I love analogies and visualizations. I think they give us a great way to look at a difficult or complex situation without being as personally tied to it. The step back often gives a new perspective or clarity.
A few days ago a friend posted a story about riding a train. The purpose of the parable was to help those dealing with the death of a loved one, but as I read it I saw more. What a great way to look at life, as a train ride, full of different passengers, train changes, different stations. It really is perfect. It provides a great framework for accepting change, for dealing with relationships and challenges. We are born and we board the train. Then the journey begins.
Station changes and connecting trains
As much as we would all love it, life’s journey is never direct. Life is full of plot twists, unexpected re-directions and things out of our control. As humans we are pre-programmed to see these as negatives. We lost a job, we had to move, our favorite restaurant closed. Why? That stinks! I’m sad or frustrated or depressed! What no one ever seems to tell us, as children, is that this is normal and even more importantly, it is healthy and helps us grow and move forward. These are our station changes and connections, they redirect us, they put us on a new path in our journey. Instead of fighting them and putting them off as long as we can, the trick to the trip is to embrace them as the next adventure.
When I was younger I took a train vacation with a friend. We went from Hudson, New York to Miami, Florida. It wasn’t direct. It involved 3 different trains, it involved about 20 station stops. We didn’t stand and cry each time the conductor told us we had to get off, we were excited, we talked about what the new train might have different, about where we’d sit, about what we’d see.
This is now how I try to live my life. When a curve ball is thrown my way I try to come at it with excitement and anticipation. Instead of being frustrated that my plans got changed, I look for what is to come. I hope for where it will take me and what it will bring to my life. I live believing everything for a reason and everything to bring me to this moment I belong in. That is a hard lesson to get it. For me it took a lot of hurt, pain and tears. But I finally embrace the train changes and connections.
Passenger and travel mates
Nothing in harder in life that the end of a treasured relationship. Whether it ends due to a death a breakup or just moving on, saying good-bye is always hard. We often stay longer than we should. We try to make it work long after it has stopped being good. We cry over the loss and we pine for the past. We want more time and more memories.
On a train, people come and go. Some start the journey with us and travel for thousands of miles. Others join just go from one station to the next. We share our part of the ride, make our memories and part with well wishes. Once in a while someone leaves our journey and gets back on at a future station, these are my favorites.
I read a book many years ago, The Celestine Prophecy, that radically changed my view on people and relationships. One of the central tenets of the book is that people cross our paths for a reason. How long they are in our life is related to their purpose and that when people exit our life it is because their mission has been accomplished. For those that keep crossing our path it is because they have not completed their role with us (or us with them). This idea brought me a lot of comfort about the people I have had to part ways with in life, it gave it meaning instead of being only a negative. I see the train analogy in much the same way. People join our travels to fulfill either something we need to learn or experience, or that they do. When that outcome has been met we separate. That may take a day, a year or a lifetime.
Your train ride
As we move into the new year and make resolutions and goals, examine your journey. Are you fighting leaving a train not going where you need to? Should you make a connection and head in a new direction? Are you holding on to sadness over passengers who have changed trains or holding others on your train who need to end their ride with you? Be your own conductor and take control of your train!