REFLECTION: On our last morning in Paris, I step out on the narrow balcony of our hotel room for one last time to see what’s happening in the street. Directly across the way, an elderly lady in her nightgown tends her window box geraniums. Several floors below a nun heads down the street, hands extended in front of her, holding what appears to be a blackberry. On closer inspection, I see she has two thumbs firmly fixed on the open pages of her prayer book. She traces the words as she walks. Not a blackberry prayer at all – something else entirely!
A few moments later we’re riding the airport shuttle winding our way through the city to Charles de Gaulle. Near the Sorbonne, someone has placed a bright red traffic cone on the top of a statue turning an elegant aristocrat into a redheaded witch. I laugh out loud. A few blocks later, homeless man sits up in his makeshift bed on the street. With his left arm he flaps his trousers in the air (perhaps his version of doing the laundry). With a grimace and wild motions of his right arm, he wafts away the odor left in their wake. My heart pings.
At every turn, there are sights to take in and moments to note. I’m struck by how much easier it seems to stay tuned when you’ve stepped outside your everyday routine.
A day later, on my first morning back in Saskatoon, I find myself wide awake at 3:30 in the morning (near noon in Paris). Fresh coffee at hand, I flip through the Travel pages of the Globe and Mail where I discover an article titled, ‘Best Local Bus Routes’. The author profiles the best buses to take to catch the neighborhood sights in the major cities of the world – Paris included. He offers a glowing endorsement of Route #69 which starts at Pere LaChaisse cemetery to the east and ends at the Eiffel Tower to the west.
I immediately feel regret welling up – like I’ve missed something wonderful. I find myself wishing I’d known about this before we left. And in a second, more thoughtful moment, I note how easy it is, in a world of plenty, to be lured into the trap of lack.
ACTION: Each day we travel our varied paths through this world. Sometimes it’s a regular route through a normal working day. Other times it’s an unusual adventure in the land of the new.
The fact of the matter is that each time we look out one window, ride one bus, or choose one fork in the road, we open the door to a certain set of experiences – AND we close the door on others. Had I been riding Route 69, though I might have witnessed a whole different set of wonders, I would certainly have missed those so readily at hand on our chosen route for our last morning in Paris.
Playing ‘second thoughts’ is an exhausting game. How much more enriching – and less stressful – to simply embrace the sights, sounds and experiences on our path du jour - to refuse to entertain regrets for the paths not taken. The choice and focus are something to keep in mind as we wind our way through our workplaces, our families, and our everyday lives.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I regret less the road not taken than my all-fired hurry along the road I took.” – Robert Brault
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: “The Mindfulness Solution – Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems” by Ronald Siegel. Guilford Press. 2010.
READERS WRITE: In response to the most recent message, How Bad Is It – Really, Pause reader KR writes: “For me, fear and worry are interchangeable blocks. I heard Nicky Mehta of the Wailin’ Jennies say, ‘Worrying is like praying for bad things to happen’. I slowly and carefully wrote this phrase on 4×6 paper and now keep it with me as a reminder. I keep a wooden box of courage and uplifting phrases hand written on 4×6 cards. Reading some of these every day keeps fear, worry, pessimism and indecision at bay. Thank you for your always inspiring thoughts.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was great to be away; and it’s great to be back. If you’d like to enjoy a few travel adventure ‘bits and bobs’ (as they say in the UK), check the Euro Oddity series on the Pause blog. I’m posting ‘one-a-day’ all this week for your entertainment and enjoyment.
This post was written by Pat Katz on May 17, 2011