"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." – Henry David Thoreau
Sometimes we become lost.
We lose our way.
And sometimes, the momentum of those moving around us, accidentally pushes us off our own track.
Like an unexpected gust of wind that slams against the side of your car as you’re flying down the interstate at nearly 100 miles per hour.
You never saw it coming, because of course, the culprit is invisible.
But nevertheless, its power and strength successfully derails you, and your car ends upside down in a ditch.
Wheels still spinning wildly, as if they have no idea that the pavement is no longer beneath them.
And still the wind moves on.
The very first time I traveled outside of the country, I went to a small town on the gulf side of Central Mexico.
It was the first big vacation that I’d taken as an “official” adult, although I was still very much green with youth and inexperience.
My partner, a young man, whom in comparison I viewed as a seasoned world traveler.
Our days were filled with sightseeing, exploration and laughter.
Our nights with dinners, drinking and dancing.
That was until one night, midway through our trip, when our lighthearted adventure took a turn down a darker path.
An alley, to be exact.
My partner had led me toward the outskirts of town. He told me to wait near the entrance of a dark, poorly lit street, away from the bustling night life.
And before I could interject he disappeared into the shadows.
To me, that alley looked like a giant serpent. The opening, its massive jaws unhinged, waiting to swallow whomever dared come near.
Its sharp fangs dripping poison onto the pavement below.
It was that sound, that “drip…drip…drip” that I remember the clearest.
Rainwater falling from the roof onto an accretion of itself and the dirt beneath it.
I watched him walk straight into the belly of the beast, its jaws snapping shut behind him.
And suddenly, ruthlessly, I was alone.
I have had some version of this scenario visit me, over and over again.
This derailment that hits like a freight train out of nowhere.
Knocking me on my ass, while imaginary stars circle around my head. Just like in one of those Looney Tune cartoons…all the while, I sit there stunned.
Shocked. Confused. Frightened.
It’s not always being left outside of a rural Mexican alleyway.
Or being physically displaced at all.
Sometimes the offender is much more grievous.
It’s saying goodbye to a lover, while holding the pieces of your broken heart in your hands.
It’s the death of a parent…a sibling…a child.
It’s an argument that sparks an unnamable depression that seeps into your veins.
And so many, more.
Being lost is not knowing where you are, in relation to where you think you should be.
There’s a sort of limbo that naturally occurs following an event that pushes you off track. A moment where you feel suspended in space and time.
An emotional shock.
It’s in the midst of this numbing weight that there will come a definitive moment.
A critical tipping point.
A moment when you realize that you have to take action, or you will simply fade away.
A realization that it’s time to take back your power in the very moment when you feel completely powerless.
To understand that your survival depends on the trust that you have in yourself.
That it’s time to make yourself a priority.
And then ask yourself the question, “Where do I want to be?”
Where do you want your path to take you? Where do you want to end up?
For me, on those dark streets, it was out of the way of danger and into a sense of safety and security. I wanted to be enveloped in familiarity, wrapped up in the warm protection of my bed and far away from the prying eyes of strange men that began to notice that I was now alone.
The only way that I would be able to find myself back inside a realm of safety, was to come to the difficult understanding that I needed to take precedence from that moment on.
And then comes the most crucial moment of all.
The time to take control of what’s in your power, and to let go of what’s not.
It’s like the “trust falls” that they make you do in those awful team building exercises.
You know the ones…
Arms outstretched wide, eyes closed tight, heart racing. You allow your weight to tip backward, letting gravity do the rest…with just a hope and prayer that someone will catch you.
But now, there isn’t anyone standing behind you, and as you fall you have to surrender to your very own instinct.
Let it catch your distressed heart.
Let it take over.
Let it help you move into forward momentum.
Listen to your instinct and your heart and follow its beckoning cry. As you begin to take those first steps, out of the many that are ahead of you, feel your instinct igniting your inner strength.
Growing stronger and stronger with every step forward that you take.
Each stride moving you closer toward being found.
To finding yourself.