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  • Writer's pictureLynn Denton

A Fork in the Road

One of my favorite places in the world is Sedona, Arizona.

Recently my husband and I took a trip there to get away from the polar vortex of Chicago. In Sedona we do a lot of hiking, and one day we were on a hike on a beautiful trail, with the red rocks around us, and the puffy clouds moving across an amazingly blue sky.

The hike we were on was not too difficult and we were walking along, enjoying the weather and the scenery. Then we came to a fork in the road and this sign:

Difficult or Extreme? Are you kidding me? These are the choices? We never had really encountered a sign like that on a hike before, and we stared at the sign for a minute, and then we looked at each other laughed out loud. One of the issues was that we didn’t know what Difficult looked like, and we didn’t know what Extreme looked like. Where were we headed???

My husband is more oriented towards Extreme, and I’m more of a Difficult kind of gal when it comes to outdoor adventures, so we picked Difficult. As we walked along the trail, we found that it really wasn’t that tough of a trail……on one side of the path was the mountain (good), and on the other side was a rather impressively steep drop-off (not so good.) An hour or so later, we finished the hike, and we ended up enjoying it very much.

What would have happened if we had abandoned our plan because of that intimidating sign? Well, life would have gone on, but we would have missed some great scenery and a lovely hike. By taking the risk, we had a reward and an accomplishment. (You always feel good when you don’t give up and persevere.)

After our trip, I kept thinking about that sign…..Difficult or Extreme.

What a metaphor for life.

When do you come to a fork in the road and the choices are Easy and Easy? Or Easy and Hard? When we have important decisions to make, when is one choice absolutely to be avoided and the other choice perfectly clear? It doesn’t work that way. Important choices are what I call 51/49. One option looks 51% correct, and the other option looks 49% correct. So we are picking the better option, but not by much. That is the nature of important choices, there pros and cons to each.

Such as……where to go to college, or what job to take, or what preschool to send your kids to, or whether to buy a new house or add on to your existing home, or whether to use your vacation time to visit with family or go on a trip of your own, or whether to retire or keep working, or whether to quit your job and stay home with your kids for the time being, or whether to move to a new city with a great job or stay where you are, or whether to start your own business, or whether to go to graduate school…………..

These are the kind of decisions we wrestle with and are not obvious, and feel like the sign might say……Difficult or Extreme.

In my practice, I work with lots of kids. For these kids, many things might be difficult. School might be hard if they have learning issues or ADHD. Friendships might be hard. Fitting in might not come easy. Even at young ages, kids have to make hard choices.……like whether to try out for this team or this play or this solo, not knowing if they will make it. Or dealing with the disappointment of not making the team. Or going away to overnight camp when they have never been away from home before. Or even going on a sleepover when they are afraid to be away from home.

These are the Difficults and Extremes that our kids are dealing with.

Do you take the risk and see if you make the team? Do you audition for that part in the play? If you don’t try out, you certainly won’t make the team. But you might face a disappointment. Do you take the risk and go to overnight camp? What if you miss your parents? Can you find your way through that? But if you don’t ever go, will you ever figure out that you can do hard things? And you will have potentially missed a very fun time.

I teach all my clients positive self-talk. Self-talk is what you say to yourself under various circumstances. It’s a way of calming and reassuring yourself, slowing yourself down and finding some perspective with regard to a situation. One of the self-talk statements I teach kids is….“this is hard but I can do hard things.” And when you do hard things, you open yourself up to experiences that will make you stronger, and might even change the course of your life…….just because you tried.

So I will keep in my head, and in a picture frame in my office…..the image of the sign that says Difficult or Extreme. Because that is how life often is. And some afternoon when the weather is bad, and there is nothing pressing that I have to do, I will turn on a movie or Netflix and will keep in mind that the sign for that day says Easy or Easy…..because we all need a day like that too. Pass the popcorn please.

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