Traveling with my friend this summer brought up an interesting question—how do I feel about being lost?
I get anxious when I’m with another person. Especially if I’m with another anxious person who’s driving the car while I’m navigating from shitty Google Maps’ printed directions. When I’m by myself, I actually like when I’m a bit lost.
Notice, a bit. I don’t believe I’d like to be blindfolded, pushed into a helicopter, and offloaded into endless dunes stretching for miles in all directions. But, in a place I live or have visited for a few days, I have a general sense of well being. For years I lived in an area of New York City considered dangerous by many of my uptown friends. To me it was simply the neighborhood. I knew the shops, the families, even some of the street people. That experience makes me think most neighborhoods are far less dangerous than up-tight white people’s imaginations would lead them to believe. As none of you are up-tight white people, I’m sure you understand.
There’s an excitement that takes me when I look up from whatever my attention was on to realize, “Hey, I don’t know this street. Which direction do I go from here? Do I recognize anything?”
At that point, I enter the present moment, exactly the opposite of what one might expect. When I get anxious, it’s a projection into the future. “Am I going to upset so-and-so by being late? What if it gets dark and I haven’t found my way? What if I can’t find an English speaking person to ask directions? What will my friends wear to my funeral once they’ve discovered my withered body under the overhang of a derelict building in six months?” As long as I don’t go there I’m having a little adventure; I’ve gone exploring.
Being a little lost asks me to pay attention to the signs, to my surroundings. Paying attention is a good thing. It demands we enter the realm of the senses, our receptors alive, our awareness heightened. In general, time ceases to be the primary motivator.
The discomfort of not knowing where we are is a motivating factor. We want to be out of that discomfort, but we don’t run as fast and hard as we can in some random direction hoping it will yield results. Yet, we often do this in our everyday lives… assume there’s a right way to go and rush toward it with all our might. When lost, we make a choice of direction based on the information we have. We travel for a while in that direction until we lose faith or encounter something that makes us question our choice. Then, we stop and reevaluate. Maybe we continue, maybe we turn, maybe we backtrack, maybe we even ask for help.
I like that. I like the excitement, the uncertainty, the adventure, the humility. And I like the sweetness of arriving home safe.
I am a little bit lost in my own life at the moment. Not another planet lost, not even a foreign country lost, no, somewhere in an unexplored nearby neighborhood lost. With trees. Blocking out the light. Intermittently.
You bet, I’m paying attention. I am trying new directions. I stop from time to time and reassess. I slow down and ask for help, mostly from God, but occasionally I’ll even ask another human being.
I am, and have always been, a process person, more interested in the journey than the destination. I’m enjoying this.
And I’m looking forward to the sweetness of home.