Monday, October 20, 2014

Getting Lost & Getting Found

We are in Florida, as a family member is having surgery, and so we are driving the strange six-lane highway – with stoplights – between the hotel, strip malls and hospital. It’s what Boston would be if it had all the hills removed, like a sheet whipped out flat and tucked in tight at each corner. Straight and streamlined. While I am usually the first to relinquish the wheel and hand over the driving duties to Susan, I realize that in this instance, I am probably best suited for the job. I am used to getting lost. I’ve been doing it now for over twenty years in Boston. It’s not that I actually get lost, as in “I have no idea where I am,” it’s just that I don’t always arrive at my destination on the first try. With the rapid growth and urban sprawl and development back in my home state of Illinois, I can also easily, routinely take a wrong turn there, too. It’s safe to say that I have been lost, or at least circling, at one time or another, practically everywhere I’ve ever been. It’s like I’ve been everywhere twice, where I meant to go, and where I wound up instead.

So, you may ask, how did this make me the best candidate for driving? What are my credentials? I realized that the others are all used to finding their way to their destination the very first time. If they miss it, they get flustered, but for me, it’s old territory. I’m used to getting lost, and getting unlost. It’s not upsetting, it’s just another day. I have great patience. I know it may take me several attempts to reach my destination. I may even need to circle it a bit, before I home in on my target, and ultimately park. I am the Global Positioning Schmidt.

For those who are not used to being lost, it can be a frustrating and upsetting experience. For me – not so much. No sense getting worked up about it. Yes, here we go again, I’m going to have to find a good place to turn around. Never you mind that “Do Not Enter” sign. Treat it like a puzzle. And take in the sights along the way. “Look,” I say to Susan. “Look at those adorable homes. That’s some real authentic local historical architecture there, we would never have seen had we stayed on the main road.” I like to look for possible shortcuts and scenic routes, too.

So used to getting lost around Boston I am, that there are places I recognize only because I’ve been lost there before. To get out, I carefully trace the same convoluted route that also worked (eventually) for me last time. There are places I go, that I can never find my way back out: Charlestown, JP, Davis Square. From a purely safety standpoint, there are times when the best thing you can do is simply follow the car in front of you and hope and assume they know where they are going. It may not be where you want to go, but better than tying up an entire intersection, getting T-boned, or teeing off your fellow drivers.

A lot of my hard-won experience pre-dates having GPS, but even now, there are still places that GPS can’t find quite right. It sends you the wrong way down a one-way street, or circling a strip mall. The very last resort is to call the destination. That is admitting defeat. But that is what we did in our fruitless search for the restaurant within the sprawling zig-zagging strip mall. GPS had gotten us close, but could not take us to the restaurant. We’d been circling the parking lot for about twenty minutes when we finally broke down and called. “Where are you?” “In front of the Winn-Dixie.” “Oh, keep on driving, we’re at the end of the next strip of stores.” Success!

The lessons of getting lost – and getting found – translate equally well to life. Sometimes a human lifeline is just what you need. You may not reach your destination on the first try. It pays to pay attention. Perseverance pays off.

Are you lost? What do you need to do? Sometimes you need just a little course correction, a nudge of the needle, by just a degree, to get back on track. Maybe you have to stop and check a map, or you need to turn, right or left, or completely around, and make a U-turn to re-trace your steps. Sometimes you just have to let a course play out. It’s possible even to go very far, while sitting still in one place. Not all journeys are physical.

Sometimes you will arrive at your destination, and while the coordinates of the dropped pin are absolutely accurate, you wake up one day and realize you have arrived quite precisely at the entirely wrong place. A line from the Avicii song, “Wake Me Up,” struck a chord with me: “All this time I was finding myself and I didn’t know I was lost.” It’s possible to be following a course in life with perfect precision and accuracy, and yet going in the wrong direction entirely. It’s okay – after all, look at Christopher Columbus, who set out to find a shortcut to China, and landed in the New World. That seemed to work out okay. Even the best planned course, laid out like an old fashioned Triple-A TripTik, can benefit from the hand of luck and fate. Serendipity is as good a guide as any some days.

The best thing we can do is simply be open to all the signs and guides along the way, in navigating our course through life. Travel with eyes open, hearts open. Figure out the puzzle of what you were meant to become. Like a seed that contains all the DNA blueprint for generating a new organism, what if there was a similar design within us for what each of us was meant to become?

We are each masters of our own fate, but in some ways we are also like dowsers, following our divining rods, but where to? What are they leading us to? What is calling to you? What does the blueprint for your fully realized life look like?

To add a Biblical verse to things: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts" (Psalm 95). If today you hear your calling – answer it!

This piece was written after our recent trip to Florida, the Sunshine State, and seemed to follow naturally from the previous post, “The Blind Horse,” in thinking about our guides and all our forms of navigation, literal, metaphorical, and philosophical, following Columbus Day. On the topic of guides – His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be in town later this month - check out ticketmaster for local venues.

Coming Next – a three-part series on the local casino debate and gambling!

© 2014 Rosemary A. Schmidt
Rose Schmidt is the author of “Go Forward, Support! The Rugby of Life.” If you would like to request permission to use or reprint any of the content on the site, please contact the author. Use of individual quotes with proper citation and attribution, within the limits of fair use, is permitted.   

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