The Road Less Traveled and an Annular Solar Eclipse…all in one post.

Eclipse Anular

Somewhere in my mid-30′s I remember  being continually exhausted , balancing a very busy life and not being particularly mindful of my choices. I don’t think there was any particular life crisis, but I was always running with family matters. I also went back to school while attempting to define myself with new personal career goals, and at the same time was involved in more committee work and  civic engagement than I would now deem reasonable.  My daughter, my first of two children, was born when I was 21, and I could foresee that as my children were gaining on high school it was now my time to figure out what I wanted.

One of my most memorable moments of that time, believe it or not, was reading M. Scott Pecks’s The Road Less Traveled. I opened the book and read the first line, “Life is difficult.” I honestly don’t remember what I was thinking to elicit the following behavior, but I promptly threw the book across the room and said, at least to myself, “Why didn’t anybody tell me that before now!”

I’ve never forgotten that moment. Up until that time, I had felt that I was in control somehow and that if I did everything “just right” I could mitigate most of life’s difficulties. My rational mind couldn’t have thought that, but my obviously not all that mature psycho-social self somehow believed that every challenging event was something to be hurdled. Not just get through it, but tamed, mastered, and then let’s move on. This should give you clues that up until then I had obviously not encountered any crises that were the knee buckling sort. No untimely deaths, illnesses or severe losses, just the typical every day challenges.

I had not previously really acknowledged that much of life is entirely beyond our control. Things happen. There is no doing everything right. Studying human development I began to understand that I was in a cycle of expanding and growing and achieving. I was actually changing and learning at a very accelerated pace, more or less making up for lost time. Not that raising my family was ever “lost” in any way, but I had skipped some of the stages of post-adolescent independence, marrying at nineteen and immediately starting a family. I was making up for lost time. And it WAS difficult!

I’ve been thinking about the complexities of the total life cycle as I have watched my dad and mom navigate my dad’s hospitalization. Observing him in recovery,working to regain strength in what could be a lengthy  recuperation period, I have definitely taken note that I have been blessed with wonderful examples of grace and acceptance, faith and perseverance in both of my parents. They have given me an excellent template for how one successfully navigates the changes and challenges of growing older. Since I’m not getting any younger myself, I really feel grateful that I can look to them for clues as to how to mark my own future with mindfulness.

I’ve had two or three weeks of slowing my pace to acknowledge my desire to be closer to them during this period of transition, and in that time I’ve had reason to think about how much our ability to accept challenge and sometimes disappointment affects life satisfaction. Then I read a little article in the paper and shared an ironic chuckle.

There is a lot of talk here in Los Angeles about our viewing a rare “annular” solar eclipse as it moves across Western states on Sunday. From Oregon to Texas the eclipse will darken the center of the sun leaving a visible “ring of fire.” In L.A. the full ring will not be visible, but it should still be impressive. 86% of the sun’s diameter will be obscured by the moon.

The article that captured my attention stuck like glue to the theme “Prepare to be disappointed.” I had to laugh. It could have been a throw the book across the room moment, except I was reading on my computer. Really? Start preparing to be disappointed? Sure, we may have clouds, and since I’m not going to stare directly at it in the first place, my personal experience without benefit of an observatory might automatically be a little “less than”–but I’d rather not begin preparing for disappointment NOW, thank you.

Just reading that article captured my thoughts and I’ve been aware all day of how often the messages that come at me are negative. Being hopeful isn’t often celebrated! Yes, things happen. Life changes. We age. We change some more. But I expect good things to come, even from uninvited change.I’m not going to white knuckle life. And no matter what is to come, I refuse to anticipate disappointment. I hope I can retain hopefulness across the lifespan. Minimizing negative talk and distancing from people who revel in that negativity, and my odds improve!

If you’re as awed as I am observing an eclipse, you might like the following video. I like to pretend I thoroughly comprehend…where I don’t, I just appreciate!

Still breathing lighter…Debra

40 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled and an Annular Solar Eclipse…all in one post.

