Part 48: The path least travelled (Part 25)
2007-10-18 11:50:35 -

Metro Eireann presents the latest weekly column by the entrepreneur coach and business growth specialist, designed to help you overcome any obstacles and reach your dreams 

Previously: Our three friends had set out to find a treasure, and on the way they have seen signposts in many different guises. First they encountered nature in all her glory, to help them find a deeper understanding of who they are. Then we were introduced to three other travellers – Santiago, Andreas and Janus – accompanied by Electra, who had lost her husband and daughter in a terrible accident, and is now travelling with our three friends.

The next character was a fox – named after Electra’s child, Sophie – who they freed from a trap, and were enticing towards them again with cooked fish when they met Mike, an incredible fellow who lives in the woods. As Mike pushes them to understand what they are really looking for, we rejoin Andreas, Janus and Santiago, who similarly were helping them understand what they were seeking…

“I hope that Electra has found peace with those three guys!” said Andreas, looking intently at his two fellow companions. They were all still sitting on the circle of rocks that earlier had been occupied by Nunco and Preteritus. The two had been debating whether or not to follow Electra and Prostremo, who had disappeared together, while they had been dealing with Preteritus’ difficulty in accepting what the future might hold for him.

“She had an acceptance of her situation, I think!” said Janus, as he mused on the time they had spent with Electra. His two companions looked at him as he sat framed by the trees, with the blue sky a static background, animated by the clouds flitting along, merging, joining, separating – another world, yet still part of the one they were in.

It was a curious path that these three travellers had followed in the year since leaving the same village that Nunco, Preteritus and Prostremo had left much more recently. Somewhat older, they had also come to the same conclusion that they needed to seek out the elusive treasure.

“I wonder if we should have told them what happened?” said Santiago aloud. “How do you think that they might have reacted to our information?”

“Each person views the world from a different place,” answered Andreas, as he reflected back on that time when they had made that startling discovery, the thing that was to change their lives forever.

As his thoughts meandered through the mists of time, he stretched even further as he could see the bright blue coat he was wearing back when he was a young boy of 11. His aunt had bought it for him – double-stitching along each seam, the thread a slightly darker blue. He even remembered the time he had caught the sleeve on the rusty nail that poked out of the side of their garden gate.

Great times, wonderful fun and so many lessons – only as he grew older did he start to understand what he was being taught. It is often said that youth is wasted on the young, that as children we are so busy doing that we often don’t stop to question why we can’t ‘just do’.

Drifting back to reality from his trance of remembrance, he continued: “Even in our memories, things seem so different from when they actually happened. I don’t mean that they were different, it’s just that they seem different – does that make any sense to anyone?”

“Could it be that because we know things now that we didn’t know then?” asked Santiago.
“That’s it, that’s it exactly!” said Andreas. “When I was a kid, I had this blue coat, I ripped it on a nail and when I got back home, I remember seeing my mum’s face as she said: ‘Could you not have been more careful and looked where you were going, Andreas? Your aunt spent a lot of money on that coat, and now look at what you have done!’

“I didn’t get it at the time. It was just a small rip, for goodness sake, I thought. Yet I remember so well that evening, thinking about my aunt. She wasn’t very well and yes, she was quite poor and yes, it probably did cost her a lot of money, well a lot of money for her. And I started to feel bad; I started to feel really bad about it. I started to beat up on myself for not being more careful.”

“And what do you think now?” asked Janus, who had been listening intently to Andreas’ reminiscences. He could see the different emotions darting across his friend’s smooth features; how the skin around his eyes puckered as he recounted the harsh criticism of his mother’s words; the drooping around his mouth as he drifted into melancholy, when he thought about how his careless actions as a child may have affected his aunt.

But then a different look supplanted the negative emotions on his face as his eyes came alive with realisation. “That’s all wrong! I took another person’s perception on a situation, on how my aunt might feel, and that in turn made me feel bad.”

“And what did feeling bad lead you to do?” asked Santiago
“To stop being a kid, the way a kid should!” replied Andreas. “I started to be careful, I changed the way I had fun. I started to look at things the way an adult said I should, and probably my mum had had the same thing happen to her. I just didn’t realise it at the time. I realised the wrong thing, I used the wrong reference points to change my behaviour. That is when I learnt how not to be me and to be the person that other people wanted me to be!”

“So how come you are thinking about all of this now?” asked Janus.
“Well it could be something to do with what we found, couldn’t it?” said Andreas. “But the really funny thing about it, which at the time went completely over my head, was what happened when I next met my aunt.

“I really loved that coat, you see. But I was conscious of not messing it up. So I did not wear it very much, so that it would stay looking lovely and clean and my aunt would know that I really valued it. Anyway, next time my aunt was calling over, my mother told me to put on the coat, to show my aunt that I loved it, which I did. But that did not prepare me for what my aunt said.

“I can still see her, in her tweed check skirt. She was wearing a pink cardigan buttoned up with those round wool buttons right up to the second last button, with the sharp cotton edges of the collar of her lacy white blouse neatly peeping out. She had on a pair of brown suede ankle boots, the type lined with wool, and her spindly little legs, a ragged bandage just below her knee visible through the stockings, sticking out of the boots like a pair of frail twigs. I can still see her mousey brown hair, gathered up in a harsh bun, fixed by a wooden hair stick sitting on top of her head.

“But what stood out most, and what I will never forget, was the look on her face – a look of sadness as she saw me wearing the coat, the coat she really thought I had loved when I first got it! Looking pristine, looking unworn, looking like it was being wheeled out to greet Great Aunt Petunia. I never knew why she looked sad, but now I know!”

“So what do you know?” asked Santiago.
“I know now about the circle of life that we all lead,” replied Andreas.
“Circle of life?” Janus was getting confused now.

“We start off as children with not a care in the world!” explained Andreas. “But then, through their own care for us, we catch ‘adult-itis’, which basically takes out the fun of being a kid as we grow up, act our age, sit quietly, stay clean, stop messing around and generally toe the line as we prepare to jump onto the treadmill of life.”

“A bit harsh!” said Janus. “But I still don’t get where the circle comes from, unless of course that is the treadmill you are referring to?”

“The treadmill is actually a straight line!” said Andreas. “It may be turning, but the path never deviates – it is the ultimate prison of existence. No, the circle can actually be linked in some ways to what we found. It is what my Great Aunt Petunia found in life. It is the ability to start being a child again. That is when I realised what made her sad.

“She wanted me to wear that coat and be a kid – a real kid – to jump in puddles, to rip it, get it muddy, to have amazing memories, while wearing her gift. Instead, I just hung it up on a peg as I prepared myself for a treadmill existence!”

“So how did you get off the treadmill?” asked Santiago, expectantly…

To be continued next week
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