Signs, an Ant & Three Questions About Being Lost

Questions that came to mind today on the treadmill: what am I lost from? What am I searching for? Is there a point in this being-lost?

I’ve always had the conviction that “everything happens for a reason.” Looking back on old journals, I’ve been able to see the hows and whys of each struggle from the past. Some of them are still a mystery, but, if I were to follow patterns and analyze states, I soon say, yes, there is a reason, even if I don’t know it yet.

1. What am I lost from?

I am assuming I feel lost, and that many times, people feel lost, because their “path” seems unclear, or their “plan” didn’t work out the way they envisioned it in their minds. This can be frustrating, of course. Feeling a lack of control or agency frightens. But the root of the problem here, I think, is the fact that the relying comes from what was created in the mind. These ideas of where we were going, or what was going to happen next, were simply created in the mind and projected outward into the world as a soon-to-be reality. But this is false. The projection falls short, often, because it is not based on anything concrete, anything real. Where am I in this moment? In my room, on my computer, typing these words. Sure, I have an idea of where I will be going in an hour, or even the rest of the weekend. I draw up my plans and set myself on a path. But none of this is set in stone. How am I to know where I’ll be in the next hour, let alone a month from now, or two years down the line.

So what am I lost from? My ideas of where I’d be headed. My created future. Good. This is good. It feels bad, sure, but in reality it is good. Lost in mystery is better than found in my own created ideas. Why do we hold onto what we “plan”? Surely, the world has its own movement outside of us. The seasons have their own ideas and, in my opinion, since my brain cannot comprehend the greatness of my life-span, why don’t I just allow and relax in the mystery of tomorrow?

Sure, having goals are healthy. If there were no motivation and passion for one’s bliss, how could anything be accomplished? The stone needs motivation, but who’s to say what will be found along its random roll through the days?

2. What am I searching for?

If I’m lost, well, then, what am I searching for? Perhaps, I’m searching for the illusion I’ve created in my mind for how things will go. Am I really the master of the universe? Really? Can I pin-point where, exactly, I’ll be when the sun goes down? No. So how can I search through the lids of my own illusion? And, if I tried, certainly the object of my search would be just as deluded as my meager attempts at projecting my sense of control over the course of my time-span.

So what is the search once separated from our projections? What is the object? I assume the search would have to begin in the moment, in what exactly is presenting itself in each second that arrives. Because that is the only fact known. The past can enlighten, but it is seen through a muddy glass. The only reality that can be tested is the present. And what is to be found there?

Let me think. Right now, I’m sitting at my desk, writing these words. I analyze my feelings of being-lost and am faced with ambiguity. Why, exactly, do I feel lost? Well, I don’t have an idea, based on current circumstances, of where I am going. OK. But if I, let’s say, had a concrete idea of where I was going to be next year because I was accepted into a new job, or a PhD program, would that give me any more clue as to where I was going? Would I feel less lost? Perhaps. But is this really a reason to feel less lost? No. Why? Because, though my mind may have more of a solid foundation from which to create the illusion of my future, it still wouldn’t know for certain. Knowing is based on experience. All I have, even if I was accepted to a new job or a PhD program, to base my experience on, is the past (muddy glass) and the present (clear, brilliantly sounding its trumpets and rolling its agenda before me).

The present:

Right now, I have an ant crawling on my arm. I have noticed the ant before, balancing on the top of my book cover as I was reading a bit ago. Then, it moved to the computer screen, a little natural cursor across the laptop. Why focus on the ant? Because I can. Because it’s real. It’s funny, because I try to project a future plan for the ant and it refuses. Perhaps you will go to college, I say to the ant. It says, what is this? I am an ant. And so I assume it must be lost. It has no plan, no idea of where to go next. Though I doubt the ant will have any problem or anxiety around this. It is simply looking for food, perhaps, or a way back into the dirt outside.

