Sidetracked. We all know the meaning of the word. And there's a very good chance that we all know what it feels like to be sidetracked.

If we were a railroad car, being sidetracked could well mean sitting in one place, abandoned, left to rust, and to be eventually sent to the scrap yard.

If we are a participant in sports or other such endeavor, we would refer to being set aside as having been "Sidelined." One who has been sidelined has been taken out of the game and made to be a spectator.

In either case: sidelined or side tracked, as described above, can be a hard place to find oneself, and usually a place where the world goes by while we can do nothing but sit and watch it as it passes.

For the past year I have been sidetracked. But I hadn't noticed it until this morning. Although I knew I was off my primary course to some degree, I had not realized how far I had ventured off course, nor certainly how long I had been off the main track.

Many things project themselves in this life and tries to grab our attention. And in so doing, these many things tend to drag us down and away, rather than toward the direction we wish to travel. In this modern age especially our life is not our own, but rather it belongs to any one and any thing desiring to make use of us at any moment. A telephone rings, and we must answer it, and not only answer, but remain on the phone talking about whatever that person who calls wishes to talk about, and for the length of time they wish to speak. A knock on the door finds Uncle Henry and his huge family who has "decided" to spend a few weeks with you, and to allow you to feed and entertain them.

Then there are daily issues that grab us and keep us from the direction we know we should be going. The newspaper is at the door and must be read. The TV ever blasting in several rooms that demand to be watched. New products on the shelves that are a "must have." Children ever-present at the ankles of mother who tries to perform chores around the house.

Then there are the occasional distractions like the long line of slow traffic, and the red stop lights when a person is late for work. And the flat tire in the middle of a busy freeway. And then the ticket one receives for not moving far enough off the road to repair the tire, then discovering the officer observed that you did not have your seatbelt buckled, that your license had expired the day before, and that a tail light bulb was malfunctioning.

Not everything that sidetracks us is negative. There are many things that can come into our life that seem disastrous at the time, but when it is past, it can be seen as a good thing. One such occurrence is discovering that you have cancer. This is a terrible and a fearsome thing to hear. Much fear and anxiety, and very probably for a very long time, is experience. But once the tests and the operation is over, the peace of mind that is the result makes it well worth that time and effort.

Add to this the fact that had you not been told that which you dreaded and hated to hear; had you not had the tests that brought about the bad news: then the peace of mind you would have enjoyed by your ignorance would have eventually taken its tole.

Along with your having dealt with your primary problem, that is, the cancer, you find you are eating healthier, you are exercising, you have lost that weight you were so concerned about, and you are feeling much better about yourself.

Good things can come out of bad situations. Not all sidetracks have to be bad sidetracks.

There is yet another sidetrack that is not recognized as such because of the enjoyment derived from it at the time. One example of such a sidetrack is taking a vacation. The much-needed vacation that is intended to rest your body and restore your soul, you discover when it is over has zapped your zeal for the direction you have set for yourself, and it has robbed you of your momentum you had worked so hard to develop towards that goal. Along with these loses might very well be that you have lost your physical ability to function as you had, which will require much effort to restore.

Sometimes events and situations enter our life that does not take us off our primary track as much as it draws our attention from the track and from our goals. Rather than having our train of resolve set to the side, it has merely slowed to a snail's pace while we explore the new, and often exciting, thing that has lured us like a Siren of Greek lore or a Celtic Will-O'-The-Wisp.

If one follows the lure for too long a period of time, or ventures too far from one's goal and purpose, then they will likely find themself shipwrecked on the rocks, or snared in the bog of despair. Too long gone is likely to become too far lost.

But sidelines, regardless of how exciting and romantic they may be at the time; or no matter how devastating they may appear at the time: need be seen as failure to follow one's primary purpose and course.

A marriage failed, for instance, although begun as a hopeful and joyful adventure, can be latter seen as an education that allows us to move in a proper course in the future. Time served in prison, or in the heat of battle, can be turned into a strengthening experience rather than a dreadful loss, if they are examined for the lessons and the strengthening elements they contain.

People who have had the worst of experiences, who have had to endure the most fearsome of catastrophes are often the ones with the greatest of testimonies, and the ones who appreciate life the most, and thereby are the happiest of people.

For the past year I have been sidetracked. It has been an exciting and fantastic ride that has shown me a great deal about people I would have never learned had I not had the privilege of being sidetracked. But what is more important than what I learned about other people, is what I learned about myself from the experience. I discovered that in areas I felt a failure, that I had in fact acquired a mild degree of success. And I discovered that some successes I perceived to have had achieved, I still need much work.

Sidetracks need not be a side line. Sidetracks can take us into unfashionable regions we would never have considered exploring had we been offered such an opportunity rather than having been thrust into it. Yet it's these side adventures, good and bad, that rounds out our personality, and they teach us if we are indeed on the right track, if we should alter our course, or they may confirm that the direction we are pursuing is the correct one for us.

Sidelines can serve two purposes. Sidelines are the place where those who desire to participate in the game are forced to remain, sulking and feeling sorry for themselves. Sidelines are where those who fail to live up to expectation vegetate and become even less qualified to participate than they had been before the sideline.

But there are others on sitting on the sidelines as well. Sidelines are where the spectators sit who pay careful attention to every move the players make. Sidelines are where those sit who have the best seats to view the game. Sidelines are where the commentators sit and explain the game to those who are not fortunate enough to have obtained a seat in the bleachers on the sidelines.

Participants are only able see a very small portion of what is occurring in the game. The pitcher in a baseball game only sees a batter at home base. The center in a football game only sees the shoes of a very large lineman standing before him. The front runner of a race sees nothing whatsoever of the race, but can only imagine what is happening behind him..

Participants in any event or activity has but the poorest of understanding of what is really happening in the event at large. The closer a person is to the game, the less he sees of it.

Contrarily, the farther a person is from the event, the more distant he is from his own life, from the emotions and the attitudes that are inherent in one's life, the better he can see the reality of himself and of his situation..

It is important that occasionally a person be taken out of the game, set on the sidelines for a while so they can obtain a better view of that in which they have chosen to participate, and to see more clearly if they are living up to their own expectations.

Sidetracks and sidelines are a blessing for the wise, but a curse for the self-centered and the unobservant.


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