"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." — Andre Gide
Tell me of a time when you have found yourself utterly unmoored, cast adrift, lost at sea.
A time when the solidity of who you knew yourself to be began to crumble; when what you were so certain about began to feel shaky; when what deeply satisfied you began to turn sour in your mouth.
A time when, inside yourself, you packed your bags and crept away in the night, stealing a small boat, and shoved off shore into the inky blackness of the sea, setting sail to you knew not where . . . only that you had to go.
And then you found yourself alone in the vast ocean, without a trail to follow, without any signs of land.
When you finally found another shore, did you whisper to yourself “oh man, I hope I never do that again,” and set about constructing a solid and unshakable sea wall? Or did you find respite and joy sitting on the new beach, knowing that this beach will also be lost again to you some day?
The more years I get under my belt, the more I understand that beaches and shores are only temporary mooring places, and that as surely as the sun rises, I will move on — willingly or unwillingly.
Maybe the shore is a job. Maybe it’s a friend or an intimate relationship. Maybe it’s a home or an identity. Maybe the beach is a cherished object, or a daily routine. Our lives are a complex tapestry of beaches and shores that are coming and going all the time. In one way or another, we are in transition all the time.
And then there are the doozies. The giant transitions that make you come unglued, send you floundering.
Being unmoored is not a failure. It is not a mistakes and you are not a fuck up. It is not a sign that you are crazy, or counter-social or incapable.
If you were to sit in a circle under old trees, and hear the lost-at-sea stories of other people, you would see very clearly that you are not alone — that this condition is innately human.
Being lost at sea is a sign of growth. It is a stage of transformation. It is when the caterpillar dissolves into mush before the imaginal cells of the new butterfly coalesce into a functioning organism.
And it is true that some people don’t make it to the other shore.
It is possible to navigate being lost. Successful navigation means that I have allowed who I have been and what my live was to dissolve and die . . . that I have sat in the limbo of the unknown without trying to control, fix, or regain my old footing. I also don’t try to force the new to come until it appears of its own accord (which is not to say I’m not inactive, just not stressing about it).
I have been able to give gratitude for the pain and difficulty, for the loss and confusion and have made it good with those I may have harmed or left behind (in person or in intention). I have tended and nurtured the small embers of the new person I am becoming, protecting the tenderness of my new understandings and perspectives, and finding love for myself in all my human limitations as well as in my capacities for divinity.
I do what I can, and then let it unfold.
When I reach the other shore . . . sometimes without knowing until one moment I suddenly realize I am really different and that everything is OK . . . I will find that the meaning I make, my perspective of the world, has changed. Who I was is still in me, but I have included that me and transcended it. It’s beach party time! [Have I overdone the metaphor yet?]
And now, I can tell the tale of the time I was lost at sea to another, with compassion and a wisdom gained only by experience. I know they will have no trail; they will have to make it on their own, but that losing sight of the shore is cause for celebration, and that finding new lands is worth the terror of being lost.
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