What I Learned By Getting Lost

Jennifer Shelton's picture

After running some errands the other night, I told my son (age 8) that I thought we’d try to find a “back way” home. He said, “You know you’ll get lost, right?” I did know that. But, I did it anyway.

I live in the middle of an area with several small towns and cities sandwiched between two medium sized cities. I regularly travel to all of them. The easiest way to get around is to use the interstate...but I frequently get an urge to turn down a country road and see if I can get home in a completely different way. The experience is always the same.

I come to an intersection and make a left turn when I should have made a right; or, I go straight when I should have turned. I end up having no clue where I am. My mental chatter starts berating me, “You always do this. Why did you think it would be different this time? Do you know how much gas you’re wasting? You could have been home an hour ago.”  And, after about an hour, getting more and more frustrated with myself, I see a street sign that I recognize, and all of a sudden, I’m know exactly where I am.

I repeat this pattern several times a month.

But, this time was different. My son called attention to the fact that I was doing something “illogical” before I’d even turned down that first unknown road. It made me wonder why I continue to do this, even when I know how it’s going to turn out. So, as I headed away from the interstate, I decided to observe myself.

Getting lost on purpose

As I drove, I was aware that I was getting lost. At several points, I knew that it would be more efficient to just turn around and go back the way I’d come. But, for some reason, I was determined to keep going. When I got to an intersection, I got the distinct sense that I was turning left, instead of right, on purpose. In the past, I’d decided that I had a lousy sense of direction. Being mindful of my thoughts and actions, I realized that some part of me knew exactly what it was doing and it was doing it for a reason. The entire drive went just as all the others had. My mental chatter kicked in, I got more and more frustrated (but I was observing my frustration this time, instead of getting sucked in by it), and suddenly, I knew where I was and how to get home.

Subconscious message

I’ve always been fascinated by the way our subconscious works. I’m no scientist but I regularly follow studies on the human brain. And, I know that many studies demonstrate that our subconscious mind makes better decisions than our conscious does. (See The Unconscious Mind: A Great Decision Maker) In this case, I wondered if my subconscious was trying to send me a message with my frequent urges to “get lost.”

Once I got home, I meditated on what the message might be. The first thing that came to me was that no matter how lost I thought I was, I always got back home safely. Also, by meandering around, I better learned my environment and how everything related to each other. I got a picture of my area in a way that I completely missed while driving up and down the interstate. Then, it hit me. This was a metaphor for my life.

Unexpected benefits

I’m a goal-oriented, practical person. I’ve always prided myself on being extremely rational. But my life has taken quite a few unexpected twists and turns. For example, I spent over six years in graduate school studying Russian literature. I have a Masters in it and have finished all the coursework for the Ph.D.  I didn’t have the drive to finish the Ph.D. (and you need a lot of drive to finish a doctoral program!) even though I went into the program thinking I’d end up as a professor. I constantly have people ask me if I regret spending all that time in graduate school. I haven’t actively used my Russian language skills in years. I realize, however, that I learned things in graduate school that I do use today. I honed my research and writing skills there. I gained valuable experience as a classroom teacher. My years of work with literary symbolism prepared me, in ways I’d never imagined, to be an astrologer. My work with symbolism also came in pretty handy when trying to figure out the meaning behind “getting lost”!

Enjoying the process

Now I see my life story in a different way. Every twist and turn and each seeming “dead end,” has had an unexpected significance. Sure, graduate school didn’t lead where I’d originally expected -- but I found a much better use for it. Each job, each relationship, each experience, was valuable for reasons much greater and deeper than my original intentions and goals. The subconscious message is that it’s important is to enjoy the process, the back roads of life, and trust that I’ll always get to where I really need to be.

Results

I’ve explored the back roads twice since having this realization. And, I didn’t get lost either time! Even though the roads were unfamiliar, it was obvious how to get home. In one case, the route was shorter than the one I’d previously been taking!

What’s your message?

Our subconscious sends us messages all the time; are you in tune to yours? There are many ways to access the subconscious mind – dream interpretation, meditation, yoga. You can also see what’s going on in your life right now.  Look for patterns and repeated behavior. What kind of books are you reading? What movies do you watch? Who are your friends? How do you spend your free time? Pay mindful attention to yourself and your life. You may just be surprised at what you discover!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Comments

Kasey's picture

So familiar

Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your story. I do this often, though I usually have a good sense how to get back. But, I've been frustrated recently by the meandering turns my life has taken that haven't gotten me to exactly where I think I ought to be going. Like you, I have a lot of disparate skills and experiences. Maybe just sitting back and enjoying the ride will reveal more about how to weave them together than trying to drive directly there.

It reminds me of a workshop I took about this time last year. We discussed how scary it is to venture into uncharted territory, into a mapless place. But, that is where the best growth comes from, so it's best to be courageous and dive in.

