As I was sliding down the hill, I had to question the wisdom of taking the trail my 12-year-old, Tom, wanted to take. I figured that because I was with my dad, it would be OK. But my dear 71-years-young father was way ahead of me and wasn’t looking back. I had lost sight of him.
Tom was behind me exclaiming that this was the best day of his life.
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. There are few things I hate more than being lost, and I’ll do anything to avoid it.
I have the poorest sense of direction in human history. I can get lost trying to get out of a paper bag.
Tom still had no idea something was wrong. Then I had a momentary flashback to 35 years ago.
I was 10 and at a sleep away camp, deep in the woods. That first morning, I woke up before anyone else and needed the bathroom. I had declined my counselor’s sleepy offer to walk me to the outhouse a small distance from our cabin.
Getting to the outhouse was fine. But the return trip? I guess I turned in the wrong direction. Two hours later and I still hadn’t found my way back to the cabin.
There I was in my little baby doll pajamas going from cabin to cabin hoping to find mine. Each time a counselor would give me directions to get back to my cabin. Not wanting to look anymore foolish then I already did, I acted like I understood just fine. Off I would go, only to get more lost.
Finally I stumbled onto a cabin of boys and that counselor brought me back to my group. I was lost for almost three hours.
Oddly enough I don’t remember ever crying or showing anyone just how terrified I was. Even at the age of 10, far from home, completely lost, I still wanted to look like I had it all together.I was always terrified that people would know I was dyslexic. At times I felt so lost in school. It was as if I was on the wrong planet and everyone spoke another language. I was always looking for the way home. Someplace where I didn’t have to work so hard to fit in.
Oddly enough, I didn’t know that the place I was looking for was one that I would create myself. With the help of a guy I met on a blind date 21 years ago this month who understood and listened to me when I said I couldn’t do something. 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 will be lost.” Each of my fears was countered by a “Yes you can.” And then I did.
Learning to find my way home, through the doubt and the fear, allows me to teach my three children that they too can go where they want to. Even when it feels impossible, they take the steps required to get out of the forest and return home.
It doesn’t matter if the challenge is learning to read for Peter, seventh-grade math for Tom, or the many obstacles of being a special needs child for Lizzy. The kids are finding their way, and I’m finding mine.
In my heart, I know how hard it is to feel completely lost, and I know the joy when you realize you can do what you once thought was impossible.
These thoughts came to me as I was sliding down the hill at the park. With my heart beating a tad faster, I came to the end of the hill. Tom quickly followed behind me.
We were none the worse for the wear. We found our way back on the path and my now gloating dad.
Tom can’t wait to do it all again tomorrow.
Neither can I.