Detours, paths or lessons

Life is an amazing thing. It can provide such intense happiness, devastating sadness, delightful ease, and crushing exhaustion.

We all travel along the path of life in whatever way we can, sometimes tripping along with grace and merriment and other times moving with a heaviness akin to walking through wet cement or thick treacle.

Often, we come across a fork in the road, a different way to go and we have to make a decision. Shall I go that way? Where will it bring me? What if something happens? Will it be better that way? Maybe it will be worse?

So many questions, so many decisions … eventually we pick one and off we go again. Sometimes though, we are faced with a detour. We are taken from the path we are on and forced on to another. These detours vary in length … some short – perhaps a work deadline keeps us from catching up with someone until the next day … some longer – an illness, having a family, a pandemic ….

Some detours lead us almost back to where we left our original path and some take us to a totally different place altogether.

We may wonder about when our paths change, diverge, detour … Is this good? Why does it happen? What if I make the wrong decision about which way to go? Is there a wrong decision? Or just a different one …

Old railway arch, with a stream flowing under it from a small waterfall, surrounded my dense, autumnal forestry.

Have you ever asked yourself what you would do differently if you had the chance? If only I had finished that course, gone on that trip, married that person, not drank that bottle of wine ….

If you had done things differently though, what would be the outcome? Better? Worse? The same? Or just different ….

Lately, I have been thinking more about this and funnily enough, or maybe not, one of my team sent me this quote by Katherine Wolf: “Perhaps some detours aren’t detours at all. Perhaps they are actually the path.”

There is something very comforting in that, I think. For me, it means that we learn from every decision we make, every path we wander down. There is purpose in each decision. Can we take these learnings with us as we go?

“Perhaps some detours aren’t detours at all. Perhaps they are actually the path.”

Many years ago when I was a child, one of my brothers was off travelling in Queensland. I missed him terribly and wrote to ask why he was away and when he would be home. His response was to send me this sandalwood carving of a many-branched vine. He had carved it especially for me and added a note saying that life was full of different branches, each with a flower at the end. He explained that he was travelling along one of those branches and when he got to the end, he would come home.

Long, slim, sandalwood carving with intricate paths of branches and vines.

To me, the flower is the lesson, the purpose. It is the quality, the dimension that is added to us with every path or detour we take.

Recently I reminded my brother, who now calls Norway home, about the carving and the note. He seemed pleasantly surprised that I still had it.

For me, it is a constant reminder of my wise and caring older brother, who has helped me accept and understand the purpose of different paths in life.

About the Author

Engel Prendergast, Mental Health Consultant, Mental Strides

Engel Prendergast is a Mental Health Consultant, working with organisations and groups to build a culture that supports good mental health.

Engel is an accredited Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK Instructor, and Lifeline Crisis Supporter and Mentor. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion), Diploma of Counselling, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

With natural compassion, a determination to help others and extensive experience in training and facilitation, Engel provides an environment that fosters learning and ownership.

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