Sometimes a little faith is all we need to find our way. Where it comes from is usually subtle and not so obvious. This was something I had written and illustrated a very long time ago. With all the changes that I’ve been faced with of late, it is just as pertinent now as it was then.
Road Trip, A Cat, A Little Faith
Why do our minds seem to wander off to places when all the buzzing created by daily distractions subsides? This tends to happen to me when I drive on long road trips by myself. It’s as if my mind feels it has permission to ponder and play.
I was on the road home in my Subaru with Samuel, my Maine Coon cat. It’s safe to guess he was not overly excited about the trip. Samuel loves his home but hates trips because he gets carsick. The drive takes around six and a half hours, and at times, I have a lead foot. I tell everyone it’s to shorten the drive, but I actually like to go fast. What that means is I need to watch out for radar checks. Better yet, I set my cruise control to an un-ticketable speed limit.
The easy drive and light traffic allowed me to put the car on cruise control, which made the trip much more relaxing. So far I had managed not to get a ticket and that was a good thing. I was almost certain my cat Samuel wished I would go faster.
Have you noticed how our cars become a think tank of sorts when we are alone on a long road trip? I find that my mind wanders all over the place. Even though I have the radio on, it becomes background noise to my thinking brain. Many times I just turn off the radio because what is going on in my mind is much more entertaining. It is as if my brain needs the time to sort things out, and the quiet uninterrupted hours are just the trick for my mind to have a little fun.
At first, my mind was like a kaleidoscope ping ponging all over the place. It seemed to touch on just about every subject imaginable. The topics ran the gamut, such as the weather, current worries, list of things to do, family, loved ones, friends, events both past, present and future. Then somewhere along the trip my thoughts started to coalesce.
It is funny where our minds will go when given an opportunity. I am not sure why this was, but about midway into my trip I began thinking about faith and what it really meant. The fact that it was Sunday morning and all there was to listen to on the radio were Christian stations may have been a factor.
As the radio droned on I began thinking about how I viewed faith and its role in my life. In a world where cynicism is the norm, to have a little faith and belief in something, anything really, is a very serious challenge. When we express faith in something there is always someone readily available to argue against it and who will often work hard to point out why we’re wrong. This active cynicism is generally cloaked in what we hear as truth or fact.
I am an optimistic person of faith. I am not talking about a religious belief, although I do have a strong faith in a higher power or being. I’m talking about the simple act of having faith. According to Webster’s Dictionary the meaning of faith is “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” To me the most significant word in the definition is belief.
Having faith or belief in something takes a great deal of courage and strength, especially when it’s in ourselves. I truly believe it all starts there. If we can’t find a way to believe in ourselves, how can we find faith in a higher being or anything else for that matter? Without it we will then become our own worst cynic in judging any action we take. Many times, if not most, we do not trust our own instincts. When we start second guessing ourselves we stall in making decisions. How can we make any decisions when we don’t have faith in our own judgment? Indecision can be very costly. When we find ourselves in that state that’s when our old friend fear shows up, the ultimate cynic, with all the arguments claiming that faith and belief in ourselves is not to be trusted. We freeze. It is a dreadful place to be.
So why is it we don’t give ourselves the gift of trusting ourselves? I think it is because we need permission from some unknown outside source before we will allow ourselves to believe what we already know to be true.
Many years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was a teacher and I loved it. Even though mine was a second income, it wasn’t enough to help support myself and my family. I tried part-time work in the summer, in the evenings and on weekends, but that wasn’t very conducive to home and family life. So my husband and I discussed our options. We decided that in order for us to achieve the economics we needed as a family I should start looking for sales positions.
When our families and many friends found out about my intentions, they reacted like the sky had fallen and life as we knew it would end. Against the advice of all my well-intentioned friends and family, I went for it. As it turned out, many companies weren’t willing to take a chance and hire someone for a sales position who only had work experience in education. Sadly, those that could possibly overlook my limited work experience, weren’t willing to overlook my gender. Amazingly, I finally landed a sales position with a chemical company selling industrial chemicals. I got the job because the VP of Regional Sales had a feeling (faith and belief) I would be really good
I later found out that I was the first woman the company had hired in that division and the VP had taken a lot of grief for making the hire. For that I am eternally grateful. I was also totally unaware that I was a trailblazer for future women to be hired in this industry. Nevertheless I went about learning what I needed to do to achieve success. To fast forward to a later time, I had done very well in one of the worst economies in the state where I worked, where the unemployment rate hovered around 25 percent. I eventually left that industry for another and ultimately became a VP of Sales many years later.
At that time having faith in myself was easy. I hadn’t had enough of life’s experiences to give me pause when I was at one of many crossroads I would find before me. As time passed I found myself becoming more cautious and less willing to take a risk. Why? Because I was starting to doubt myself and believe instead I had been lucky, discounting all the hard work I had done in my past. In other words I was starting to buy into the cynicism surrounding me. I was again at a crossroads in my life. It took me a very long time to shake off the lack of faith and self-doubt, but I was finally able to do it. With my husband’s support and encouragement, I knew what it was I should and wanted to do. In a way it was returning to my true love of teaching.
Again I was faced with all the cynics regarding my choices. Again the sky was falling and life as we know it would end. I had heard all the arguments as to why my decision was not to be trusted. I decided to believe in myself again and that really felt good. A Martin Luther King Jr. quote was so appropriate at that time in my life: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
As I parked the car at home that night, much to my cat’s relief, these were my final thoughts. Having faith, belief, and trust in who we are and what we can and should do is hard. There are so many cynics willing to take that away. Don’t let them. It is our life, not theirs. It is our risk, not theirs. Missteps or mistakes happen, even when we don’t take a risk. The greatest mistake or risk of all is to not try. So what if we don’t see the whole staircase. We can still take the first step, see where it takes us, and feel the excitement.
It has been quite some time since that road trip. That’s when I took a risk with my blog and my first steps in writing stories about my past experiences. That leap of faith resulted in my first book, “Lessons From An Ordinary Life: Volume 1.” Now I’m embarking on a new book, “Lessons From An Ordinary Life: Volume 2,” with more to follow. You just never know where life will lead you when you take a chance. Life’s journey does indeed continue.
What has been your challenge when facing a crossroads in your life? What were some of the thoughts that ran through your mind? Please share.
Life’s journey continues…