is train travel a metaphor for life?

train signal
My train was delayed the other morning because of signalling problems. If you travel by train they are an ever present fact of life.

The delays gave me time to ponder. Even if you don’t commute by train, signalling problems will be ever present in your life too.  Human signalling problems.

That look …
That sigh …
She hasn’t answered my email …
He’s late again …
Those tattoos …
That outfit …
She smiled …
He’s quiet …
My stomach is churning …

If only life’s signals were as simple as red, amber, green. Stop and go. But in life we interpret the signal. Often incorrectly. Very often.

And the misreading of them, accounts for many of our train crashes, in relationships … with others and with ourselves.

That look means I got it wrong, again
That sigh just proves to me that I’m a boring person
She hasn’t answered my email so she doesn’t care
He’s late again so I don’t matter
Those tattoos mean he’s a thug
That outfit says everything about her
She smiled so she likes me
He’s quiet because he doesn’t agree
My stomach is churning because, again, I’m not good enough

Signals on the train network are there to keep us safe and ironically so are life’s signals.

Our interpretation of the signals allow our beliefs about ourselves and our beliefs about the world around us to remain true. In doing so they keep us safe. They also permit judgement of others and in this way we can attribute our pain and discomfort to them and know we are OK.

Sometimes train signals might serve us better in life. Clear and incontrovertible. No interpretation needed. But then we wouldn’t be human.

So how to avoid the train crash?

What if we just noticed?
What if we communicated?
What if we asked what that signal meant and listened to the reply?
What if we explained how we felt at that moment?
What if we were just curious and had the humanity to have an honest conversation instead of judging and interpreting?

I suspect our relationships would be better – mostly our relationship with ourselves.

Travel well on life’s train journey.

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