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Steph takes the road less travelled

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Sometimes you can’t find the path, but then you do.

Like the other day.

I swear I didn’t head into the woods to find a metaphor. I just wanted to take my dog on a walk and get some exercise and fresh air. But then, two roads diverged — and I took the one less travelled by.

I couldn’t help it. I’d hit a road and, not wanting to travel back the exact way I came, I tromped off into the untrammeled woods, imagining somehow that I’d find a path a little ways in. But then I got further, and further, down a ravine and back up, past abandoned car parts and rugs and lounge chairs, through high brush that my little orange sandals weren’t exactly prepared for, and, finally, I gave up. I turned around, re-passed the car parts and the rugs and the loungers, down the ravine and back up again to the road.

I felt a little cowed but newly enthusiastic about being on the path. We passed by water we hadn’t seen before, then hit a dead end, with a beautiful marsh and the Sound beyond. We were lost, again, but this time I was pretty sure it was just a matter of walking back and around to another path, which we did, until we found our car.

It is these moments of exploration and adventure alone that I revel in when my kids are in camp. I have no one except my little mutt to be mindful of, and I can do as I please. I have to learn to be decisive and a little creative. I have to learn, again, to be me.

I am afraid sometimes to be alone, and not just because I can get lost. It is scary to reconcile oneself with the demons that lurk, with the thoughts that creep up about what one has and hasn’t done.

“I had kids for a reason,” I find myself saying to friends. They are reason to get up in the morning, to get downstairs and make breakfast. They are reason to look presentable and make the house presentable. They are reason not to get too mired in the meanderings of the mind, in regrets and longings from long ago. They are reason to stay present.

But there is value in losing oneself within oneself, in stepping out of one’s comfort zone and learning to figure a way back in, maybe a better way back in, or even just an alternate way, that assures you of the fact that there is never just one way.

Sometimes, in the course of the regular year, coordinating many people’s schedules, trying to communicate clearly and effectively where everyone has to be when and how that’s going to happen, it seems that there must be a right way to do things and that it is just me, I alone, who doesn’t know what that is! I start to panic that every one of my neighbors must have received a memo on life that I didn’t, and I begin to compare myself. I don’t always come up looking good.

But then I force myself to take some time alone, time where I go off and get lost and then found again, and I remember that I can only be me. And if I shore myself up in this way, if I learn to like my meandering oft-lost self, then I can welcome my kids home again with open arms and a fresh attitude, and help them on their own roads with far greater confidence. I can tell them with assurance that they, like me, will manage somehow to find their way.

Read Fearless Parenting every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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