishing healthy relationships with my daughters, where progress is subtle and often, more apparent in retrospect rather than real-time. Being a fan of validation, the hard-to-see landmarks require the most discipline. But they are attainable.

I believe for the first time in my life, I’m equipped with the tools necessary to accomplish even my most difficult goals. Finally,  I’m not hoping, with a wish and a prayer, I will somehow beat the odds.

At the end of my marriage I was walking aimlessly, in circles.  I couldn’t comprehend how to identity, much less aim at a landmark in the distance.

Even when I actually aimed at one far off on the horizon, the slightest of veers caused me consternation, leading to anxiety and paralysis. I was unforgiving for my perceived failure to maintain the shortest distance between me and where I thought I should be.

I was not capable of understanding there are no straight lines in nature. Nor did I have the perspective to appreciate what benefits veering offered. Mostly however, I had chosen an unrealistic landmark, ignoring more accessible waypoints.

With a better understanding of my natural state of anxiety, I can now pivot my focus away from where I think I should be going to where I am, at the moment. It still takes practice and I’m a work in progress, but the serenity of not always feeling I’m in the wrong place is intoxicating and addictive.

When anxious, I strive to recall this little scientific tidbit. If you shrunk the earth to the size of a billiard ball, it would actually be smoother than a billiard ball. My point is, when I zoom my perspective out a bit, it turns out the course I’m taking is just fine.

Stay in touch. Connect.


P.S. On the subject of walking the straight and narrow…

2 thoughts on “The Myth of The Straight and Narrow

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