3. Is there a point in this being-lost?

I’d like to attach a “point” in my being-lost. However, I could think of many reasons, but how could I know? My minds capacity to know is rather limited in this sense. I am not all-knowing. I am simply a girl with an ant on her arm.

Perhaps the point, in THIS MOMENT, of being lost is to become aware. Aware of signs. When you’re lost, your focus is more immediate, don’t you think? If I was, for instance, planning my fake-future in the fake new job acceptance or the fake impending PhD program, my focus would be further ahead. My mind would go wandering among the different ways in which my life would soon be changing, and I’d be distracted. So, in this moment of being lost, I appreciate the fact that I don’t have any excuse to project my thoughts toward the future. I’m living in the present (once I get over the anxiety of being lost).

And in the present, lately, I’ve been trying to take note of signs.

Signs are good to take note of when one is lost.

For example, a friend of mine last night said “you seem to be like a nervous hummingbird, constantly vibrating, but not yet decided on where to land.”

What do you mean? I said.

I mean that, well, perhaps you aren’t trusting yourself lately. So you’re full of nervous energy and vibrating around without stillness.

Interesting, I thought. At first I was a bit defensive. Why? Because my “idea” of myself (which is fake) was that I was a strong person, who trusted herself. Someone who knew how to be still and listen. But just as our ideas of our futures are false, so, very often, are our ideas about ourselves. This is why other people can be brilliant mirrors and sign posts for us. They see us objectively, often, and bring to light what is otherwise hidden in our own blinded illusions of who we are.

I imagined a hummingbird. Very fitting, I thought, for one who feels lost. Darting and dashing around, vibrating crazy amounts of energy to find a flower, a place to land. I imagined hummingbirds look quite lost mid-flight. And why wouldn’t they, or anyone, feel lost with so much buzzing around going on?

This was a sign post for me. I stepped back and thought, Exactly! How else to feel order in being-lost than to simply sit down and observe, be still?

Another sign was the fact that, on two separate occasions, in two different versions of the same book, I read, upon opening randomly, this passage:

“If you look for this or that thing, or wish to be in this place or that, simply for your own advantage or pleasure, you will never be at rest, nor free from anxiety. You will find something to dislike in everything, and there will be someone who will cross you no matter where you are.”

What I love most about this passage, and the fact that it found me, on two separate occasions on two consecutive days, is that it speaks directly, perhaps, to the one who feels aimless and lost. Perhaps looking around for various objects to orient them. Grasping “this or that thing” to calm anxiety in the lost-forest, to give one a sense of weight or momentary weightlessness from the weight of the unknown. But in the end, this causes more anxiety. And, wishing to move for the sake of moving, or running away from the uneasy feelings of being-lost. What does that do, but displace those feelings to a new location? It also reminds me of the saying my mother used to repeat to me, Wherever you go, there you are.

I could move, apply to a PhD program, what have you, in order to try to give myself a false sense of “direction”, a false way out in my mind of the lost-forest, but it wouldn’t solve anything.

I trust I’m in ambiguity because ambiguity trusts me. Trusts that I will find the signs along the way and know, somehow, where to go.
Lost? I like being lost at the moment. It’s a pendulum. Sometimes I freak out. I get overwhelmed by the stripping away of the facade and false notions that I control anything, let alone the feeling of being found.

And so I’m naked out here. I think it’s rather funny. I look for signs. Signs find me. And my body tells me, Oh, sign, sign, what about me?

And so I look at my body and think, Oh yes. I am not all movement and mind. I am also matter.

So I went to join a gym. At the gym I was running in place. As I ran in place I felt my body sweat. The sweat moved forward out of my pores and down my skin. I thought of them little rivers. Wondered about their path. Wondered if I could feel they were lost, the little rivers of sweat. No, of course not. There was no specific place to go.

There is no specific place to go.

My ant is gone, by the way. I don’t know where he went.

I think I will go read outside. I think I will try to find the skunk, though the skunk cannot be found. I hope to see him soon.

Perhaps I’ll land somewhere and find myself, body, on a rock, looking for signs.

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