Most of us like clearly planned out routes to our life destinations. Having a plan that executes exactly the way we want is great. But most plans don’t work out exactly as we outline them. Being able to accept a different route and even a long detour makes us more flexible and resilient to change, which is at the best of times unpredictable. Many of my life detours and delays have brought unexpected opportunity and unplanned, valuable experience. One of my favorite letting go quotes is, “if life is a journey it’s the detours that matter.” No matter where you with respect to what you have planned for yourself, I belive that how you get there and your experiences along the way are so many times more important than the final destination reached. Cultivating this strength of letting go is not easy, but can be practiced at almost any time. Steve Jobs speaks of accepting that the dots will eventually connect.
My family and I recently went on a road trip from Connecticut to an area just south of Newark, New Jersey. We stopped in Westchester to see a friend and took the Merritt Parkway to get there. It was quick and easy. It got strange when we continued on our way from Westchester to New Jersey. The GPS in the car (I must add I am addicted to GPS. I have a terrible sense of direction and love having a machine tell me exactly how to get where I am going.) suggested a route and we assumed that it would take us mostly on the freeways and highways given the distance of about 60 miles. Well, that was a bad assumption because we essentially took a long unexpected detour through the Bronx, along the river to the Hollund Tunnel and then through an industrial area of Newark and on local roads to our goal. It took 3 hours to get to our destination. That was 2 hours longer than it should have taken according to the GPS device and based on the information residents in the area had given us.
At first I was inclined to be annoyed and to frantically look for a faster, highway-based route. But then I decided that it might be better to look at this as an adventure. One that I would likely not get a chance to take again. So, instead of fretting over the time and the traffic, tried my best to let go and watch the boats on the river. I noticed that that section of Hutchinson Parkway abounds with tourists on foot, taking pictures, signing up for and returning from tours, or even just strolling along the river, enjoying the fine weather.
In spite of the nagging sense that time was wasting, it was freeing after a while to resign myself to the “detour” and enjoy the adventure. This was both an exercise in patience and being able to see the beauty in seemingly mundane sights. Sometimes you have to accept being in the slow lane. It was not always easy, there is an art of letting go of our desire to see things transpire perfectly.
Next time you encounter a detour, try to accept it will eventually lead you to where you need to go and that it may even afford you lessons you are not aware you will use in the future.