I have a treasure trove of memories of my time in Italy. Some make me laugh. Some warm my heart. Some fill me with a sense of peace. Some delight me. This one is more complex.
I had travelled to a small village about 45 minutes away from my friend’s home. I was visiting a fabulous restaurant and chose to sit outside to watch the sun set while I sipped a full-bodied, local red and delighted on scrumptious local fare. Ah, it was mouthwatering. I loved to people watch as I dined alone in a foreign country. Hearing the Italian rolling off their tongues was musical, punctuated with hand gestures and laughter. It was delightful.
Darkness fell and I grew weary. I climbed into my tiny rental car and meandered down the winding, mountain roads. There are a few things to keep in mind. One, I have a terrible sense of direction. I hate it. I get turned around and I simply stink at finding my way back. I’ll eventually get to my designation, but not without at least two wrong turns. I’m not a good copilot. Two, my rental car’s headlights were aimed down, making nighttime driving a bit of an adventure – think lowly, American woman nearly stopping at each crossroad to read Italian road signs! Three, it is PITCH BLACK in the Tuscan mountains at night. I mean, seriously black. Four, the roads are winding and narrow. Five, there are a lot of wild animals in the Tuscan mountains – boars, foxes, I’m not sure what!
I’m guessing you know where this is heading. On this particular night, my cell phone had no signal – no GPS for me – and it was about to die.
Surprise, surprise, I got lost going home. Now, in all fairness, in Italy, they don’t necessarily have the road signs facing both directions. I have no idea why. So, there wasn’t a sign indicating my road at one juncture. BUT, I missed my first, vital turn and that was early in my return trip. As the night wore on, I thought I might have to sleep in the car. I couldn’t think of any other option. It’s not like the States where you can find a gas station and ask for directions. But, I doubled down, turned around, retraced my steps and started over, finding the first, vital turn the second time around. I doubled my commute, I was a tad concerned, OK a lot concerned, and I was praying pretty hard. But, I did get home, safe and sound that night.
That’s the thing. In life, we sometimes end up alone on dark, winding roads, with no sense of direction, no road signs, limited light and no help. Sometimes, we feel lost and scared. Sometimes, we just have to keep going. Like Dory says, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” That sweet olive orchard never looked so good that night, and neither did my bed.
When life seems dark and weary and you don’t know what to do, trust. Keep going. Calm your mind and start again. And for me, and maybe you too, pray. You are never really alone, even when you feel it. God is there to hold you up, light the path and guide you on your way, even when it’s dark.
“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” – Sharon Salzberg