Are you lost? Finding your way in life

I was alone in Amsterdam facing a bridge over a canal, and I was lost.  Greg had gone back to the hotel while I was determined to wring out every moment of sightseeing possible in our overnight visit to one of the world's wonderful cities.  I wandered the streets close to the downtown core, enthralled with the architecture and intent on not being run over by a bicycle while looking at buildings.  There were a few near misses with the bikes but if I wandered too far into the flow of cyclists someone would chew me out. The problem with wandering and looking up and all around, was that I quickly lost my bearings.

The canal was my first clue I had lost my bearings.  I wasn't expecting it to be oriented the direction it was.  Momentary panic set in.  I was alone and I was lost.  I didn't have an old-fashioned paper map with me.  I didn't have a data plan for Holland because I hadn't planned on getting lost by myself.  There were hundreds of people on the street, walking or cycling to and from their destinations.  They all appeared to know where they were going.  My walk had started as a mini adventure free of anxiety or drama and it had gone wrong.

Anxiety set in with a vengeance when I looked ahead and saw a canal which by my recollection shouldn't have been there.  I was lost.  The certainty of that made me very uncertain.  I failed to notice one of the small wiggly streets I walked along, had led me onto another road with a different orientation to the city core.  I had observed lots around me but missed the necessary clues that would have kept me on track.

If you step back and observe yourself and others closely you will notice we frequently miss the most obvious clues that will point us in the right direction.  We get so busy looking up at the architecture and dodging the traffic we miss the street signs right there on the corner of our lives.  We seek adventure or freedom from the restrictions of life - real and imagined - only to discover we are about to cross a canal and when we do there will be no going back.

What do you do when you are lost?  Do you pull out the phone and drop a pin?  Or ask directions from strangers?  What if the people you ask directions from are lost too?  Whether you are lost in a strange city or feeling lost in your life, it is a scary unsettling sensation.  It comes with all kinds of doubt and with self-recrimination, none of which are helpful for resolving your problem.  What you really need when you are lost is for someone to ask you some questions.

Are you lost?  Where are you trying to go?  What does your destination look like or feel like? It is usually easy to answer the first question.  Yes, I'm lost.  The other questions can be more difficult especially if you are not searching for a physical destination with an address, but a state of mind or being that is eluding you.  Whatever you do, if you are struggling to find your way do not ask for directions from someone else who is lost.

That day in Amsterdam, I chose to turn on my data, drop a pin, enter my hotel destination, and begin walking.  Within a block or two I was back in recognizable territory.  I was no longer lost. The anxiety receded, my doubts dried up, and the self-recrimination was silenced.  It was easy compared to feeling lost in life, I know that. But the same strategies can be applied when you feel lost in life.  

Concentrate on the street signs.  Don't get distracted by the architecture.  Pay attention to the landmarks.  Tune into how you feel now and how you want to end up feeling.   Surround yourself with trusted confidantes and ask yourself questions.   Ultimately, I think we all want to feel safe and loved.  Stand still if you need to get your bearings, then begin to navigate toward your destination of safe and loved. 


  1. Stand still. Yes. That's the first thing. If you are going in the wrong direction, you won't help yourself by continuing to travel in that direction. Interesting thoughts, Joy...I'll call you next time I'm wandering in circles.

    1. Don't wait to call until you are wandering in circles! You might be too dizzy to talk then. I hope this week is filled with wonderful wanderings.


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