Get Lost!

I like maps. And my GPS. Even when I think I know where I’m going, I like to plug the address in to my iPhone and get directions as a back up.

When we were in Tuscany with the girls in 2004, I found the Italian approach to road maps a tad frustrating, to say the least. Not only do they seem to lack accuracy in scale, they don’t note the toll plazas and when you’re faced with the prospect of changing lanes to exit when you don’t have any change and there are locals whizzing by you at 125 mph, it often seems easier to just stay on the motorway. Except that the next opportunity to get off might be miles and miles down the road. And it is probably getting dark. And the two- and four-year-olds in the back seat are most likely getting hungry.
I decided that the Italians, who truly enjoy their hours-long lunches, complete with wine, might be better off outsourcing their mapping jobs to the Germans. They were the only ones who seemed more perturbed about the lack of accuracy than I was.
So I like to know where I’m going. And how long it will take me to get there. And I hate being late. So sue me. I get that it’s a control thing. And I’m working on that – the being comfortable not being in control part, I mean. But I still need a knock on the head every once in a while.
Cue David Whyte and his amazing book, “The Three Marriages.” I have written about it before, but I am reading the book again, having decided that I would get more out of it if I read it with some friends. So we have a mini-book-club thing going and I am much more mindful and deliberate about reading it this time and am able to go another layer deeper in to the subject matter.
It came as no surprise to me that, after a day of pinging around the house, lost to purpose and wondering when I might get some inkling of energy back to begin to engage in writing and creating, I read these words:
“Eventually we realize that not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do. Not knowing stops us from taking false directions. Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity they would not have if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.”
It was the last line that really stopped me in my tracks. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.
And sometimes, when I am desperately seeking a path TO somewhere (home, the dentist, Eve’s friend’s house), my vision hones in so tightly as I look for clues that I fail to notice the breadth of the world around me. I am so focused on the end point, the goal, and what I imagine it to look like, that I might drive right past it because it doesn’t seem to fit my expectations.
In the case of my writing goals, I am reminded that it is more fruitful to pay attention to where I am right now and simply take the next step than it might be to fantasize about what the final product will look like or how it will be received. I may well discover an entirely new path that contains delightful surprises or challenges me beyond what I thought I could do or leads me on the journey of a lifetime.
I need to get lost more often so that I can pay more attention.
0 replies
  1. Paul Callaghan
    Paul Callaghan says:

    I like Italian maps. They have a sense of adventure about them:) Indian maps are even better!
    I haven't read the book you are talking about, but from the title I presume it has something to do with relationships. To be honest, if I had a map for my marriage at the beginning I probably wouldn't have started the journey. However, 21 years and three teenage kids later I have grown into a (slightly) better person than I was. I don't want to go back to be being lost, but I'm glad that I was sometimes.

  2. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    Paul-Is there such a thing as Indian maps? 🙂 I am currently counting the minutes (one last meeting in my work day) before I take off for the weekend. First on my list when I get home is donning my crosstrainers and talking a Friday-Five mile urban walk. I need to power down and clear my head. Even though I know where I am walking and going, I get lost in my head. Does this count?

  3. Thereza
    Thereza says:

    I would like to invite you then to do a walking meditation with me one of these days – it's called Sauntering, when you meander through the woods with no purpose or goal, letting your instincts guide you. Are you in? 🙂

    About the book, I loved the part you mentioned and the one right after, when he writes about the person climbing a rock who would ask the instructor to take him to the top already, which would mean there was no point in their rock climbing effort. And comparing to real life, when someone asks to their guardian angel (or whatever they beleive in) to take them to the final destination already, to which he comments that there would be no point in living then. It is a very good reminder to be mindful of our journeys, even if we don't know where we are headed to!

  4. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Kari, you and Thereza have given me such a lot to think about. I have three novels in the works. The truth is that I've been working on them for about fifteen years. I've finished only one and it still needs some polishing.

    But what I discovered in writing that third one was that in order to finish it, I had to think just one scene ahead each day. If I kept thinking about how long a novel is and would I ever finish it, I never would have.

    The same with the on-line memoir I'm writing on my blog. Many friends encourage me to write a memoir but everything I started I got stalled because I couldn't imagine writing the whole story.

    Now, three times a week, I write a story from my life. Just one story in and of itself an entity. And I'm finding that I so enjoy this—because it's doable!

    And the truth is that my writing is better also. When I always had my eye on the ending, I failed to see clearly the scene I was doing.

    Thank you for today's posting. It's made me think.


  5. Sandi
    Sandi says:

    I love the last line, "I need to get lost more often so that I can pay more attention."

    That is so true! When I think I know where I'm going, I'm zoned in, and oblivious to what is going on around me.

    Sometimes, that concentration is pretty powerful, but often, I miss the important stuff.

    Great post! I need to get that book!

  6. Deb Shucka
    Deb Shucka says:

    That book is still one of my all time favorites. You're making me want to reread it now, too. Great wisdom here and great personal insight. I can relate all too well. 🙂

  7. graceonline
    graceonline says:

    Your post could not have come at a better time. Last summer, after working months on two new inter-related web sites for the Village of Ordinary, I was blindsided when one of them, the biggest one, disappeared. Completely.

    The weekly and monthly backups promised by the hosting service were gone too, without apology or explanation. Hundreds of hours of tedious work, gone in an instant. No one knows why or where.

    Multiple delays since then, trying to get the sites up and running. Always in the back of my mind, the feeling that something is not quite right with the plan.

    I had been putting one foot in front of the other for so long, doing the next most important thing and the next, letting everything else slide, that–just as you say–I had stopped looking around.

    This morning, during walking meditation, that wonderful space of doing and breathing and being conscious all at the same time, I got it. A picture of what was wrong and what could be so right with the new sites. Make that site. Three sites in one, not two related sites.

    I lack the technical skill to know how to verbalize it. But I have a better road map in my head than I've ever had for this project, my second life work. (No mother has a single life work, wouldn't you agree?)

    Better still, I jotted down the notes immediately upon completing the meditation. Not only do I have a road map in my head, but on disk too.

    Finding this post today affirms Spirit wisdom. Thank you for writing your truth, exactly as it is in that moment.

  8. Dee Ready
    Dee Ready says:

    Dear Kario, just stopping by to read the comments on your latest posting and to thank you for commenting on my convent posting.

    Kathryn Grace wrote the following line: This morning, during walking meditation, that wonderful space of doing and breathing and being conscious all at the same time, I got it."

    How well she has articulated the experience of Oneness we share and how wonderful that your posting so resonated with her experience.



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