It doesn’t work – until it does

Everyone has heard the saying that: “the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome.”

A helpful metaphor if you are trying to change a habit. But what if you have already set out on a new path. Often, when we start something new, every step can seem to take an eternity and lead nowhere in particular. It reminds me of my honeymoon in 1998.

My newlywed wife and I had booked a primitive cabin along the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia. This was my idea, as I had some experience hiking the hills and wanted to share the wonders of rough living with my new spouse.

She, being from Europe, was unused to wild country, so I explained before setting out to find the cabin that it would be a long walk and that she would eventually want to give up, maybe even believing that there was no cabin to find.

We entered the woods in the afternoon and by the time the sun had set we were about halfway to the cabin by my estimate. As we continued on – steadily uphill – away from the backwoods farms we initially passed, she began to ask whether we were lost. When we passed by a rock clearly adorned with bobcat droppings, she began to really worry and wanted to turn back. She didn’t believe that the cabin was there, or thought that we must at least be going in the wrong direction.

I stopped, held her shoulders in my hands and assured her in the kindest yet most emphatic possible tone (though her panic was infecting me, too, by then) that we would get there safely. As we walked on, it became darker and cold.

Finally, even I was beginning to doubt when, suddenly, we crested a hill and saw before us the shadow of a tiny wooden house.

It was illuminated only by the light of the Milky Way and we both knew we had arrived.

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