    • I am not even sure that when I read the Scott Peck book I was tuned into the Frost poem, Carl! I may have figured that out later…I don’t remember, but I do love the poem now. I think Robert Frost kind of grew on me…and slowly! Thanks for sharing and making the connection. Debra

  1. 21 Is so young to have your first baby. You have done so well to raise them while also doing your own studies and furthering your career. I’m sure it wasn’t easy and you must have had many nights burning the midnight oil. It must be great now though (now that the hard work has been done) to not have much of an age gap between you and your children xx

    • I think it would be much better to have a lot more maturity before starting a family, that’s for certain, but fortunately I do have great adult children and now grandchildren. Truthfully, when I married in 1972 it wasn’t quite as unusual to marry very young and many of my friends did the same. I think we all look back now as our own children are marrying in their thirties and we are glad they are waiting! I think we all learn the lessons we need to learn along the way, and I look back and feel very fortunate that immaturity didn’t bring the house down! Thank you, Charlie…Debra

  2. This post has so many golden nuggets that i don’t know where to start! Much of life is out of one’s control, so why worry about it? Then again, why add to it? For example, a person tells me, they hate when it rains. So, I respond, make it stop! Moral of the story: Since they can’t, why should it bother you!

    We also cannot control the day of the week; Therefore, the high of TGIF sets one up for Oh crap it’s Monday. Life has enough ups and downs, so why add more! Ok … enough personal philosophy – enjoy the eclipse!

    • Thank you, Frank. Your observations are excellent. The more I have determined to stay away from as much negativity as possible, the more I seem to hear it. I’m hyper-alert perhaps, but I honestly think it must be getting worse. I get weary deflecting it :-) I think I will always need to stay vigilant against grabbing the reins every time life gets bumpy…I don’t think I want to embrace passivity, but it if I fight back fear of the loss of control, things do seem to seek a new level and often give some very nice surprises. Now I’ve put my intention in print…I need to live up to it :-) I hope your whole week is good, not just Monday! Debra

  3. I’m with you Debra. In the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to remove negative people from my every day life, negative thinking from my own life and the happiness that has resulted is incredible. Each day I wake up and write all the things I’m grateful for in a little notebook beside my bed. I end the day the same way. I focus on the positives and expect good things – even in the midst of change, turmoil and stress. I think this all helps – because you’re right, there’s so much beyond our control. I love coming her Debra…it helps me to breathe lighter too. :)

    • Thank you so much for being so encouraging, Kristy. I really appreciate your perspective on keeping negativity at bay. I think we can cultivate a habit of either being negative or being, as you point out with your notebook, grateful! I have experienced putting out a positive outlook on something that is difficult and having friends actually challenge my reaction. I really don’t understand that, but I’m practicing ways to request that they stop :-) They obviously aren’t reading body language! LOL! Your children will certainly benefit from having a mom who limits the degree of stress in the home by handling change and stress with calm. I really like that. Have a wonderful week…somehow I’m sure you will!! Debra

  4. This was a thoughtful, touching, beautiful gift in my inbox this morning. I think that coming to see and fully accept the negatives — coming to acknowledge that life is indeed difficult — is the only genuine way through toward finding positivity and happiness on the other side. No, we can’t control what happens, but we can certainly learn to make our peace with whatever happens.

    Enjoy the eclipse! I’m too far north, and it will probably be raining here anyway…

    • I really appreciate your thoughts, Lori, since as I know well from what you write about, you have found positive ways to challenge yourself during times of tremendous stress and change. I learn a lot by observing how others successfully navigate “life earthquakes” and from those observations I often then ask myself how do I think I’m doing with being flexible and resilient in my own every day. And I think your words of “making peace with” is really it. Resiliency needs to be cultivated a bit before the big things hit, I presume, in order to even know the strength is there to pull from. I always value your input…

      The eclipse gave a few more shadows, but since we couldn’t stare at it, we weren’t really all that impressed. I think we just thought it was cool it was happening! :-) I do hope you have a good week, Lori.

  5. What a great first line . . . life IS difficult. Full of ups and downs, ins and outs, and change . . . lots of change.

    But waiting to be disappointed seems a poor use of time. Better to hope for an eclipse on the horizon worthy of watching.

    • I have actually read Scott Peck’s book a few more times through the years, as well as his other work. Somehow he really “speaks” to me! In those early years I hadn’t yet learned that it’s just fine to say the words “I don’t know” and that having to have an answer for everything is really emotional drain! Now I say “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” all the time…and sigh a big sigh of relief, with “We’ll see.” And at the same time I know that sometimes we’ll never know! That’s okay. Thank you, Nancy. I get a lot of my positivity input from you! Debra

  6. Fabulous article, Debra, both about disappointment and negativity and about aging and life expansion! Really timely for me and in a form that sinks in! Thank you so much.

