|Photo credit: www.llbean.com|
When I was in fourth grade, my friend Missy and I got lost in City Hall on a field trip. We went to the bathrooms together, and when we exited the ladies room, we fell in line with a group from another school. We didn't really notice we were with the wrong group until we went to get on the bus and realized none of the faces were familiar.
The first thing that happens when you realize you are lost is fear grips you. Your mind races and tries to scramble to find the missing puzzle pieces so things make sense again. You watch your safety blanket of familiarity unravel, and panic sets in. This is where instinct takes over. My instinct was to sit still and let someone find us or ask a security guard for help. (after all, that is what my Dad always taught me to do if I was ever lost in the wild - and being in the middle of a big city was as wild for me as it gets).... Missy's instinct was to fret, grab my hand and start running bus to bus looking for our class. We got deeper and deeper into unfamiliar faces, and more and more lost into crowds of the unknown. We were desperately and hopelessly lost.
Just as I started to picture our faces on a milk carton, a big lady swooped in and grabbed us each by the ear and dragged us to our bus. Mrs. Varney had found us, and was madder than a wet hen that we had strayed from her flock. She abruptly flopped us into the front seat of the bus, where all eyes were on us as we were lectured about straying from the group. My ear throbbed and my face burned. I looked over to Missy who was crying. Anger took over my humiliation as I sat in silence on the bus ride home. We were lost.... why were we being punished for being found?
Obviously, that day really bothered me... because here I sit, 30 years later... wondering why I have a hard time admitting to people when I am lost.... instead, I wander, circle hopelessly, and get deeper and deeper into myself. My Dad's words ring in my ears - "If you find yourself lost - sit still!"
I have been hopelessly and dismally lost. Not at City Hall, or in the woods - but in the deep, dark, and unfamiliar territory of my mind. Yes, I am talking about depression. I felt like I had no direction, I didn't know where I was going - I had no idea what my destination was.... I am sure we have all felt that way - even the most directed and focused people I know get lost from time to time. I just knew I hated the feeling, and kept circling around and around hoping to find my way out. Instead, I just got deeper and deeper. Panic set in, and I frantically tried to put together all the puzzle pieces of uncertainty and fear to get it to all make sense... but alas - I was lost, alone, and afraid. Worst of all, no one knew I had gone missing.
My Dad would share stories of being lost in the woods, and what he did to find his way out. Dad would say "You need to send a signal" He told us of a time he was lost on the ridges of the Western Mountains while hunting with his father. Once he realized that he was lost, he aimed his gun to the sky and blasted off a single shot. Then he would wait for an answer. He said in the distance, he would hear his father signalling back -"BOOM! BOOM!" and he would answer back with a single shot - and so it went until they found each other.
Why was it so hard for me to signal for help when I was lost? I thought back to the day my ear felt like it was being ripped off by my 4th grade teacher and was reprimanded in front of the class. Sending a signal would be admitting I was lost - and that thought deeply embarrassed me. As a self-assured, confident business woman, I was supposed to know where I was going. I was supposed to have clarity, focus, and strength. How could I get so twisted around?
I thought of my Dad being up on the ridges of the Western Mountains in the fog and signalling for help. Imagine if he had been too embarrassed to send a signal? He would have died up there.
Summon your courage - don't let embarrassment be your assassin. - Signal for help.
Send a message that is bold and clear -this is no time for being subtle. Wave your arms and jump up and down - "I'm over here!!! I need HELP!" Don't be shy.
Then wait for your rescuer to answer. This is also a difficult skill to master, because it requires listening. Sometimes the rescuer comes in the form of a friend, a family member or sometimes even a complete stranger. Sometimes, your rescuer is your Higher Power. You don't know who will be sent to your rescue. Depending on how far away you wandered, you may have a hard time being heard, or hearing your answer signal in return. You will get one -trust me, someone is out there looking for you. Get Visible - Step out into a clearing so you can be seen.
Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen carefully.Don't be surprised if you get the same primal reaction of Mrs. Varney. You might have scared the beejezus out of your friends and family - they may have a hard time regaining their composure, and be angry that you let yourself go so far away. Remember - their reaction is of love, concern, and relief that they found you. Thank them for coming to your rescue... ease their fears by insuring that should you get lost again, you will send a signal sooner.
~Littlefoot's mother, Land Before Time
Once you are out of the woods - reset your internal compass - also known as - your instinct. Somewhere along the line, you didn't trust your internal compass, and you were led astray. My instinct in 4th grade was to sit still and ask for help. As I grew older, that instinct got off kilter. Reset your internal compass by living in the present moment. Don't look behind you, you aren't going that direction. Start where you are NOW. Trust the steps you take are surefooted, and in the right direction. Get a good guide - someone you trust who can navigate you through the wilderness of the unknown. A good guide will help you from getting so lost again. A guide can be a friend, a family member, a clergy person, a coach, or a therapist. Getting lost is nothing to be ashamed of - what matters is surviving the journey so you can live to tell the tale.
Sit Still - Send a Signal - Wait for an Answer - Get Visible - Find a Guide you know and trust - Reset Your Compass.
Tell the tale.
Paradise is here, Paradise is now ..... Paradise is allowing yourself to be FOUND.