25 Nov 2013
On Wednesday last week, I had a bit of a turning point in...
Every so often, something happens that is so serendipitous that it can't help but get us thinking about how much our everyday choices must weave the tapestry of our experience.
We’re on holiday in the UK, and the kids and I had walked about ten minutes to the nearest underground station when my daughter realised she’d left her train ticket back in the rented apartment. We stood outside the station for a few minutes, eating our bread rolls, debating whether we’d walk home and get it or cut our losses and buy a new ticket.
We chose to go home and, as we walked past the gates of the college that our apartment overlooks, we were called over by two police officers.
One of them said to my girls, ‘if you go around the other side of the building, you’ll see the Queen!’
Surely the chance of Her Majesty literally driving past our front door in a city of 7.8 million people during the limited time that we are here, right while we were walking past, even though we were supposed to be on a train, is minimal – yet there she was and there we were.
We stood about a metre from her car and watched her emerge from official duties, smile, wave, accept posies etc and drive off with an impressive police escort.
Since then, we’ve recounted the story to several locals, none of whom have ever seen the Queen – even a woman who has lived in London for sixty years. It’s an experience we would have missed altogether had we chosen to buy a new train ticket.
Once you start thinking about how life pans out in this way, it does your head in. What if my daughter had remembered her ticket? What if we hadn’t eaten the bread rolls? What if we’d walked faster? What if the police officer was looking in the other direction when we passed... What if, what if, what if...
It’s impossible to know how many ‘near misses’ (both good and bad) we have as a direct result of our everyday choices in our 'choose-your-own-adventure' stories, and it doesn't matter.
The day before we bumped into the Queen, we’d been rambling through Hampstead Heath (and took the picture above). While the Heath is Keats country, I’d been telling the girls about the line from Robert Frost’s poem: ‘two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by – and that has made all the difference.’
My younger daughter took this idea and ran with it – insisting that we take the ‘road less travelled’ every time we came to a fork in the path. As a result, we (and the pram) inevitably found ourselves covered in mud, at a dead end, thirsty and exhausted.
What I take from these two experiences is that sometimes we’ll choose a path that sees us stranded in an unglamorous bog. It can be tempting to think ‘this sort of thing always happens to me’ – a thought pattern that deletes all the times when things go right, particularly if it suits the storyline we're running (it's not my fault, I'm unlucky, nothing good ever happens...)
Yes, you might be cold, wet, lost and miserable right now – but that's just now.
Look up and step back for a wider view. Next time, you could choose the path that sees you standing before royalty...