It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to live each day reacting, unconscious of our patterns until we realize, too late, we’re stuck. Creating muscle memory that keeps us lost is easy. It’s easy, even normal, to assume that lost means forever less-than, forever unconnected.
I spent much of my life lost, trying to escape a maze of my own creation. Desperate to find a way out of my own defenses but unable to escape, I wandered the same paths, hit the same dead ends. I wondered why I always picked the wrong boyfriends or left jobs just when they were getting good. I would gravitate toward abusers and wonder why I was getting abused. No matter what I did, I couldn’t break the pattern. Then when Buddha got sick, my maze became alive with true deadly threats and the sky came barreling down. I was not only lost but trapped.
When we first navigate the world we are unaware we have a choice in picking a path and are instead led. Led by our parents and their unconscious mazes, an underdeveloped understanding of destiny, and an insecurity about our rightful place in the world. We are taught we are not enough. We are built to survive, to erect walls of protection rather than thrive with open confidence.
At least that’s what happened to me.
It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.
My mind creates a subjective story so convincing there is nowhere else to be but lost. I begin to crave the safety of its familiarity, the consistency of it’s promised punishments, and I don’t see another way. I believe I am getting exactly what I deserve.
The greatest lesson and biggest irony of my life is that the thing I thought for sure would kill me is the thing that freed me from my maze. Buddha’s epilepsy.
My way to freedom began when I finally realized that feeling betrayed, wounded, and violated wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. That it wasn’t going to kill me, at least not yet. Watching my son’s life wane, his essence fade, his brain retreat is a pain unlike any other. I wanted to die. It was a fate worse than death, I thought.
But now I know what’s actually worse than death.
Living like you’re already dead.
That was my maze. I realized I was living like I was dead. That in some ways I had been “dead” most of my life. I was lost because as a child I was always waiting to be disappointed, then when Buddha got sick, I was waiting for death.
Every obstacle was one more thing I couldn’t handle. Every school meeting, doctors appointment, lost job, missed lunch and friend who didn’t call became another dead end. Living got too hard, the fear got too big, and the next drop was sure to be my last. Until the next one, and the next one. Even as I kept getting up, I complained about how lost I was. I was living like the dead.
I was lost but I wasn’t really trapped. Mostly, I was scared and hurt. I wanted it to all end in a timeline of my choosing.
I was (am) afraid my baby will die in his sleep. But that’s not today. Letting go of death is freedom. It’s hard earned and scary. It’s not always possible, but it is achievable none the less.
Some days are so hard I don’t know how we’ll get through them. And sometimes those days add up and bleed into each other until I am sure they will never end. But that hasn’t happened yet. Today he is here and I am here. Today is not yesterday and tomorrow is a long night off.
So, until the day I don’t get up, I’m not going to live like the dead anymore.
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
~Henry David Thoreau
And then I realized something else about being lost. Something I forgot. Not all paths need be paved, not all journies need a planned destination.
Since epilepsy began, and even before when my childhood maze seeded young adult choices, I forgot how much fun it can be to get lost. How freeing and fortifying it is to find your way on a path you didn’t pick. How satisfying a trip to Princess Bride romance land, or sneaking off to camp in the desert can be. The inner strength dance gave me, how powerfully healing music is or how healthy puppy memes are. We are built to survive, but also to love and connect and replenish in the sunlight of fantasy, forces outside ourselves, and mistaken roads.
When I stopped getting lost is when I began to lose my way.
I never get lost in music or story anymore. I don’t go to the movies or watch TV. (Unless Dave and I are doing research for the apocalypse and studying zombies and robots taking over the world. Probably not the healthiest use of my time.) I read books about trauma and alcoholism and epilepsy. I never catch live bands, I critique theatre and am startled by any sudden jump in noise or movement. Everything irritates me because I don’t allow myself to be lost. I surrendered that space in my soul because I thought that’s what it meant to be a good mom. And because I thought if I opened myself up to that freedom I would lose my little boy.
But he’s here and all I’ve lost is the capacity for fantasy, for dreams.
As a young woman, I was not afraid to be lost. I figured I’d find my way eventually, that life was meant for dreaming. But then experience let me down one too many times and my maze grew too tricky, my patterns became unbreakable and my life settled into ultimate unworthiness. As if the journey had already ended.
I mistakenly thought dreams were the problem. That I had to face facts and accept my life. Well, that’s true, I did have to learn to do that. But I was wrong that it was a trade. I never needed to trade fantasy for reality. I just needed to live in its duality. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to figure that out. I can’t believe how hard it is to do.
But as of today, I have survived reality so far. I’ve survived some pretty hard shit, so I must not be that unworthy. I’m still standing. I keep finding new ways to heal, new ways to love. I keep getting stripped to the core but rebuilding. I’m a mismatched transformer at this point, but I’m even getting to be OK with that.
I do have to keep my wits. My son needs me to be on the ball and keep the pieces moving so he gets the best possible chance at life. I can’t just take off for the desert or run from my reality. My body breaking down and I can’t dance with the same physical abandonment. I have lost pieces of myself along the way, but that doesn’t mean I’m done for. It doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to dream.
At this point, I am uncomfortable with letting go. I don’t know how to anymore. It feels awkward and the muscle memory is forgotten. It’s all conscious and a lot of effor. It’s hard. So, I’m going to rebuild that too. Happiness is a muscle like any other. So, bring on movies and the music and “let me dance for you”.
I will no longer be afraid to dream, to feel fanciful…if in very small doses at first. I will commit to giving myself as fulfilling a quality of life as I have committed to Buddha’s. I will live like there will be a tomorrow.
I will get lost and learn to live again.
I got lost but look what I found.