There is No Such Thing as Lost

Personal

Once upon a time, a lifetime ago, I was walking in the wrong direction from my intended destination on a Paris street when the phrase that became my life motto popped into my head:

There’s no such thing as lost. You can always get where you’re going from where you are, it just might take a little longer than you’d intended.

I am a cautious person. I don’t like to travel without having accommodation booked in advance. I leave the house well before I need to and always arrive early. I stock back-ups for most household necessities in the pantry. And I really, really hate feeling lost.

I have a vivid memory of hot panic swelling from my stomach into my throat after taking too many wrong turns out of an unfamiliar parking lot once, until I couldn’t even find my starting point anymore. I pulled into another parking lot, breathing fast, and dug my Thomas Guide (remember those?) from under the passenger seat, frantically scanning the pages for the name of the street sign I could see.

Clearly, I made it home.

It took a few awful minutes before I started to calm down, finding the street on the map that would take me back to familiar territory – and remembering my old motto.

I can’t count the number of times since that circuitous route in Paris that “there’s no such thing as lost” has calmed me down (long before getting a leg-up from Lexapro), and it occurs to me now, closing out this shitstorm of a year, that perhaps the saying ought to apply to causes, too.

This past year has been hard on me personally in ways that pale in comparison to the grand scheme of things, but that personal difficulty has been amplified by the ugly that comes at us right now from all sides. John Scalzi wrote an insightful piece in October about how his writing process had slowed this year, and why, and it resonates with me something fierce. My friend Pam Mandel wrote about her foggy 2017, a combination of personal things and “existential crisis about America,” and that resonates, too. The cautious me is having a hard time being overly optimistic about much right now, and I know I have to try. The alternatives are too bleak to consider.

So, here goes.

There is no such thing as lost.

This work slump? It, too, shall pass. I’m fortunate to have a wee cushion, plenty of supportive family and friends who would never let it get so bad that I’m living under a bridge, and the aforementioned Lexapro. Sure, I worry about how long it’ll take for work to pick up again, for me to find new clients, for my former drive to plug away at my own projects to return. And?

There is no such thing as lost.

This overwhelmed feeling? It’s heavy. It’s easy to peer into the abyss at everything and everyone crying out for our much-needed attention and decide the only rational thing is to just crawl back into bed. It’s a frenzied game of whack-a-mole, and – yeah – it can feel pretty hopeless.

I spent a couple days after last year’s election more depressed than I had been in years, before I poked a few buttons on my computer to set up a recurring monthly donation to the ACLU. That small act made me feel better. It was the bottom rung of the ladder I hadn’t even known was there. I’ve been slowly climbing it since, partly by knitting (to date) 24 pussyhats for people in exchange for more than $800 in donations to places like Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NRDC, Southern Poverty Law Center, and more. I’ve made more of an effort to get the hell out of my house more often, getting to know my community (my guiding word these days).

Yes, the barrage of bad news is heartbreaking. There’s too much for any one of us to carry the weight alone. There have been so many times in the past year that I’ve felt like there’s no way I’m making a difference to any of the causes I believe in. And?

There is no such thing as lost.

This national mess? We got ourselves here, and we can get ourselves out. This is a cause worth fighting for, and a battle I remain confident we’ll eventually win. This will be painful, yes, and there will be setbacks. Wrong turns. Panicked moments when we don’t know where we are and we have to pull into a weird parking lot to scan the map with our index finger until we see a way out. And?

There is no such thing as lost.

Good riddance, 2017. You set up road blocks, but we’ll get around them. It’ll take longer than most of us intended, but we’ll get where we’re going.

Say it with me.

There is no such thing as lost.

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