I was wandering from my campsite on the Big Sur coast, crossing Highway 1 to take in the sunset before settling in for the night, when I saw someone walking the highway with a backpack.
I couldn’t help myself. I asked, “Are you backpacking Hwy 1?” He replied, “Well, ya! I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail when I got injured, hitchhiked over to the coast and now I’m looking for a place to camp for the night.”
I quickly replied, “Well, come over to my site, set up your tent and have a rest. It would be great to share it with you.”
He smiled broadly, “Oh, that’s fantastic!”
I came back after watching the sun go down and he had his tent set up and was cooking dinner.
We chatted over the next two hours (easy to do as I hadn’t talked much for the last 5 weeks being on retreat!) finding many things in common.
Ben was his name. I couldn’t believe his story. It went something like this: he was diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer at the young age of 21. Survived. The cancer returned a few years later, almost died again, but survived. Then had a heart attack a few years after that from the testosterone replacement therapy meds he was on and almost died for the third time.
He went off the meds (I would have too!), and settled into an average life in West Glacier, Montana working at a bank and being fairly secluded in the evenings.
He’d had challenges with alcohol and drugs on and off over the years and was now living clean.
Ben then woke up one day and new he needed to stir things up. He’d been given 3 chances at life so far and he didn’t want to waste another day. He decided to hike the PCT this spring and summer at the age of 37.
5 weeks into it, he couldn’t do it anymore. Every step was painful. He has very little muscle tone from no testosterone – his body was giving out on the trail.
Ben finally gave in and hitchhiked to the coast. A totally open plate in front of him. Where would he go? What would he do? I met him later that week.
He talked about being at the crossroads.
That place where it feels like you’re in no mans land of life. No clear direction, but you could go anywhere. And do almost anything.
It sounds romantic at times, but it can also feel really scary and lonely too.
Here he had this clear goal – hiking the PCT, but life was giving him something else. All plans dropped.
Perhaps you’re in the crossroads of your life. Maybe it’s not leaving the hiking trail of the PCT, but it could be leaving the expected trail of your career, your relationship, your family, or the health of your body.
It’s scary, challenging, and can be exciting too depending on your situation.
How to navigate the crossroads
If it’s feeling scary, let yourself be scared. Notice any should’s going through your head like, “I should know what to do. I should do something that makes sense. I shouldn’t tell anybody about this.” Ignore all those should’s and listen in to what is in your heart.
It may be to stand in the fear for awhile and see what bubbles up.
It may be to take one small safe step or a daring step in one direction just to stir things up and get some clarity – even if you’re not sure if it’s the “right” thing to do.
Talk to friends. Talk to loved ones and people you trust. By talking about it, you can gain clarity with what you’re intuition is saying by observing and noticing what’s coming out of your mouth (I do this a lot).
If it feels exciting, then celebrate! Have a dance party in your living room, buy some flowers for yourself, or take yourself out to dinner. When the voice of doubt speaks, listen with compassion and make a conscious choice to NOT believe what it’s saying.
She/he is the little i, the ego, the one that is out to protect us from possible harm, but isn’t wanting to stretch and grow because it’s scary. Yet by stretching and growing we become more happy and peaceful (I know, it’s a paradox).
My heart is with you as you enter the crossroads. Only you can travel the path, but you don’t have to do it alone.
When Ben said he was at the crossroads, he mentioned going to San Francisco to drum in the park, but then thought, “What about another state to see?” The roads were open and he could choose any direction.
When I woke the next morning he had packed up left. I don’t know where Ben ended up, but I’m so glad our paths crossed that day. He enriched my life just by sharing his story.
Categories: Heart Centered Living, Inner Wisdom & Intuition