I hate being lost. And it doesn’t help that I have a dreadful sense of direction. So as you can probably imagine, one of my favorite inventions in the past 15 years was GPS. I can still remember the first time I bought/used a GPS. I was living in England and was visited by this guy that I had a massive crush on. He came to visit for a few days, and I spent weeks planning for his trip - where we would go and what we would do. When he arrived, we had a decent couple of days, until I discovered he was seeing someone and he hadn’t told me! So I cut his stay short (don’t ask...) and packed up all of his stuff to drive him to his next destination. I downloaded the turn by turn from mapquest (or whatever the equivalent was at the time) and we set out to his next destination. And as soon as I left the motorway and got into the city he would be staying in there was a massive traffic diversion and we were hopelessly lost. I had never been to that city, And what made it worse was - since he was visiting a friend who had just moved there, she could not help either! We drove around for hours taking dead ends and turning around, stopping at a gas station to pick up a map (which neither of us could read!). Several hours later we arrived found it, and we arrived totally irritated with one another, and I dropped him off. It took me 5 minutes to get back to the motorway. 5 minutes. It had been hours since I got off the motorway. I cried all the way home, and the next day I went into the nearest car accessories store and bought a GPS system for my car. It was the best money I ever spent.
Being lost makes me nervous, anxious, and frustrated. And living in Barbados, there is a saying that you can never get lost, since there is always a bus stop that says “to city” which leads to Bridgetown, the capital. These bus stops are all over the island, and you can see one above. But whenever I am in unfamiliar territory, my mouth gets dry, my stomach knots up and I get extremely short tempered (never pleasant for any passengers or for me!). So I almost never venture off the beaten path. And I was so relieved when I could use GPS maps on my phone in Barbados. But today, I found myself a little bit lost. I took a couple of wrong turns, and found myself at a dead end road. And for the first time in a long time, I felt my pulse rise, but instead of fear, it was pleasure I felt. The view was amazing. There was a lovely lighthouse, and as I went closer I could see the blue ocean sparkling behind it. I was very clearly on private property so I didn’t stay long, but I was able to snap a decent shot, given the sun position. And 5 minutes later, I was on the main road, with the help of google maps.
The thing about getting lost in this day and age (for me anyway) is that there is so much to help guide and nudge us. And this happens on the road (follow the bus to city stop signs) or when we feel lost in life. And I have felt that way many times, and still feel that way now about many things. There are 3 things I have found help me when I get lost. One is to take stock of what is around me. When I am lost on the road in Barbados, I look around. Can I see the sea or smell it? Any cows or sheep nearby? (And this is important. If you ask someone for directions these are the types of miles stones they use - sheep grazing in a pasture!) Any bus stops around? These things can help guide me, and ground me when I feel anxious. Secondly I retrace my steps if I can. Even if I don’t go all the way back to where I started, sometimes retracing my steps, even in my head, can be really helpful in thinking back to the last place where I felt sure, and considering what decisions I took to get to this place. Also, thinking about why I made those decisions can sometimes give me a lot of information about how I ended up where I did, and help me navigate my way out. Last but not least, I ask for help. When I am on the road in Barbados that might be from a kind stranger on the road (and these days the smartphone is also helpful) and in life it can be friends or family, or a professional like a coach. In the end, to quote Marie Forleo “everything is figureoutable”. We can find a way. And if we are focus on that instead of the scared and stuck feeling, we may find that the wrong turn has taken us somewhere beautiful, and that we are not so far away from the next turn that will take us to the ultimate destination.
On that note, I send you big love from a small island.