You've reminded me with this post of so much that is important. Thank you.

Jennifer Shelton's picture

weaving

Kasey,

What I'm finding is that I don't have to actively weave my skills and experiences - they are weaving themselves quite nicely! It reminds me of a quote by Eckhart Tolle, something about "letting life dance you." It's just hard sometimes because I do want to peek at that master plan! Thank you for commenting, Kasey!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Linda Eaves's picture

I really like this story....

Chris my sweetie does this too...I love our meanderings.
So does my friend Hans in San Diego. He calls it a way to expand his internal GPS he affectionately calls 'BumNet'. "The Poor Man's GPS -- It's not on your dashboard, it's inside your head."
Maybe yours is FemNet. LOVE IT!

Jennifer Shelton's picture

not poor...

Not a poor man's GPS, Linda, a WISE human's GPS! Love you, lady!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Tricia Dycka's picture

What an amazing story. I am

What an amazing story. I am going to utilize the thoughts here with what is going on in my personal life. Especially dealing with the subconscious part. Wonder how much of it really is mechanical behaviors? Going to step back and observe.

I love your inspirational message and think you are just amazing :)

xoxoxo

Jennifer Shelton's picture

thank you, Tricia

You know I think you are pretty amazing yourself!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Simone's picture

Risking being a copy cat but...

I was going to write what Leslee wrote. I love following your journey. :) I live in a city that's anything but a regular, square-plan. I even grew up here and still find "new" ways home. Recently, because of this horrific street work they're doing in a 5-way major cross-roads/intersection I travel every other day, I have been too impatient to sit and wait at the re-routed lights. I'm finding all sorts of little roads, how streets are connected and some pick up again on the other side of a 'hood, etc. I pride myself on being super pragmatic AND a good directional driver is part of that. But when you live in a city that has one of its major streets planted diagonally — you are going to find that "driving directionally" is a mental challenge of its own. I love your post, it so completely resonated with my recent/current detouring tour, and I've come home amazed every time, too. What a great path to unstuckedness!

Jennifer Shelton's picture

Here's to unstuckedness!

I love that word, Simone! And, I'm having a great time taking detours and exploring unknown territory with all my OP friends. Let's get unstuck together!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Leslee Horner's picture

I just love you!

I have been reading your posts here and on the posse and you are so inspirational to me, Jennifer! I just love you more and more with each thing I read. I have lately gotten caught up in my goals and objectives and have strayed from contemplation. I think I really need to sit with some of these questions you have posed!

Thank you,

Leslee

Love and Light,

Leslee

Learn more about the series, THE PAST LIVES OF LOLA RAY, at www.lesleehorner.com

Jennifer Shelton's picture

love you too, Leslee!

Your reply made me feel so warm inside, that I decided I'd spread the love and tell my friends how I felt about them! Thank you for continuing to inspire and support me and the whole OP community.

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Leayn Tabili's picture

Lost on purpose

I do this all the time and I'm never afraid. The older I get, the more I believe there is no "Lost." There are only adventures. I even took a wrong turn in Kentucky once and found myself on a street with the same name as the one I lived on at home. I got the biggest kick out of that.

Jennifer Shelton's picture

not alone!

I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person who does this. I can't recall ever being afraid but my mind chatter gets angry a lot! Interesting you mention KY. That's where I'm originally from! I don't live there now but my whole family does. I love little synchronicities like that!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Lissa Rankin's picture

I love this post!

Jennifer,
I once went on a first date with a guy who asked me if it was okay if we just got in the car and kept turning left. I was game. Every time we got to an intersection, he'd look at me and say "Left!" We wound up eating ice cream at a Little League game in the boonies. It was the best first date of my life!

I've always been pretty much a Point A to Point B kind of person. Med school attracts that kind of person to begin with and then further reinforces it. But the older I get, the more I too enjoy getting lost. Thanks for reminding me!

n/a
Jennifer Shelton's picture

Left!

What a great date! Is this guy still available? : D Thank you Lissa; I may just have to make a bunch of left turns on my way home today!

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


Laurie Erdman's picture

Frank Haddock

Jennifer, great post.

Years ago, my astrologer introduced me to Frank Haddock, a turn of the century psychologist. He was the original law of attraction guy, follow your intuition guy. His work is dense, but worth the work. His work now appears available on Amazon in digital scanned form.

In one of his books, he describes an exercise to strengthen the subconscious mind, to help us overcome fear, gain confidence in our innate abilities and practice being conscious and present. The exercise is to drive home by a different route every time! You go girl.

Being present,

Jennifer Shelton's picture

chills!

Thanks for sharing that, Laurie! It gave me chills. I also shared it with my son who now thinks that my tendency to try the "back roads" is pretty cool. He even asked if we could try a different route to school this morning! (although, he could also just be trying to get to school late on purpose!)

Blessings,

Jennifer
Astrologer, Educator &
Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women 


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