When You Feel Lost

I was warned.

I was warned about bad neighborhoods when I began to explore the world. Relatives portrayed it as an unkind place where bad karma, bad luck, and bad people lurked.

They seemed to mean they waited for me alone.

Parents ought to warn, but not so much as to form a fearful youngster. In time I took my chances and dared to explore.

Not only the city, but myself, the uncovering of my self: exposure to condemnation and humiliation, rejection, and all the common disgraces uncommonly hurtful when they happen to us.

How else, I reasoned, can I be known?

We need to get lost a few times to make our way. We must be disappointed in our fellow man to distinguish those worthy of trust from those who are not.

Our job is to fall down but not stay down. To enlighten ourselves not just from books, but the game, the ladder, and the heart.

Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

He advised us to make goals.

But isn’t taking unknown trails to uncharted destinations also an essential message?

How about “The Road Not Taken”?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Is the verse grim? The poet, Robert Frost, wished us to smile: “My poems … are all set to trip the reader head (first) into the boundless.”

If we take him by the two last words — “the boundless” — perhaps one meaning is to fill life with experiences, adventures, and explorations of the world without and the world within.

Might we reveal to ourselves who we are by searching the unfamiliar places, the avoided challenges, the prospects we fear? How else shall we overcome them and recognize our flourishing resides in growing mastery?

Perhaps misdirection and disorientation lead to unexpected joy.

The admonition “know thyself” cannot be fulfilled without discovering our choices in unaccustomed circumstances, with people different from ourselves, attempting skills not yet expert.

Until we are swept away and carried aloft how can we know where to land?

Enlargement of life comes from living it, unless you enjoy confinement.

Possibility awaits outside the box, outside the lines, outside. Beauty, too.

When I was a boy, I recall older kids saying “get lost” to those young ones they didn’t want nearby. They meant, “stay away.”

But might a wise mentor say to a young man, “lose your way,” as a strange kind of guidance?

Every so often, “getting lost” might be just the thing. Early enough, when time is on your side, before dark.

Until you trod the unpaved, unplumbed, unfamiliar off ramps a few times, you won’t ever discover your hidden resilience.

Perhaps only by getting lost on occasion can we find ourselves.


The first image is Lost Bird Logo by Tánh Nguyễn. Next comes Arnold Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead in its 1883 version, followed by Blossoming by Paul Klee. All are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

9 thoughts on “When You Feel Lost

  1. gb fragmented gumdrops

    I learned to enjoy confinement, lol. Great post, Dr. S. But what happens when the danger does visit you on your journey, again and again? Such experiences lead to more fear, doubt, self-imprisonment, traumatic memories, cognitive distortions, and fewer engagements with the world and with our selves. And even smaller victories become undone when evil meets us thereafter, as if we victims are under constant surveillance by noxious predators. Nomadic thoughts, memories, and fragmented selves become the internal adventure, a dissociated imaginary land to escape the horrific, vile one before us, or so we perceive. Paranoid, we hide. Suspended, we freeze. To break free from our isolation means more pain and torture, a possible worsening of our already debilitated condition.

    But we want to be free, and we want to explore. We want to be belonged, and we want to be strong to fight, should the need arise. We want to overcome, and we have overcome many things before retraumatization happened. The desire is there, but the world remains dangerous for some.

    Some have compromised immune systems. Some are targets from past enemies. Some are targets of repeat- and re-victimization. Some are discriminated against, and hated. Some are seen as easy doormats, especially for those weakened from disabilities. Some are waging wars inside their mind, and there is no treaty or reprieve strong enough to quell the voices within. Some desire adventure, to be found, but fear overpowers their intentions. Passion is crushed by fear and smothered by offenders.

    To face such atrocities is to wage war against perpetrators and our selves.

    It is easier said than done, and not everyone survives. Nevertheless, you are right.


    • The awfulness you describe cannot be denied, glb. Yet you’ve also written that you restarted therapy, suggesting you recognize the limits of confinement, too. We have choices and contend with the passage of time: the human dilemma. I continue to root for you to find as much freedom as you desire.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lots of sound advice, Dr. Stein. Falling down can be quite crippling. Getting up again may not be easy. But, as you conclude, it’s the way we discover our hidden resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, Rosaliene, getting lost and falling down are inevitable and difficult to handle. Yet we are left with a decision that will determine, in part, what we do about them: can we say yes to life?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Have you read Rebecca Solnit’s essays: A Field Guide to Getting Lost? You can easily lose yourself (quite literally at times) in her exquisite prose and philosophic wanderings. “Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go…..to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve not read Rebecca Solnit but thank you for bringing my attention to her. “Mystery” seems just the right word. Your comment and glb’s live on the two sides of the issue of being “lost.” I remember my trip to Berlin and the outdoor “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe:” “200,000 square feet covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae.” One is lost in the sea of these objects, some smaller than human size, some towering over the visitors. Similarly, in the “Garden of Exile” within the Jewish Museum of Berlin, you walk on uneven stones that keep you off-balance, some “throwing’ you into a smaller number of similar concrete slabs. Both of these exhibits are unsettling and intended to give you a physical sensation of a different kind of lostness than I wrote about. Different, too, it seems, than Rebecca Solnit had in mind.

      Liked by 2 people

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        All those lives lost – that is traumatic! Historical trauma impacts generations, and I am sure the “lost” Diaspora that came afterward. I do not know much about history in general, but my lostness does not compare to the tragedies that happened to Jewish people. My half-brother and his wife, my sister-in-law, are Jewish (my brother is Jewish by marriage, his wife was born Jewish; they raised their children in the Jewish tradition), though I have not spoken to them much about the histories and the Tradition. I cannot imagine the traumatic impact that has occurred over the past few decades.


  5. As you suggest, it has multi-generational consequences. The ground-breaking book written on this, by Helen Epstein, is “Children of the Holocaust.” That said, one could equally comment on the multi-generational effects of slavery in this country, of the treatment of Native Americans here, of the Japanese internment camps during WWII, etc. And, unfortunately, whatever one might predict concerning the separation of children from their parents at our Southern Border. That, at least, is something we can try to do something about. The rest, unfortunately, is history, and out of our control.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s