I frequently find myself lost. I seldom have a complete certainty of where I am on the planet. Whether in parking lots, department stores, or most recently in Golden Gate Park by the museums, if it weren’t for people who know where I happen to be at that moment, and what direction might get me to where I want to go, I wouldn’t “be here now.” It has to be brain damage from… drugs? car accidents? brain surgery? I’ve had them all.
For the most part I have learned not to panic. Being clean and sober, finding myself in totally foreign landscapes can be a sort of high, at least Twilight Zone-esque. I used to feel shame, frustration, and self-deprecation in these circumstances. I’ve learned to surrender during these misadventures, telling myself that the spiritual warrior learns to “enjoy the journey.”
I fear the disorientation may be getting worse. My only hope is that I lean toward the style of the absent-minded professor whom people find adorable. There is a terrific story about Albert Einstein. He was walking on the Princeton campus when a student asked him to discuss a theorem. After a cheerful and engaging conversation, Albert said, “And now, if you wouldn’t mind helping me? When you stopped me, was I walking toward or away from the Science building?” When the student replied, “Toward, sir.” “Ah, then I’ve already had my breakfast.”
I once heard the term pronoid, defined as a person who has the sneaky suspicion that everyone wants to help her. This is me, how I was raised. My family subscribed to Will Rogers’ philosophy that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. This core orientation allows me to fearlessly ask for directions, and given that I tend to go in circles, often from the same person twice.
There is sufficient scientific evidence proving that assisting other people reduces stress, so perhaps I am doing a service to let the helpful help me.
At times, I recognize this attitude may be irresponsible, being cavalier about a character defect that I could improve. I’ve avoided putting it on the long list of issues that bother me much more; those having to do with kindness, acceptance of things I cannot change and the like.
After hearing my story about being lost in Golden Gate Park, my friend Alice gave me a portable GPS. Perhaps my energy would best be spent in learning to program the thing. It’s wonderful also to depend on the kindness my friends.
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