Long roads

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

When I graduated high school I received a simple plaque from the greeting card store that has adorned my desk ever since. The friend who gave it to me likely never knew how much I admired her. As so often happens with high school friends, our promises to write every single week got lost in our mutual desire to do well in our studies. I often think of her, because even then she was a woman of grace and charm and fierce determination. She was someone I wanted to be like, a young woman who had it all together when I was still trying to determine both what “it” was, and where “it” had been scattered. Barb was planning on becoming a doctor in a third world country, and I’ve no doubt she has improved the lives of thousands of people. What she may not realize is that she saved mine too, without ever once examining me.

The plaque highlights a quote by Dag Hammarskjold.

Dag Hammarskjold“How long the road is. But, for all the time the journey has already taken, how you have needed every second of it in order to learn what the road passes by.”

During bleak times, I’ve glanced at the faded photo and thought, “This is such a long road.” How could I possibly make it?

There are other moments though when I’ve been able to say, “That WAS such a long road.”

The difference is subtle but important, for this statement belongs to a survivor, to one who perseveres over the most difficult journeys and as a reward, has gained wisdom, courage and strength.

These are the times when I look back to realize what my road passed by, when I could see how the circumstances of my life were necessary for this particular moment. Maybe I wasn’t where I thought I was going–but here I was, exactly where I was supposed to be. God often works that way, I think. It’s very frustrating, but satisfying and soul-soothing too.

A few weeks ago I watched someone quietly celebrate such a road. This particular highway was one in need of intense repair because–as happens with many of us–deeply ingrained behaviours contributed to perpetual potholes that had become increasingly difficult to fill, and these in turn caused problems for everyone.

How tedious the process of directing traffic away, scraping that road to the base structure, rebuilding the layers, and finally, resurfacing it before testing with traffic again. Of course, the road intersects with others, but it is a private road–and the bulk of the work must be done privately too. It cannot be rushed, nor will it survive procrastination. No amount of saying what should be done, or could be done, or must be done will develop the muscles to get it done.

And oh the courage required when one realizes it must be done.Sunlight on road

In this case, muscles were beautifully contoured as new skills were learned. One day an observer provided an unsolicited comment about the new road, and how fine the work was–and for the first time, the person stopped hating the journey. It had been long, but finally it had been worth it.

There was joy, and there was deep contentment in that realization. It was, I think, paired with a release of fear and some excitement for what the next journey might bring.

After all, the long road had been survived. Something quite beautiful could be around the bend.



14 thoughts on “Long roads

  1. This is a beautiful piece and we forget what the journey is for sometimes. It is to learn and enjoy the destination when we get there. We have many destinations to travel to and we should enjoy them all, the travel and the destination.

    1. Right you are, Stella. Even the detours can hold some stunning surprises, can’t they?

  2. I needed this today, on the six month anniversary of the most recent event that changed everything in my life (again). Some people only have one or two of these in their lives. I apparently need at least 6. Still, the road conditions can improve when I am diligent. I know I must continue on. Thank you for the reminder.

    1. You have had a few road changes, haven’t you? Me too. These past six months have gone both so quickly and so slowly. You have continued to improve each day, and to live your best and most authentic life, and it’s a beautiful thing.

  3. Sometimes the most difficult (or dreariest) road trip has the most lessons to teach us. Plus, once survived it makes for excellent storytelling opportunities.

    1. Well said by a woman who has such a story, Laura. Thank you.

  4. I needed this too. I recently drafted an essay on this theme, but oh, how I wish I could express myself as beautifully as you do. You have certainly traveled long roads, and I’ve never seen you complain – just contemplate.

    1. Kind words, Debbie. I can (and often do) complain with the best of them, but I am grateful for this life.

  5. Although I don’t know you Crystal, I felt that I was given some very special insight into your life with this post. I felt that this post was very personal, but at the time general? in that we all have our own roads, and we have all had to do the hard work of rebuilding (or have watched someone who has).
    The thoughts flowed so smoothly from one to the other, and they were so easy to understand.
    Leaves me inspired, and encouraged. It seems to me that it would have been cathartic to write (because reading it was) did you find that it was?

    1. I almost always find writing to be cathartic, JB–so I guess the answer is yes! Thank you for stopping by.

  6. Crystal, as always you are inspiring and thought provoking. A treasured glimpse and so very well written. Thank you for sharing this. So many times we focus on getting from point A to B and don’t take time to appreciate the journey.

    1. I was thinking about that very thing today–we are taking some side roads today (because I’m not yet allowed to drive on the freeway!). And you know what? Side roads are awesome 🙂

  7. Beautifully written. We’ve all come so far in our journeys. The lessons learned were invaluable, and not without cost. I’m so glad I am where I am now, but there were times it was difficult to see progress.

    May your “long road” today seem short. See you tonight!

    1. That particular road had a beautiful destination. Thanks for sharing it with me.

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