I kept getting lost. It was becoming a regular occurrence for me every time I ventured into a new part of town, which seemed odd because I was always quite good with maps. I was usually the navigator on family trips, great with a compass and could recall maps in my head whenever I needed.
Being a technology geek, I was eager to switch to GPS once the portable versions became affordable. I bought a Garmin Nuvi and never looked back. I loved the ability to search for places to eat and the detour function which rerouted me during high traffic times. I couldn’t have been happier with my new technology. But the euphoria didn’t last very long. Over time, I lost my ability to remember the maps. Despite having real time directions, I was often lost, frustrated and irritated that I couldn’t orient myself in space.
My problem wasn’t just with maps. My ability to navigate through my own head seemed dulled as well. In a year I had so adamantly began with a new direction, the year of r, and a focus to change my future trajectory forever, I couldn’t comprehend why I felt so lost. I could generate a cornucopia of patented excuses like relying on technology too much, a thirty-something slump, or the bad economy, but they would only be excuses, not explanations. So, I did what most Americans with access to a public library would do. I decided to pick up self-help book number 182.
This self-help book was directed toward women and the mental state of earning more money. I worked all the exercises, followed the directions and even wrote my thought journey in my journal. I was comforted by a temporary sense of accomplishment, similar to the comfort of pulling a warm blanket out of the dryer and wrapping it around your body. It was a lovely sensation, but I couldn’t stand at the dryer all day just so I could warm my blanket every time it cooled. The GPS, the patented excuses, the warm dryer blankets, they were all just momentary comforts that were intertwined in ways I could not see yet.
Early May of 2012 brought a flurry of activity. I had returned to the library to re-check out my library book for another 2 weeks, and my dryer blanket was wearing thin from my obsession with warming it in my dryer. Then, a very dear friend of mine needed my help with a move to Utah, so I put down the blanket, earmarked the book and packed up the GPS. In a 16 foot yellow Penske truck we had aptly named Bertha, my friend and I set out for the west, with Garmin as our guide. Minutes into the trip, my friend decided that the 3D view of the little car on the road was not satisfactory.
“No, no,” she said, “North has to be up.”
She shuffled through all the menus and meticulously changed the settings of the map orientation to a birds eye view with north facing up. She tinkered with the volume and the brightness of the display and then set the spoken language to Japanese. No, she’s not Japanese. Some things are better left unexplained.
Even as the GPS shouted incomprehensible phrases at me, I never got lost. Two thousand miles of new roads and I stayed directly on course. Visions of maps were burned into my memory and my cardinal sense of direction was returning. I chuckled at the realization that my wandering wasn’t because I was thirty-something, or that I relied too heavily on technology, or that I needed a warm blanket. It had nothing to do with where I was, or where I was going. It was my orientation; my view.
When I got home, I returned the book to the library and put away the blankets. I understood where I was, and suddenly where I was going didn’t seem so scary and unknown. The year of r had been running smoothly. I just hadn’t been looking at it the right way. I organized my obligations, attacked some debts, and kickstarted projects I had left sitting way too long. I had come to three conclusions regarding the year of r and my view on life:
Number one, I had accepted the art of dreaming. Dreaming is conceptual art of the inner self; there is no path in life. When we can accept that there is no path, we can decide on the destination, therefore making the footsteps a perfunctory affair. Values merely free our hands of baggage so that we may hold hands along the way.
Number two, the danger with warm blankets is that we can miss out on a happiness we never knew could be ours because we were too busy settling for a lesser joy.
And finally, number three – North is up.