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Along for the ride

January 1, 2010

Se eu tivesse dormido e acordado de repente em uma montanha-russa, o que iria sentir?

Bem, a primeira sensacao e a de estar prisioneira, ficar apavorada com as curvas, querer vomitar e sair dali.  Entretanto, se confiar que os trilhos sao o meu destino, que Deus esta governando a maquina, este pesadelo se transforma em excitacao. Ela passa a ser exatamente o que e, uma montanha-russa, um brinquedo seguro e confiavel, que vai chegar ao final, mas que, enquanto a viagem dura, me obriga a olhar a paisagem ao redor, gritar de excitacao.

-Onze Minutos, by Paulo Coelho

“If I fell to sleep and suddenly woke up on a roller-coaster, what would I feel?

“Well, at first I would feel like a prisoner, afraid of the plunges, wanting to throw up and get out.  However, if I were to trust that the tracks were my destiny, that God was operating the machine, the nightmare would turn into excitement.  It would be just what it is, a roller-coaster, a safe and trustworthy ride that will come to an end, but that, in the meantime, makes me take in the surrounding landscape and shout with excitement.”

Life is certainly a roller-coaster, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I’ve been reading two books by Paulo Coelho during the winter break (O Alquimista and Onze Minutos, both of which are also available in English), and the theme of both titles is stepping outside one’s comfort zone to follow a different path from that of everyone else.  Having followed the beat of a different drum myself, so to speak, I can attest to the message that Coelho is trying to get across:  life is so much more enriching when lived viewing every moment as a new discovery than when lived according to formula. 

In many ways, the best decision I have ever made in my life is to let go of the reins.  People suggest grabbing life by the horns, the implication of which is to take charge, to take control of one’s destiny and make it their own.  The message that Coelho tries to convey, however, is that our destiny is not really ours to control.  We can imagine our future, and we can and should dream about it, but it is very unlikely that the future we envision is the future we encounter down the road.

What we can and should control is the here and now, the immediate moment and how we use it or abuse it.  We can never know where our steps will eventually lead us, but we must trust that if, in this moment, we decide to take a step back or a step forward from an unpleasant reality, our reality will eventually change for the better provided we remain tuned in to our hearts and to the yearnings we feel inside. 

Following this advice works out for Coelho’s characters and, so far, it seems to be working out for me.  I have never been happier than I have been in the past year, during which I ceased to assume control of my future and who I might become, and instead focused on the present and who I am.  I still dream incessantly about the future – I will always be a dreamer – but I dream with curiousity rather than anxiousness, wondering which of my dreams will come true and, of those that come true, how they will play out.  I look for the clues in each moment, for the thoughts and actions that fulfill me, and I pursue them into the next moment without worrying where I will eventually end up; I trust that it will be someplace good provided I continue to follow my heart.

My new year’s resolution this year is to keep living in this vein, without holding tightly to the reins.  I want to continue to do what feels good and right and rather than force a particular future, let my life play out as it may and simply enjoy the ride…

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