Two roads

Two roads diverged in  a yellow wood. Two roads. One was marked “the way” and the other one had no clear markings, was overrun with weeds, and obviously had not been traveled in quite some time.

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;         5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,         10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.~~Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in  a yellow wood. And me, being the obstinate and intrepid scoffer I have always been, didn’t trust the road that said “the way.” The letters were too big. The neon lights a bit obnoxious. And everybody was hoofing it down that road. There wasn’t much room to travel, and I’ve never been much a follower.

So I stopped a girl who was just headed up “the way” with the others. “Why are you going that way? How do you know that’s the right way?”

“Duh,” she said to me, rolling her eyes and then turning them back to the road. Surely at the end of the road, her expression said, a grand prize awaited. She need to go, and I was stopping her.

She started to walk off again, and I stopped her. “But how do you know the sign is correct? How do you know it’s the right way?”

“You are dumb,” she said to me impatiently, flipping her hair and chomping her gum. “He told me. And he told me. And that guy over there, HE told me.” She pointed to each person she meant, but they were all a blur to me. I couldn’t see what those men had that made them right.

She started to move toward the road again, and I grabbed her arm. “But what if you are wrong? What if they are wrong? You really have no way of knowing if that’s the right way. You’re just taking their word for it.”

She just gave me a look, flipped her hair and flitted off down the busy path.

Everyone was headed down the same path, but I just wasn’t sure. I had no proof. The other path was covered up, but it still looked pleasant and nice, and quiet and calm. So I chose it, even though everyone else was going the other way.

Throughout my life, I have been accosted by many people asking why I went the way I did. It was hard sometimes. It was quiet and more than a little lonely. It would have been nice to be in the crowd discussing all the things they saw on the other road, but I saw a lot of things, too. And the funny thing is, both roads ended up in the same location.

Some of the people who took the other path have had cancer, have lost children, lost parents, lost homes and fortunes, and self-respect, but they still maintain they took the right road. They still don’t understand why I followed my own map, my own trail.

Enough of the metaphor. A friend of mine is going through a very heart-wrenching situation. Her second son has an inoperable brain tumor. The only path they can take is one of radiation and steroids, and hope that it will shrink the tumor. My friend is one who followed the path everyone else was on. The same path we were told to follow from the day we were old enough to understand words. The Mormon path.

And at this difficult time, I have found that my words have no real meaning or impact. She is surrounded by people who believe as she believes, and they spout the same thing as each other, just like the people on the metaphorical pathway, screaming “This way, this way.”

I want to share with her my belief that she is strong, and powerful, and that she has an energy inside her that cannot be rivaled. To my thinking, if anything can heal, that can. But my thoughts are not welcome, and were, in fact, removed from the family blog. Because I do not agree with their beliefs. And because I do not say the same words and the same things they all say.

I’m not angry about this. It’s a tough time. Maybe all she needs IS the believers around her. Maybe they are the only thing that can give her comfort, and my words really do mean nothing to her. All I really wanted to do was tell her she had my support, no matter what religion she believed in, or what I didn’t believe.

But maybe my support isn’t needed, because I’m not on the same pathway as she is. And this is where Mormon and ex-Mormon divide so chaotically. In a time when everyone should be joining together, we are divided, those of us who feel differently than believing Mormons.

Is my concern for her really less than her Mormon neighbor’s? Probably not, but I don’t have the right words to say, the “spirit” to guide me.

In explaining why she removed my comment from the family blog, my friend’s sister said:

  You telling my sister how strong she is was not the problem at all!  The hoo doo voo doo part of your comment was what bothered me.  You can absolutely be positive, uplifting, and encouraging of  her.  You are right, she does have an energy about her that is amazing & positive.  She should be reminded of that.  I don’t want you to think the love and support is not welcomed, because it is.   You also are very knowledgeable about what we believe and that should make it easy for you not to offend.  That is why I emailed you about deleting the comment.  I didn’t want you to feel unwelcome, its just necessary for everyone to be sensitive at this time.  Hope you understand!  Thanks

I do understand, but it isn’t a comfortable understanding. It’s a “here we are again, so different” understanding. It was an outsider’s understanding. I don’t belong to the club, and I can’t give the secret password. I care for her, her family, and what they are going through, but I’m not going to spout things I don’t know and don’t understand just so she can feel better. Isn’t “I care” and “I believe you are stronger than any man” enough? No. Not really.

Here was my response to her sister. It’s probably the last thing I will say on the stiuation:

I did understand, and was not angry. I just feel so “tippy” here, because I don’t believe the same way, and sometimes being honest means treading on toes.
For example, you have unequivocally stated your BELIEFS as truth on the blog. It’s your blog, and your sister’s blog, and you have that right. But it’s out there.
I don’t agree with what you believe. And I’m a little bit pissed at a God who would allow a sweet young boy to be tortured this way, and don’t find it part of a “bigger plan.”
On the same side, I truly DON’T want to hurt or offend or add to anyone’s personal angst at this difficult time. Because I believe differently, it might happen. It already did, with my “hoo doo” comments.
Think of how strongly you believe. Me saying I don’t, in the same terms, is GOING to offend someone. It’s better that I stay away from the blog and not post.
So, I’m trying to steer clear of it, without pulling away.
Does that make sense?

Your sister still has all my support and her family every bit of positive energy I can send. I just don’t wish to rock the boat at a difficult time. If she came to me and asked it would be different. But she hasn’t. So I should not have written what I wrote, and won’t in the future. I’m not being difficult here, just realistic.
Sometimes people just need support, and they don’t need to know why. She’s getting the “believing support” from friends and family who believe the same way she does. I just wanted her to know that she had my support, too.
That’s all.


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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3 Responses to Two roads

  1. Mindy says:

    Oh Natalie that is just not fair…..I’m getting geared up to deal with my family this weekend, too. My parent will be home from their mission today. I’m a little worried how the weekend will pass with my 8 siblings will they accept my beliefs or not….sending positive energy to you and you friend, since the though is all that matters any way….take care….


  2. Donna says:

    Wow, that is really sad. I stopped following the “same path” as everyone else too.

    But you would think that everybody’s collective thoughts and prayers, however they are doing them, would be appreciated. Apparently not. I find that really, truly sad.

    Every persons “thoughts and prayers” are all helping. If I ever need that kind of help, I will take them from anyone that is willing to offer.

    Rant over. 🙂


  3. sheila says:

    Robert Frost wrote the poem, not Robert Burns.


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