    • Thank you so much, Lori, for sharing that what I am challenging myself with, strikes a chord for you, too. I really believe that the more we reach for hope and push aside the negativity, the more we will grow and expand and find new “health” of all kinds. And as we age, I think we all want the benefits of good health. Anything I write about isn’t just to provoke others, believe me…I need my own positive reinforcement! I am so glad you stopped by and I hope you will do so again! :-) Debra

  7. As a recovering control freak, this post really spoke to me, Debra. It took me decades to learn to just live life, and I hope I have a few more decades to try.

    We’re not in any eclipse range here on the East Coast. In protest, MTM decided to find our only Asian market and trek up there today to prepare a meal that will be native to the viewing range.

    • I’m just chuckling away at the thought of MTM cooking a meal to signify his observance of the eclipse. Now that’s a good one! We were outdoors and followed a few different shadows, but that was about all we could do. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect since we couldn’t stare at it! I also think that calling yourself a recovering control freak is pretty right on for me, too! Even my dentist has had this “talk” with me since I grind my teeth pretty badly. So I’m not all that zen! But I see it more clearly now, and expect to grow old with more grace; letting life teach me the lessons I need to learn, without me running so far ahead trying to keep all the tough stuff far away. That is so exhausting, isn’t it? Debra

  8. a lovely reflective post Debra, and yes keep on with the optimisim, and say yah boo sucks to negativity. I can’t do negativity or pessimissim, and in fact a heap of other stuff. keep relishing, keep dreaming!

  9. I read the “Road Less Traveled” as well when I was in my 30′s. I thought for a long time I could control life but realized when things happened that we need to be in the flow… surrender when surrendering is required, and take action when it’s required. Being positive is the way I live, I always take time to connect with what uplifts me. Enjoyed your reflective post!

    • Thank you, Marie. I always find positive and uplifting messages coming from you. I think one of the things you said, “I always take time to connect with what uplifts me” is key! There has to be an intentional direction, doesn’t there! With so many negatives out there always floating around, it takes a little effort to move in the opposite direction! :-) I’m finding that more and more true myself, Marie. I’m so glad you shared. Debra

  10. I loved your story or testimony. Yes, you have had the courage of those I do not know. I have read the book road less traveled long ago. I have struggled raising my daughter alone working three jobs as s single parent and now she is 18 and grad from high school. I have learned so many lessons. One is that my so called drinking friends long ago were NOT my friends, and once I quit drinking my life became blessed without those drinking people and the drama that went with it. I have grown out of the negativity others tried on me, and realized my real friends were counted on ONE HAND. When I really needed someone GOD was the only answer. Bravo for your strength to touch our lives with your story. Love, Jackie

    • Thank you for sharing your personal commitment to keeping in a positive flow, Jackie. How wonderful to have raised your daughter to young adulthood! That’s a giant accomplishment, and given that you did it as a single parent and working so hard, all the more sweet, I think. I can certainly imagine that it hasn’t been easy, and you would have learned many lessons along the way. Experiencing independence from friends who were in constant drama spirals has certainly given you a fresh perspective on what builds you up, I’m sure! Thank you for sharing today. I know you continue to work long hours, and it’s always so good to hear from you. You have a lot to share! Debra

  11. Debra, you’re obviously another of those whose cup is always half-full, not half-empty. :-) I sometimes drive my DH halfway to distraction by refusing to plan for things going wrong. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan carefully, just that I prefer to think of things working out OK until proved wrong, rather than the other way round. Life hasn’t always been easy by any means, but optimism is still the air I breathe,

    • I am generally a glass half-full person, Perpetua, and even if I lapse into worry I will somehow get back to optimism. I think that the times I’m most negative I can usually attribute it to fatigue. I can tell you agree that giving into a negative outlook doesn’t in any way help even the most difficult of situations. I’m also not prone to talking about my problems too much, which I fear at times gives the impression I don’t have any! LOL! So nice to hear from you! Hope the internet is working consistently for you :-) Debra

  12. What an inspiring post Debra! Negative people and negative situations always rise to the top somehow – us Brits are perfect examples of always looking on the downside of everything! I’ve always believed in fate until quite recently, when I reached my 50s. Then I realised that I actually have control over my behaviour, my thoughts, my actions so it’s down to me to be positive. I haven’t read Peck’s book but love Robert Frost’s poem of the same name; sums up my life so far.
    Best wishes

    • I’m so glad to hear from you, Sally. If we want to look somewhat positively at getting older we can at least typically see that we’ve learned a few things with each passing decade. I just turned 60 and I think my 50′s were tremendously enlightening in this area. I really realized that I seem to absorb negative messages, complaining attitudes and fear if I’m not careful about the input I receive. That becomes my work…be careful what I listen to and what I mentally “feast” on! I love the Frost poem, too, and I’m thinking I might read the book again…it’s been years, but it made such an impression on me at the time. :-) Debra

  13. Loved this Debra! There’s something very special about being the denizens of our own fates. I suppose I’m in two minds: one does believe in fate to a degree, the other concentrates on we can do with the time that’s given to us. I think I’m a mediation between believing in what comes to pass, together with what we make happen. It’s tricky to choose! I suppose I have a “cause and effect” type mentality; sometimes though, things do seem to happen for a reason. :) Hope you enjoy the eclipse!

