Saturday, August 24, 2013

Get Lost



It is good to feel lost... because it proves you have a navigational sense of where "Home" is.  You know that a place that feels like being found exists.  And maybe your current location isn't that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.  
~Erika Harris


Looking out of the car window in the dark, nothing looked familiar.  I could hear my mom mutter under her breath.  One of us would inevitably ask the question, "Are we there yet?"  and then the snapped answer, "We're LOST!"  Gasp! Oh no! Our eyes would widen as we scanned the foreign land around us.  How will we make it home?  What will happen to us in this dangerous, unknown place?  "Lock the doors," Mom commanded.  We quickly obliged, then slunk down into the seats, not wanting the people of the outside to see us.  Sitting ducks.  Inevitably, being lost meant wandering through the "bad" parts of town.  Anything could happen.  We could run out of gas.  A gang of rabid squirrels could attack the car.  We  could keep going round in circles and not get out of there, wherever there was.  It's a scary,  frustrating thing being lost.

DruidCraft deck by Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington, Published by Connections 2005
Those were the days before GPS, before Google Maps. There were no cell phones.  Mom was a single mother and had no back up partner to call from a pay phone at a well lit gas station.  Being kids who didn't know how to drive or how we got to where we were in the first place, we were no help.  To the contrary, I'm sure we made her feel even more vulnerable and our nervous questions added to her own anxiety.  She had to figure it out on her own and though my mother has many talents, a sense of direction is not one of them.  I remember hanging over the front seat during one of these "adventures" and making the observation, "You know, Mom, whenever we get lost, we always end up home eventually."  This made her laugh and relax a little.  "Yeah, " she said, "We do.  We always do get home."

The thing about getting lost is that it just happens.  You can't make it happen, I've tried.  I've intentionally taken wrong turns, driven until the road ends, went places I had no idea where they went to, and still mostly knew where I was.  It's pretty much an exercise in bullshit trying to get lost, so I'd end up back home not feeling at all satisfied.  When you're truly lost it happens in what seems like a blink of an eye.  You're in familiar territory then all of a sudden you're not.  Nothing looks right.  It dawns on you that you have never seen that building, that road, that sign.  Uh oh.  So you try very hard to listen to your intuition to guide you out and you feel very strongly you need to take that turn, go that way.  So you do, and keep following your gut.  And you end up going in a big goddamn circle.  Now you've lost faith in yourself, your inner compass, and you really don't know how to find your way home.  Now it's at least an hour later and it's dark and you can't see the road signs. Not that they'd help you because you don't know the names and you don't know which one you're supposed to take.  One leads to a cul-de-sac, so you just turn around.  Another leads to a dead end.  Yet another ends up in someone's driveway.  You're getting more hopeless and frustrated but you know you can't stay where you are.  You don't belong there.  You begin to feel like prey.  Don't act lost, you think, someone will smell your fear.  Someone will take advantage of you.  You try to act like you belong there even though everything inside of you feels like a gnawing, nagging desperation that knows you don't.

What to do?  Might as well pray. Got nothing to lose. Please, God, show me the way home and I'll never get lost again!  Then you look around and keep your eyes peeled for a sign.  Nothing.  Crickets. A beautiful night sky blinks in starry silence. Fuck it.  Go.  This way.  Then that way.  Keep going.  Stop, get more gas.  Ask directions.  Get laughed at as they tell you the highway exit you've been looking for is a mile away.  That way.  Feel relieved and stupid at the same time.  Laugh at yourself.  Turn the radio back on, relax and go.  As you drive into familiar areas, you relax even more, turn the volume up and start dancing in your seat as you feel the stress of the evening leave your body as you sing along with the radio at the top of your lungs.  You know where you are.  You're home.




“Getting lost is just another way of saying 'going exploring.”
― Justina Chen, North of Beautiful 

Getting lost is an unnerving experience for many.  For others, it's an adventure. It's a matter of perspective and circumstances.  For my mother, the responsibility of four young children added to her stress because she felt responsible for our safety and well being, too.  If you're on your own and have no pressing external obligations or responsibilities, no one worrying about you being dead in a ditch, you're less likely to freak out.  If you have a lifeline like a cell phone or a GPS in your car, you're also less likely to panic.  If your internal compass leads you in the right direction the first time, it's all good.  But I don't consider those kinds of circumstances truly lost.  You're simply misdirected, misaligned, out of your way.  Being truly lost is to be without lifelines, directions, internal compasses, and sometimes even hope.

It gets harder and harder to literally get lost these days. The world is a smaller and smaller place and increasingly interconnected.  With all the franchise and chain stores in the strip malls and shopping centers, most towns look a lot the same.  While you may not know where you are, at least things look familiar.  Pull into the McDonald's and use the free WiFi and figure it out.  Get on Facebook and ask your friends. Google it.  Get instant answers.  We're not able to get lost these days it seems, except inside, except in life.  There isn't a roadmap for your inner journey.  No GPS for your life.  Your Facebook friends can't direct you.  That friendly guy at the gas station? Nope. And the stars just stare and blink, still silent.

And it's not even that you're stuck, but maybe running in circles.  There are plenty of roads, but not a clue which one to take. All the familiar storefronts are here, but it doesn't feel like home.  We can divine tarot for direction, but ultimately even that advice must resonate with your internal compass before you agree to take it.  Ultimately, in life as in being lost on the road, we just say "Fuck it" and go. Any direction different from the circles you've been going. Because it doesn't really matter which way you go as long as you go.  Because there's one thing you know: here is not home.  It may not feel like it, but this is a good experience.  Even as a child I knew we would make it home. Somehow.




I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.  ~Douglas Adams








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