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.
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.
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.
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”!
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.
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!
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!
Jennifer Astrologer, Educator & Founder of FemCentral, the Virtual Institute for Women
When you comment on an Owning Pink blog post, we invite you to be authentic and loving, to say what you feel, to hold sacred space so others feel heard, and to refrain from using hurtful or offensive language. Differing opinions are welcomed, but if you cannot express yourself in a respectful, caring manner, your comments will be deleted by the Owning Pink staff.