Lost in New Jersey – Redux – Tao of the Road Warrior

It is April 2002. Another trip and another lesson learned for this rookie road warrior. I now understand what it feels like to be a rat in a maze.  After getting lost for up to three hours daily this past week and the  frustration was exhausting. 

That leg of the tour was to take me from Paramus to Cherry Hill, NJ. With my perception greatly skewed by stress, the turnpike (or was it a parkway?) seemed like a 60-lane racetrack, with tollbooths every five feet.I lost a bucket of change because my left-handed throw continually missed the receptacles. On the day in question, I spent hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic with horns honking, drivers yelling and flipping me off. My rental car for the trip was cute and fuel-efficient and made by KIA (aka Killed in Action).
The engine had the power and sound of a sewing machine and when leaving the tollbooth, the sweet little thing couldn’t merge into the aggressive traffic. Several times I was forced to take wrong exits and I became very lost.  The smidgen of composure I still had was quickly unraveling and with it, my already challenged ability to read a map. So, I reached out for help by calling home to get directions from a friend…again.

Calling my “I never get lost” friend for directions had become an every day event during tour weeks, so there now sat an atlas beside every phone. The last time I was lost I called   home after nearly hitting a huge moose-like object on a deserted interstate in northern Nebraska.  He was getting used to giving me directions or crisis counseling. His first irritated question was, “Where are you this time?” The Army Ranger, Boy Scout couldn’t fathom my answer – “I have aaaaaabsolutely no clue.” With his “crispy” tone he said, “How in the hell can you not know where you are?! Don’t you have the compass I gave you?”

Good grief…it was confession time and I had to replied, “Yes, I have the compass, but I still don’t have a clue of how to use it.” A few months back, he had given me the Army Ranger version of compass reading. I was taught about “clicks” and the difference between true north and magnetic north. He had not picking up on my glazed and befuddled look.  He didn’t understand the art of teaching Compass Reading for Dummies. I thanked him for teaching me (he can be so sweet) and I put the compass in my briefcase for good luck, never thinking about it again…until now.  He continued, “This is one heck of a time to tell me you didn’t understand!”

Totally frazzled and feeling thoroughly incompetent, I began to sob. The friend, really a kind man and a long-time crisis counselor, began to reframe the situation. 

“Okay…breathe…breathe…” he said using his soft counselor voice.

“Okay…sniff,” I replied.

 “You aren’t really lost. You are just confused,” he continued.

Sniff,” I responded.

“You’re on the planet Earth. In fact, you’re even in the United States.”

Sniff,” I responded again.

“Since you’ve been driving for two hours, you’re probably in either New Jersey or New York.  And that means I have you on this map,” he said in his comforting and confident tone.

Ahhhhh…that reframing helped so much.  The tune danced through my head – “I once was lost, but now I am found…”

As I now reflect on the comforting words he spoke that evening, I ponder:  How often do people feel lost with no sure direction? Maybe we know where we want to go, but don’t know how to get there? Sometimes we are just simply too scared or tired to keep going and need a little encouragement from others.

I sometimes ask my therapy clients, “Do you have a smidgen of belief that you’ll survive this situation?” and most will answer, “Yes.”  Hoping and believing we will come through a difficult time is a first step. With faith and hope, we can continue to put one foot in front of the other and we will eventually continue to move toward our desires or destiny.

Christopher Columbus’ peers believed the world was flat and if one went too close to the edge it was then thought survival was unlikely. Unlike our predecessors, we now know the world is not flat. We won’t fall off the edge.  It is also important for us to have emotional and/or spiritual support.  After taking a moment to still the heart and mind, I know that there will be that small voice that will guide me, is always “with” me, even at those times I don’t “hear” or “feel” that presence. I am never really without that guidance, but I don’t always do what I need to do to tap into it.

At times like these, we may need people who care to remind us they know where we are, even if we feel we are lost.  In the mean time, we need to make sure our “map” is correct…and that we are moving correctly toward our life’s purpose. Feeling lost is completely different from being lost, and a natural part of all initiations in the Hero’s Journey.  We all have a soul version of a GPS, but we must tune in.

Journaling/Pondering Questions:

Have you ever been lost (on a road)? If so, what happened? How did it feel? How did you make your way?

Have you ever felt lost in your life experience? If so, what happened? How did it feel? How did you make your way through?

What did you learn from the experience of feeling lost?