Last weekend I attended a yoga weekend at a holistic retreat house. They had lots of snow, and I decided to join the group for snowshoeing. I’ve not been snowshoeing before, but the others were novices too, and the woman leading us seemed to survive on nothing but kale. How strenuous could it be?
Pretty freaking strenuous, as it turned out.
As we clomped over bumpy terrain and pulled ourselves up the top of the ski hill, using trees as handgrips, I was quite proud of myself for keeping up. We’d been doing a lot of yoga and my glutes were barking, but the scenery made it all worthwhile.
When we came to a fork in the woods, she explained we could take the path to the left and start heading back, or do a longer loop with some beautiful views
I was not sure what to do, so I paused. Seeing my hesitation, she said, with a voice imbued with wisdom, “You should never hate your life.”
I looked at her for a moment, not fully understanding what she meant.
“If you take the trail back to the house, you won’t hate your life,” she clarified. “If you take the longer trail, you might.“
I decided to take the shorter trail back. I did not want to hate my life. I returned to the house to drink tea by the fire.
How often do we opt for the longer trail instead of the shorter one and end up hating the process?
I spent most of last year working on a novel about a woman trapped in suburbia, which highlights how awful people can be. The novel itself is not bad, but the writing process was draining. It dredged up too many things from my past, making me relive the most painful parts of my life whenever I wrote. I realized, as I came to the book’s conclusion, that I was writing more and more slowly. The truth was, I dreaded the idea of spending the next year being my book’s best cheerleader, driving the sales, marketing and publicity efforts needed to birth a book. God forbid it was a success: I’d never break free from the thing.
I hated the idea of all of it, but still felt compelled to press forward for the sake of pressing forward. I pride myself on never quitting anything. Throughout my life, I’ve finished academic programs I didn’t like, stayed in relationships that made me miserable and worked far too long in jobs that chipped away at my soul. I don’t give up, even when it does me harm. I always take the longer trail.
When our snowshoeing guide spoke those words – “you should never hate your life” – it felt like divine counsel. It felt like permission to get off the path that was no longer serving me well. In that moment, I made the decision to abandon my work and to move forward with another project: one that is more healing.
This year give yourself permission to take the shorter trail. You never want to hate your life.