Mia sat in the middle of the two paths, determined to muster up the courage to take the one Chester was not taking.
Mia couldn’t think of any one thing that caused the shift in her feelings about Chester. They had been together so long; perhaps it was many small things. But one thing she was definitely tired of was feeling invisible. She was no longer content to follow Chester, the “King,” around while he hunted and scratched and intimidated everyone. He ignored her except to illicit constant praise from her and continually ask if she loved him. Her now mechanical answer of “Yes” avoided an argument, most of the time. Other times, when she answered appropriately, he countered that she didn’t love him and started an argument. Life had become so exhausting. She felt empty and confused. At one time she truly did love him. His abusive behavior wore her heart out. Now she just pitied him.
She was restless as she watched Chester start down one of the paths. Staying back, she vowed to hold her ground no matter what. Her heart was flip-flopping wildly with a mix of excitement and dread. She sat with the feelings in her heart—an ending and a beginning—a yearning for a purpose yet to be identified. She felt if emptiness could explode, it would certainly happen if she stayed with him.
She watched as Chester arrogantly sauntered down the path, and then suddenly stopped. “Why aren’t you following me?” he asked with a curled lip and the usual sneer in his tone. He started back to where she was, “It’s your job to follow me; I am the King!” he roared.
“I’m not coming.”
Mia was shocked by the calm in her voice. There was no turning back now.
Chester escalated his demand for her to come with him, roaring loudly and becoming a tyrant. The more abusive he became, the more she dug in her heels while he unwittingly convinced her to leave him.
“I want a happier life. I’m tired of walking on eggshells around you,” Mia said, calmly. She felt the power she’d given to Chester flowing back to her. Her confidence was buoyed as she held his glare.
Chester put his nose in the air. “Fine, I will easily find someone else to take your place; I’m the King, and nobody disrespects me like that. I am better than anyone else; you will never replace me. I am the most cunning and ferocious in all the kingdom!”
He stomped off down the path, wishing secretly she would change her mind. He did not like to be alone at all. He didn’t like being with him either. What would he do without someone to blame for all that goes wrong?
Mia let out a deep breath, immediately feeling giddy. She followed her heart down the other path.
It was the first time Mia had ever been alone. She was struck by how wonderful it was to think uninterrupted. Although she was still jumpy, she gradually started to relax as she inhaled the fresh air. Had it always been so sweet? Her new freedom was intoxicating as she drank in all the sights and sounds. She could do anything now. Nothing could stop her! Only…she had no clue what she wanted.
Mia decided to try an experiment. Everyone she met on her path was there to teach her something, she thought. She would leave herself open without judgment about the messenger. As she settled into her game, she spotted a lovely giraffe out in the field munching on the high leaves of a tree.
“Excuse me, may I ask you what you’ve learned from life?” Mia asked in her softest voice, trying not to scare him.
“Well, the first thing I’ve learned is not to talk to lions!” Max said.
“Please, I mean you no harm. I am searching for answers,” Mia pleaded.
Max acquiesced, sensing something about her was different.
“Okay. I will share with you the most important lesson I have learned: Never be afraid to reach for what you desire your life to be. But always with detachment and acceptance of where it leads you. Staying in the stage of desire all the time will make you unhappy. You will miss the beauty life has to offer each moment, especially for you.”
Max turned and walked away, his long neck swaying gracefully as Mia shouted after him, “Thank you so much! I think I understand.” She found the encounter so exciting and insightful. She decided that was exactly what she was doing. Leaving herself open to life, enjoying each moment.
Several hours went by before Mia came upon a stand of trees. She watched in amazement as the monkeys swung from branch to branch, tree to tree, like chattering trapeze artists. One monkey spotted her and yelled, “Lion!” All of them scattered, except one who looked very old.
“Why didn’t you run in fear with the others?” she shouted up to him.
“I have a good feeling about you, and I am way up here with ample time to go to a different tree, should that change,” Ogdon said confidently. He looked at her curiously and asked, “What brings you here?”
Mia looked up at him and said, “I want to know what life has taught you.”
Ogden scratched his chin thoughtfully and tilted his head to the side.
“I’ve learned that thoughts are like tree branches. There are no bad ones, as they are just thoughts. Only hold them long enough to determine if they make you feel loved and strong, or if they are weak and unsupportive. Then, let them go—don’t hang onto them or you will stay stuck there. Always look to grasp the next thought that makes your heart happy and strong. You naturally will share that happiness. Likewise, if you grab and hold onto weak and unsupportive thoughts, you will stay stuck and share those too.”
He nodded affirmatively, pleased with himself, and looked at Mia.
“Oh, that was very nice! Thank you for sharing that with me.” Mia walked back to the path feeling like she had so much to learn—but realizing all she had to do was ask. Everyone seemed to have something to offer.
Mia continued walking on the path when she noticed a wildebeest strolling towards her. Well this was most fortunate, as Mia loved wildebeest—they were delicious. She was very hungry; it had been a long time since she had eaten. She was proud of herself, finding how capable she was. She could do anything that needed to be done, on her own. Chester had always informed her otherwise. The wildebeest had not spotted her yet, so she moved off the path into the bushes.
As it strolled by her, unaware, she lunged from the bushes, latching onto his neck and taking him to the ground.
“Please don’t hurt me!” he pleaded.
Mia remembered her promise to herself, to learn from everyone on her path. Reluctantly, she released him, using every ounce of self-control as he lay bleeding.
“I hope you will forgive me. I want to ask you something. What have you learned from life?”
He strained to lift his menacingly large head with its shaggy mane. Resigned to his destiny, in a weak voice he said, “Know when it’s time to leave. Realize when you have gleaned all you can from your current environment, and have the courage to seek greener pastures. Enduring something that is not likely to change is just fear of change. Don’t stay where there is little nourishment for the mind, body and soul. We do this every year when we migrate,” he said, wistfully.
She was touched that he would share such profound last words. That is what she had done with Chester, left for greener pastures. She thanked him as she watched him die. And with tremendous gratitude, she dined solemnly, accepting that she was still a lion. One with a greater understanding of life and how connected everything and everyone seemed to be. It seemed she already knew what she had just learned—that all paths lead home, to the same amazing universe within everyone, no matter their role in life.