The Joy of Getting Lost

This way to the parade

Sometimes I lose my way. Sometimes I come to a stop and have no idea how I got here or where I should go next. Sometimes I can’t make up my mind whether to turn left or right, or continue straight ahead. What will I miss out on if I take one path but not the other? Sometimes I end up somewhere I don’t want to be and wish I’d made different choices. Sometimes I’m sure I know where I’m going but lead myself along an entirely different path to the one I thought I was on.

The feeling of being lost can send me into a bit of panic. The unfamiliarity of my surroundings can make me uncomfortable. My disorientation can shake my confidence.

When the earth shook on February 22, 2011, I became completely and utterly lost. But I didn’t understand how far away I was from what I knew until much later, when I was in the deepest, darkest part of the woods – a place I really didn’t want to be. The map I had been using to direct my life had suddenly been swapped with a different one and everything on it was foreign. For a girl who likes to have all the answers, for once I couldn’t even formulate the question “can you give me directions to…?” because I didn’t know where I’d left myself.

Today I went for a long walk around a neighbourhood I don’t know very well. It only took a few turns for me to become disoriented. Panic started to rise in me – what if I was only moving further and further away from where I’d parked my car, not walking a loop like I thought I was? What if I never found my way back? The day had started warm but drizzly, but now the clouds had evaporated and the sun was hot on my skin. I’d left home without putting on any sunscreen. The urgency to find my car increased as I worried about sunburn and skin cancer.

Then a big monarch butterfly crossed my path, the wind guiding its journey. I forgot about being lost and watched it flutter across the road, the orange of its wings brilliant against the blue sky. I thought to myself: Look at that butterfly – it’s not concerned about where it ends up; it just goes with the flow, trusting that it will always find sweet nectar and resting spots along the way. So I decided to follow its lead. I surrendered to not knowing where I was and just enjoyed putting one foot ahead of the other. I felt the cool breeze against my neck, I admired the tropical flowers and variations of green, I gave thanks to the shadows protecting me from the worst of the sun’s glare. And sure enough, every now and again a familiar landmark would appear, pointing me in the right direction.

Sometimes getting lost helps you to find the best of yourself and leave everything else behind.

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