Humbled By The Twisting Road

August 4, 2008

Since the theme of my articles on creative work and self-employment is the “Twisting Road,” imagine how humbling it was for me to be driving on twisting roads for the first time in several years during my recent trip. It wasn’t very much fun, and it seemed like a huge nuisance.

My sons and I left a week ago this past Thursday and returned home this past Friday afternoon. It was a whirlwind trip that included college campus visits, four days of soccer tournament, a trip to the beach, and a long drive home. And it included stretches of driving through the Great Smoky Mountains.

Portions of the highway through the Smoky Mountains twist and turn a lot. They are not as severe as the roads in Arizona around Sedona and Jerome, or the roads in Arkansas around Fayetteville and Eureka Springs. But driving a Suburban full of luggage and soccer gear through the twists and turns while trying to stay on a schedule brought to mind my previous twisting road drives.

On the way to North Carolina I focused on the negatives of driving twisting roads. On the way back to Tennessee I focused on the positives. Here are what I remembered from driving twisting roads that apply to creative work and self-employment. I knew these things intellectually but hadn’t incorporated them fully into my work life. I hope I learned them at a deeper level this time so they “stick.”

• Mountains are annoying obstacles when you’re focused on a deadline.
• Mountains are beautiful and majestic when you slow down and focus on them.

• Twisting roads seem threatening and risky when you see them as something to confront.
• Twisting roads are enjoyable and perspective-changing when you look forward to them.

• Rain added to twisting mountain roads on a deadline generates anxiety.
• Rain added to twisting mountain roads with no deadline adds to the majesty.

• I automatically see twisting mountain roads as a gauntlet and get anxious.
• I have to make a conscious choice each time to see twisting mountain roads as an opportunity for a special experience, but when I do I am greatly rewarded.

The Friday we arrived in North Carolina for the soccer tournament I had just a few minutes to think about what I would write for this blog, and immediately my mind returned to the drive through the mountains. At that point I only had the anxious obstacle view of the road. I thought about the fact I named my newsletter and this blog after the Twisting Road, and for a while I felt totally foolish.

The whirlwind of preparing Friday night for Saturday’s game set in, and I didn’t have time to think about this blog again until we were headed home from the beach. Part of the reason was the good play of my son’s soccer team. They advanced to the semifinals so they were playing soccer for four days. We left for the beach shortly after their final game.

On the way back my mind picked up the self-deprecating thoughts about the name Twisting Road and I started haranguing myself again. What were you thinking? You drove tight mountain roads for a year and a half and know it can be nerve-wracking! But I thought about the reasons I chose the name, including the glorious views and breathtaking moments of rounding a corner and seeing a valley open below and mountains rising in the distance. The last leg of Wednesday’s drive was into Asheville, North Carolina in the dark and in occasionally heavy rain, through tightly twisting highway. It was hard to keep positive expectations up, but I resolved to enjoy the drive into Tennessee the following morning.

I did, although we had some heavy rain and a little light rain along some of the twistiest portions. But my sons were excitedly looking for hillbillies, and then trying to identify nuts growing densely on trees lining the ridge, and then spotting homes built near the many rivers and streams. Just before we left the twisting pass through the Smokies, we saw mist rising near the top of one mountain that was so dense it looked like smoke. I had been explaining to my sons that the haziness and blue cast of the mountains in the distance gave them their name, and had tried to explain how mist and clouds played a part. When we saw the dense rising mist after the rain no more words were necessary.

Following your calling is difficult. Being self-employed is challenging. Trying to have an authentic life is not all sweetness and light. It’s intimidating, it’s anxiety-provoking, and sometimes it’s lonely since it’s hard to connect with people down in their ruts. It’s a daily conscious choice to take the more difficult path, or to create a new path, and it is slow going. It is very demanding. But it’s also vibrant. It’s creative and it’s exciting. Taking on this challenge helps work be fulfilling.

May You Know the Joy of Sharing Your Gifts,

Steve Coxsey

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