There are few things I hate more than being lost. Intense panic sets in when I’m somewhere unfamiliar, and it’s so distasteful I will avoid it at all costs. I was born with the worst sense of direction in all of human history. I can get lost getting out of a paper bag.
Which was why, as I was sliding down a hill, my rear end feeling every pine cone and small pebble, I had to question the wisdom of taking the trail my 12-year-old son wanted to take.
I figured that because we were with my father, we were safe. But my dear 71-year-young dad was way ahead of us and wasn’t looking back. I couldn’t even see him anymore.
“This is the best day of my life,” Tom joyously exclaimed behind me.
For a minute I panicked. We were 15 minutes from home in a state park I’ve known since the age of nine, but I feared we were hopelessly lost.
Tom had no idea anything was wrong. All he knew was that he was with his mom and grandfather having a great time. He trusted me completely. Poor kid.
Then it happened, I had a flashback to 34 years earlier.
I was 11, at a sleep away camp deep in the woods of Upstate New York. I had just successfully spent my first night in my brand new sleeping bag. I woke up that morning before anyone else and needed the bathroom. Not wanting to bother my counselor, I declined her sleepy offer to walk me to the short distance to the outhouse.
Getting to the outhouse was fine.
But the return trip?
Not so good.
I must have walked out a different door and turned in the wrong direction because two hours later, I still hadn’t found my way back to my cabin.
There I was in my little baby doll pajamas, going cabin to cabin, hoping to find the right one. Each counselor offered to walk me back and when I declined, they gave me directions back to my cabin. Not wanting to look any more foolish than I already felt, I pretended I understood them.Then off I would go, only to get more lost.
Let me remind you all that this was 1977, way before smart phones and GPS. I had no idea where I was, and honestly, though God might be able to distinguish each tree from the other, this suburban girl could not.
Finally I stumbled onto a cabin of boys, who, along with their counselor insisted on bringing me back to my group. I was lost for almost three hours.
I was scared out of my mind, but I wouldn’t dream of crying or showing anyone just how terrified I was. Even at the age of 11, far from home, completely lost, I still wanted to look like I had it all together.
I was always terrified that people would think I was stupid.
Being dyslexic is never easy, but when I was growing up, it was very misunderstood. I was so lost in school, often feeling as if I was on a different planet. I was desperate to find someplace I belonged. Somewhere it didn’t require so much effort to fit in.
Who knew that the place I was looking for was the one that I would end up creating with a guy I met on a blind date 27 years ago?
Joe understood and listened to me when I said I couldn’t do something. Then he told me I could do it anyway. For the first time, I believed it.
“I can’t type.” “I can’t go to college.” “I can’t drive.” “I can’t blog.” Each of my fears was countered by a “Yes you can.” And then I did.
Learning to find my way home that day and all the subsequent times I was lost, both literally and figuratively, has allowed me to teach our three children that they, too, can go wherever they want to.
Even when it feels impossible. Even when people say they can’t.
I know how hard it is to feel completely lost, and I know the joy when you find your way back home. The joy of realizing you can do what you once thought was impossible.
I snapped out of my flashback and finished sliding down the hill, Tom right behind me. We soon found the path and my dad waiting for us. We were none the worse for the wear.
Tom couldn’t wait to do it again.
Neither could I.
This piece is a re-working of an essay that was published July 23, 2014 under the title, Lost and Found.
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