Sunday, September 30, 2012

Two Roads...

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

Robert Frost

Last week, my husband and I had a conversation about the different paths one chooses in life, and how you never know which ones are going to lead you to places you never dreamed of going. He reminded me that last March marked 30 years since we first met each other on a kibbutz in Israel. He wondered what would have happened if I had landed in the kibbutz office an hour later and been directed to a different kibbutz. Our lives would probably have never intersected and we would have found ourselves on very different journeys.  I told him that for me, it all came down to a train ride in Italy when my life veered in a new direction.

I was 22 and had just graduated from college. I had conveniently saved my final quarter to study in England so that I could travel after school. From England, my friend Amy and I began our backpacking trip in Europe.  We traveled a bit in Spain and southern France and then found ourselves in Venice. We also found ourselves in different places on our journey. She was beginning to yearn to go home and I was just finding my traveling legs. The differences were unspoken, but there was a little tension between us. Then, on what would turn out to be a fateful train ride from Venice to Florence, Allison from Ottawa entered our car and my life took a new direction. Allison was traveling on her own and heading on to Greece, Israel and Egypt. She wondered if we were interested in tagging along. Not only did this allow Amy and me to part amicably, it also changed my life completely. 

Initially, what most intrigued me about Allison's offer was Egypt. My grandfather had a Ph.D. in Egyptology and I had grown up listening to his stories and looking at pictures of his various trips there. Greece intrigued me also, and while I didn't know much about Israel at that point in my life, I was up for an adventure. Little did I know when I made that momentous decision that I wouldn't make it to Egypt on that trip. Instead, after a month in Greece I would land in Israel and within days meet the man who would become my husband.

We are all faced with choices, big and small, every day. We never know when we make a decision to do something what kind of impact it might have on our future. Obviously the above example ended up being pretty significant for me. But it makes me think about all of the little decisions we make along the way that lead us in new directions. It could be the college we choose brings us to a new part of the country that just feels like home. It could be an inspiring professor whose enthusiasm for a subject makes us change our major completely.  It could be that our preschool choice introduces us to a lifelong friend. Or it could be a volunteer role leads us on a completely different career path. 

There are infinite possibilities that await us, and infinite paths to choose from. Sometimes I think it's important to stop and think about the paths we find ourselves on and reflect on our journey so far. It's far too easy to plow through life somewhat mindlessly and not appreciate the choices we make.

Obviously, I am grateful that I happened to be on that particular train from Venice to Florence and that Allison from Ottawa sat in my car. It makes me mindful that every day there is always the possibility of meeting someone who will have a direct impact on my life (or visa versa). It may be significant or barely perceptible. It may not even be obvious until years later. It certainly makes me look at the world with my eyes a little more wide open and thankful for the blessings that surround me. 

Learn to get in touch with silence within yourself, and know
that everything in this life has purpose.  There are no mistakes,
no coincidences; all events are blessings given to us to learn from.


  1. and here's the other part of the equation: you never know when you may be making a difference in someone else's life. Like Allison from Ottawa. Every day that we put ourselves out in the world we affect others in ways known or unknown to us. Some of the best things we may have done in our lives are things we will never know. The smallest gesture to someone else may be the one that makes the biggest difference. I always tell myself--when i'm feeling as though i'm useless to the world--that perhaps a chance meeting with someone did some good i'll never know of. And so we continue to get up each morning, greeting others, and hoping to do some good.

    1. That is so true Mary. That's why "It's a Wonderful Life" always resonates with me. George Bailey has no idea the impact he's had on so many.

      It's always interesting when someone says to me that something I said (which I've often long forgotten) made some sort of impact on them. It's part of being human. And yes, "we continue to get up each morning, greeting others and hoping to do some good." Thanks for this comment!!!

  2. Robin, those are two favorite quotes, and such a wonderful story of your path to where you are now. I didn't know how you and Israel met - it's so romantic! You were an adventurous young woman. Thank you for sharing this with us. It is a powerful and important reminder for all of us.

  3. Just today I was thinking about the impact that a smile can make. I've often been told that I smile a lot...The funny thing is sometimes I'm smiling and I don't even realize I'm doing it. What I have noticed is the smiles I get in return. I love to see how people light up when they smile...When I'm paying attention, I try to smile at everyone whose eyes I meet. I like to think of it as a sign of respect, but really the one who benefits from this practice most is me. 9 out of 10 times I get a smile back!

    Love to you my smiling friend!

  4. Robin,
    I can just imagine you on that train in Italy 30 years ago, just as I can see you and Israel meeting all those years ago. it is amazing how our journeys twist and turn as we encounter and meet those people who make all of the difference in our lives

  5. Robin, your writing always touches my heart. I find that you have the gift of a particular clarity that in my experience often grows out of great suffering and sadness. It is a paradox that we find the simplest of truths from great loss. I guess the stripping away of everything we have held onto leaves us naked, vulnerable, and yet strangely aware of the very core of our being. You reflect that clarity in every entry on this blog. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. They continue to bless me. I also have been deeply aware of the momentous consequences of the little decisions we make in life. We never know which decisions will result in big changes but we do know that it is possible. So being attuned to the present moment and paying attention to the sacredness of the ordinary seems to be key in making the most of life as it unfolds for us. I would never have guessed that I would meet my second wife and find another soulmate. I was just doing my Courage work and paying attention as we always do in this work. Caryl was doing the same and seeking out a circle that would hold her soul with gentleness and integrity. The fact that we were both paying attention ended up being a gift we are still living into and celebrating.