    • I love the way you put it, Eve. And I agree. I’m a very strategic thinker by nature so I often see pitfalls and potential circumstances that my behaviors or choices can positively influence. I’m probably more inclined to look at the cause and effect, or consequences of our behaviors than just think in terms of true fate. But when we come to junctures that are simply hard or particularly challenging, and if I approach times of waiting with patience, it never helps me to lapse into dwelling on the difficulty itself or borrowing trouble from the future. Negativity is different than being concerned about a problem or being sad. You express yourself so well..thank you! Debra

  14. Dear Debra, this reflection posting today brought to mind my own life and my growing awareness as I moved into my forties that there was an ebb and flow to my days, weeks, months, even years. And one of the wonders of growing older is that we can look back over our long, longer, longest lives and see patterns–within ourselves and the world around us. And so, I’ve been able to see that all works out to good. I’ve lived through what, on reflection, seems like hard times, but again, on reflection, I can see that all the events of my life worked out unto good for me. As Walt Whitman said, “I am the world I wandered through.” Peace.

    • I really do understand what you’re saying about recognizing patterns in our lives, Dee. One of the rewards for living an examined life across the decades is the ability to look back and appreciate some of that awareness! You express yourself so beautifully, and I do know that you have used each stage of your life as a platform for growth as you have moved into the next. You share such depth of consciousness in your writing and I have really enjoyed the way you weave stories back and forth across the decades. It allows us to see the patterns of growth and change. That’s one major reason your writing is so special. The stories of your remarkable accomplishments are also examples of the strain of growth! I love this particular Whitman line, too! Thank you so much, Dee. I always enjoy “talking” with you. Debra

  15. I was kind of excited about the eclipse too, but we had so many clouds and rain! :( We were “suppose” to have sun and it was disappointing to wake up to the rain and it wasn’t until I was cooking dinner that I realized I couldn’t share that moment with Hubby. :( Oh well life is about rolling with the punches! I agree :D Lovely post today Miss Debra, as always.

    • I’m sorry your eclipse was “rained out” Corri! We had a warm and sunny day, but unless we went to an observatory where they were passing out special glasses, we really couldn’t look at it! And all we truly experienced were some interesting shadows. We were too far south for a total eclipse. I think it was just fun to know we had one, right? Rolling with the punches, indeed! If you can learn that early, you save yourself years of struggle. I think I was a little late to that party :-) Debra

  16. Funny how, no matter the path we take, so many of us arrive at pretty much the same place — staring at the “eclipse.” It’s rather remarkable, when you think of it.

    • I am sure you are right about that, John! Staring at the eclipse, indeed. Lots of shadows and change while we process some of life’s developments, and certainly not easy every day. I guess I believe that negativity taken in daily doses maybe slows down the journey just a bit! :-) Debra

  17. What a thrilling thing to experience such an eclipse, Debra. I was thinking that there it was for so many, doing its dance with the moon, up in the May sky. Something no one planned for. It wasn’t on a list of things to do or see. We don’t go about life putting “annular solar eclipse, see it one time” on our bucket lists, yet, it happened just the same and you found such beauty and appreciation, and then, you shared it here. Thank you, dear Debra.

    • I did find the whole thing fascinating, Penny, but we didn’t “experience” very much. Maybe a few more shadows! The temptation to keep looking up at it was strong, but we resisted. We took our cameras and tried to take pictures…that was pretty funny! It wasn’t a total eclipse at our latitude, so the sun was still quite strong. Later I was a little disappointed that we didn’t make the effort to brave the crowds at the observatory. I just can’t do everything, can I! LOL! Debra

  18. Thanks for sharing this… I missed the eclipse but cherished the message of it and your post speaks to that too… I try to not allow life’s challenges to wear me down… It takes a lot out of me but I’m not out… TY! :-)

    • You said that well, Eliz! Challenges may take a lot out of you, but you’re not out! I love that. I think that best describes where I’m at right now! You encourage me, too! I appreciate that. Debra

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