I cannot let my mind Wander. I have found this to be a dangerous game. Similarly to Red Riding Hood traipsing carelessly through the woods. At first, I admire the flowers and all the pretty things on the surface. But it doesn’t take long to find the darkness--that Big Bad Wolf. Always hovering patiently at the edge of the trail, ready to snatch me up the moment I’m distracted. I cannot let my mind Wander. It has to have a task; a destination. If something is not being learned or created, my mind will venture off in search of other things it hasn’t had the time to think about yet. And sometimes that’s wondrous. Sometimes, it is damaging.
I’ll set off on my journey (to get to grandmother’s house, certainly) but there are so many sights to see and ideas to consider, I find my boots stepping outside the trail. My intentions are always good (mostly). Despite my prospects, it isn’t long before I find myself trapped in a ditch, and the only way out is to dig because a shovel is the only tool I see. I dig until I hit concrete, and when I’m finally exhausted and sweaty and discouraged, someone throws me a rope. Maybe the rope arrives in the form of friend or family, perhaps a spellbinding book or an enrapturing film. Sometimes I realize the rope was there all along, I only needed to harness the strength to climb. Either way, I dig myself out of the hole I unintentionally stumbled into. And when my elbows find the dirt, I pull myself up, plant my feet, uncover the trail once again, and return to my mission (albeit a different one, most likely. Monotony is a surefire way to trip back into the ditch).
I skip along the trail in ignorant bliss for hours, maybe even days or weeks (sometimes months!) but sooner or later, in a moment of rest, my mind decidedly steps off the laden path again, in search of Something Else. But in this grand conquest to discover more about myself or the world in which I live, the Darkness slinks expertly around my ankles, snaking up my legs and finding a home at the base of my stomach. Who knows how long I’ll be renounced to the Heaviness, but the longer I’m trapped there, the louder the whispers become.
They emerge in the form of What Ifs. What if I am not successful? What if I am never loved? What if I never experience true happiness? The darkness provides no answers, only observations and inquiries. The Heaviness keeps me stuck. The Darkness keeps me blind. Whatever truth I knew on the safety of my trail is lost knowledge. Hope and Optimism can’t find their way out of the shadows. This is the price of Wandering.
But every single time I regain control of my limbs and return to the path, anything that occured out in the forest with the Heavy and Dark Things only recurs to me in the form of an unfortunate dream. The thoughts and feelings I experienced were not true or valid. They’re quickly discarded with the weeds and replaced with tulips and eternal sunshine. However, it isn’t wise to ignore these discarded, forgotten things. They never truly go away. Instead, they loiter with the Wolf at the trail’s twists and turns, waiting for an opportunity to advance.
This never-ending path, then, begs only one question: How are we supposed to journey safely on our way to a Destination (especially when the destination itself may be unclear)? The answer is simple: You cannot. You can’t travel safely all of the time, that isn’t how the forest operates. You’ll always be distracted and discouraged and tempted by the wild and dangerous things, the thorny roses or hungry wolves. If you cannot avoid, then you must endure. And to endure, quite often, is to suffer. But through your suffering, you are still accomplishing a great feat--you are still alive. We can’t all survive our paths with bare fists as our only defense. Some of us drag ourselves from the ditch with guns blazing. Others clutch at the remnants of a simple pocket knife.
Regardless of your arsonal, one thing holds true--you made it out, like you always have and like you always will. Recognize your strengths and your supports, because sometimes those may just be the only things keeping you afloat. These things might be a weapon of your own crafting, but other times they may be a smile or a sundae or a poem in an anthology you discovered at a dusty, used-bookstore. You’d be surprised at how powerful the little things are in moments of desperation. When your mind decides to Wander, only you can stock your toolbox. I cannot let my mind Wander, but when it does, I remember the path and the flowers and the laughter and decide that it’s worth stumbling back to.