Day 1: What it’s like to be lost

One of my earliest memories is of being lost in a store. I can’t tell you how old I was or which establishment I found myself temporarily stranded in, because I have no recollection of either detail. I just remember I was with my mother, who in her impatience to finish shopping, did not wish to devote the same amount of time I had invested to admiring an object that had caught my attention on a shelf. After I had gotten a good eye-full, I turned around she was gone… and I was alone in a strange, massive store.

It’s a surreal feeling, being lost. The first few seconds after the realization hits you are overwhelming. It’s like being trapped under a wave in the churning Atlantic, the power of which tosses you to and fro with unimaginable force. It feels pointless to thrash against such power. These are heavy emotions for a young child to bear, and fortunately, I didn’t have to.  At the time, I recalled some adult voice telling me  that “if you’re ever lost in a store, go to the customer service desk or ask a police man for help to find your parent.” I’m fairly certain I heard this advice from G.I. Joe. The Joes always gave the best advice. So I scurried up to the front of the store and located a high counter with an important looking man sitting behind it. I could barely see over the top, but I waved my little hand to get his attention.

“Excuse me! Can you call my mom for me?” I asked.

The man peered down at me and said, “Is this her?”

Suddenly, my mother turned around and half-gasped, half-groaned her confirmation. She had gone to the customer service desk to look for me too! We had both listened to G.I. Joe. Hooray! But why didn’t she look pleased to see me? After all, I had just proven that I could handle being lost like a big kid. She grabbed my hand and stormed wordlessly to the car, and I decided that my mother was just determined to be sullen and ruin what should have been a moment for celebration.

Being lost that day wasn’t so bad because I was prepared with the information I needed to see me through to the end. As it turns out, the darkness and fear I described to you earlier were to be reserved for an event I would experience much later in life in my 20’s when I got lost on I-285 in Atlanta.

First of all, driving in Atlanta for the non-native is a terrifying sequence of events which starts with trying to get off the exit ramp. The mix of Florida drivers going way too fast, and Alabama drivers going far too slow and Michigan drivers trying to figure it all out is a recipe for a mess. Throw in a tractor-trailer (or 30) and a sprinkle of rain, and you have a guaranteed disaster. It was on this blend of vehicular gumbo that my sister and I found ourselves one night while riding with a group of friends when I first moved to the city. Anyone who has lived in or visited Atlanta knows the inevitable end to this story: We ended up doing the entire loop of I-285, which for the first timer, it is a heinous situation to find oneself in.

Now, this scenarios doesn’t sound frightening to the person who has never encountered I-285. After all, it’s just a stretch of road, right? WRONG! Trust me when I say it is an absolutely terrifying experience for the new driver, particularly one who is not accustomed to the varying ways in which people conduct themselves on the road, and particularly if that driver is unfamiliar with the nature of I-285! The highway is a jagged loop that circles around the city. Eventually, a motorist will find themselves back at the starting point of their journey. But I didn’t know that! All I know is I missed an exit in North Fulton, found myself down past Bankhead (where even the toughest of gangsters tread softly), by the airport, and through a stinking marsh. I was lost and I was terrified, frozen to my very core. I felt anxiety take hold of me and root itself in my rectum.

No seriously.

Think of the last time you were truly afraid. Your physical reaction was to squeeze your eyes shut and clinch your buttocks, wasn’t it? Well since I was at the wheel, I only had one of those options available to me; and that option was to exert as much psi on my sphincter without rupturing it, rather than close my eyes and send a car full of loved ones hurtling into the median because  I had not yet learned to make out the meanings to the exit signs in the gloom of in a city whose government had a major objection to investing in street lights. Can you imagine? It’s dark and every other road is named after a peach. How does one make informed driving decisions in such an atmosphere?

I would have happily traded being a lost child in the department store for the horror of that evening.

Sometimes I find myself spiritually lost in the same way. The first time I discovered I was spiritually adrift and untethered, I panicked. I didn’t have Spiritual G.I. Joe to advise me on how to get centered and find my footing. It was, again, like finding myself trapped under 50 foot waves, with unfamiliar sights and sounds all around me, none of which made sense. Eventually, your spirit finds a way to come up for air though, no matter how deep in the abyss you think you may be. The spirit is more resilient than the body, I believe. However, as time has gone on and I’ve found myself on unfamiliar ground, I have discovered that there is always a spiritual customer service desk – a concierge for the soul – at the end of every situation. Being lost only sucks if you don’t have a game plan… or some vision of where you want/need to be. Indeed, all who wander are not lost!




*This post is the first in part of a 7 day challenge called #YourTurnChallenge