Crooked Trails and Having the Courage to Walk Down Them

I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.  ~ Anais Nin

What makes a person choose the easy route in life?  Are we so conditioned to except the fates dictated to us by society that we can’t break out of the traditional molds of life and choose the extraordinary path when we’re faced with the choice?

A man stands before two paths. One path is safe, well lit, with little flowers and trees and bunny rabbits and he can see all the way down the path, to its point of infinity.  He sees a path with no speed bumps, no twists, no hills leading to spectacular views, no hidden treasures, no scary downhills where you hold onto your ass and pray for the best outcome.  A path devoid of diversity.  A path devoid of challenge.  A path that leads simply and easily to a quiet comfortable life where he grows old and never has to reach outside of his comfort zone. He never embraces those intense emotions of fear, uncertainty, passion and exhilaration.  He simply accepts the easy emotions, the emotions that lie on the surface, that look good in a family album and make for simple small talk over Sunday morning coffee.

I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.  ~ Anais Nin

And then there’s the other path.  This path has twists.  It has turns, hills, cliffs, bumps and the occasional tree root buried underneath the path that might trip him up if he doesn’t keep his eyes open.  This path has large trees hanging over that obscure the view in the distance.  The path has dark pockets of fog and sections of brilliant light. There are flowers and trees he’s never seen before, there’s foliage that he can’t name but is curious to see what lies beneath it.  There’s amazing overhangs with views that he can only imagine- views that only a handful of people have ever witnessed.  This path is filled with emotions so intense that just taking the first step down that path can cause panic attacks and anxiety that makes the safe, predictable path seem almost rational.  But there’s nothing rational about this other path.  This path is random and its sprinkled with emotions that are so intense that they add challenges larger than any tree root.  This path harbors passion, intensity, adrenaline, joy, fear, pain and the unknown. To experience these emotions takes a strength he’s not sure he possesses, so he looks back at the easy path and thinks, “damn, that doesn’t require any of these emotions.”

But a voice inside him, from somewhere deep inside that he rarely dares to go, says, “Shit, I can’t walk away from this path.  This path is life- this is how we’re meant to live our lives- alive, embracing all the intensity and pain that brings the sheer joy and passion of a life well led. I can see the safe path and its predictable outcome and a lesser man might choose that direction. But I can’t choose that path- I know how that ends and I don’t want to be that man, looking at the end of my life thinking, wow- wish I had taken the unknown path.  I squandered this amazing life and the chance at something extraordinary because I was too scared to try the unknown. And I will never know what the view is like from up there.  I won’t be that man.”

Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.  ~ Anais Nin

The view from the overnight ferry deck at sunrise whose engine blew in the middle of the night and left us adrift at sea for a bit.  Manado, Indonesia.

The view from the overnight ferry deck at sunrise whose engine blew in the middle of the night and left us adrift at sea for a bit. Manado, Indonesia.

You can see where I’m going with this.  We all have choices to make.  We all, at some point, stand in front of those two paths.  And our choices, while never easy, will dictate the life that we look back on in our “Encore Years” and contemplate the choice we did and didn’t make. The people we chose to spend that life with and the people we chose to walk away from- because we were too scared to embrace the unknown path with all its intense emotions and unknown outcomes.  I know my path, I chose it a long time ago.  And I can never see what it looks like- but I know what it feels like.  And when I look down the predictable path, the safe path, it sends fear into my soul.  I can see myself sitting in a rocking chair at the end of that easy path looking back on all those regrets, all those moments where I was faced with a challenge and a dark path and took the easy way out.  I can sleep at night knowing that’s not going to be my path.

People living deeply have no fear of death.  ~ Anais Nin

I wonder what this world would look like if more people chose the unknown path. If more people took the risk and more people said, “F*** It!” And walked down the unknown path, just to see what lies around the next corner.

I found the following quote in my early twenties and it become a mantra for my life.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you …— beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”
Edward Abbey


  1. Pat says

    ******This path harbors passion, intensity, adrenaline, joy, fear, pain and the unknown.********


    Once again your words have activated a soothing inner warmth within my being! Alas….I am a mere couple weeks from putting in my two week notice and venturing north to Alaska for just what you touch upon with your wisdom. You move me with your keen insight and love of life. Bless you sista’!

    • says

      Thanks for the kind words, Pat! And congrats and giving notice and diving into the dreams! May your trails be fascinating and never dull! Good luck in Alaska!!