It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. ~ Wendell Berry
Most of us hate feeling lost. From childhood, the sense that we don’t know which way is home is terrifying...and to be avoided at all costs. We are warned from a young age that we should know where we’re going, what career we’re planning, where we’re going to live and how we’re going to pay for it. Society encourages absolutes – and looks at wanderers as untrustworthy, shifty, indecisive.
And so we make our choices as if they’re guarantees. The right job, the right home, the right husband. It will, we believe, lead to happily ever after. Until the day it doesn’t. Until the day we lose the job, the home turns out to be anything but happy (or affordable), the husband acts like he isn’t one.
And we feel so very lost.
And yet, as Berry points out, when we let ourselves drift, even briefly, we might just see a direction we hadn’t considered. In the midst of confusion, if we don’t drown out our voices and dreams in “shoulds” and “musts”, we can discover what really fires up our soul.
It might be a different job. A different home. A different husband...or no husband at all.
It might be a marriage that is rebuilt on different principles. A home recreated in different values.
It might be a sense of self that is rooted in a feeling of “home” – a self that feels safe and secure, no matter what’s going on beyond our own skin.
That, ultimately, is the gift that being so lost has held for me. I’ve learned, after a lifetime of trusting everyone but myself, that I’ve held within my own heart the wisdom to know what is right for me. And what is right for me is not necessarily what’s right for anyone else.
I have a 13-year-old daughter making choices about high school. She’s chosen one that I, frankly, wouldn’t choose. And it’s so tempting to tell her she needs to choose differently. However, I’ve spent her lifetime urging her to trust herself – to listen to that gut feeling that tells her when something feels right...and when it doesn’t.
And so she chose. Without regret. As she puts it, “When I think of that school, I don’t have a knot in my stomach.”
I’m reminded, yet again, that “right” is not one-size-fits-all.
Lost isn’t a forever feeling. It’s a temporary reminder that where we are is not compatible with our dreams. And, if we pay attention, it can offer up a compass pointing us where we want to go.