I am sometimes directionally challenged.

I do well enough in familiar places, and I know the greater metropolitan area well enough to navigate without too much trouble.

But heaven help me if I’m talking with a passenger while driving! When that’s the case, Google Maps and Siri could each take me by an arm, attempting to guide my path, and I’d still probably find a way to turn the wrong direction at a random intersection. I honestly don’t know how I manage it so often!

It’s ridiculously easy to find places now that I have a phone that thinks for me.  I don’t have to ask my dad for directions, nor do I have to write myself a detailed list of landmarks to watch for or roads to take like I did when I was a younger driver. It’s helped me establish routine routes, so getting off course when I am driving by myself is an anomaly, and lost only happens when my phone is dead.

But I still sometimes lose my way while doing something other than driving.

I lose my focus, my sense of centeredness, my true north.

It’s certainly happened to me as a mom.  The reality of parenting my children through their formative years hasn’t matched the fairy tale I envisioned when they were cherubic, brilliant, outstandingly-behaved toddlers. It took some time for me to get my sea legs as we’ve sailed the rough waters of schooling. Every time I’d think things were under control and I was standing secure and confident on a beautiful deck, gazing up at the loveliness of the stars, a rogue wave would come and splash me with a salty dose of reality.  I’ve felt lost at sea, alone and in the darkness more often than I care to admit.

It’s happened to me as a teacher.  I love, love, love what I do, but once in awhile a bad day or a conversation with a colleague throws me off kilter. I second-guess.  I wonder. I fret.  Even though I know where I am headed, and I certainly know the way, I doubt my direction.

Most recently, it’s happened to me as a reader, and being lost this way has been foreign and unsettling.

I am the girl who hung off the edge of the bed at night, reading in secret by the light of a tiny nightlight. I am the girl who filled all the lists during summer library incentives during my youth, and that was when all you got to show for it was a sticker on the wall. I’m the girl who read instead of socializing at lunch during high school, the one who hid books behind textbooks in class.  I’m the girl who has consumed at least 100 books a year since I started keeping track many years ago.  In my pre-teaching, pre-parenting days that number was probably closer to 250.

Then one day I realized I wasn’t her anymore, and I didn’t know where she went.

I kept buying books.  I’ve always bought books.  How could I not?  It’s who I am.

They sat unread– a pile of reminders of who I wasn’t.

I started so many.

I abandoned so many.

I didn’t love reading.

I wanted to love it.

I tried to love it.

I couldn’t force myself to love it.

Who was I if I wasn’t the girl who loved books?

No new definition emerged, so I floated in the doldrums of a lost personality.

I was surrounded by excellent books I had no desire to read. What once had the appeal of ice cream on a summer day instead tasted like a mouthful of sawdust every time I tried to take even a small bite.

Every few days, I took a few bites of sawdust and waited.

Then, one day, I felt a flicker of something familiar.  Deep inside, part of me that had been holding its breath, suffocating, took a small gasp of air.  When I am lost while driving, once in awhile I will almost get a sense of deja vu and know I will eventually find my way out of lost. This was far more subtle than that.  There were no landmarks.  There was no sudden understanding of where I needed to go or which direction to turn. There was no feeling of rightness.

I just felt like maybe the part of me that was missing had a chance to accidentally find its way back home someday.

I think I see it now… off in the distance.

I’ve never been so lost that I didn’t find my way home.  Surely this lost part of me will make its way home again too.