I’ve been asking myself what it means to be lost. I’ve asked myself every day, and most days my answer is: does it matter? I keep writing the beginning of something- some inquiry. And it feels like the point of it is wondering about being lost.
I get nowhere.
Maybe that’s what it means to be lost.
Here are the things I’ve lost this summer (it turns out some of these things may never have actually been there):
My best friend, partner, and teammate.
My little friend (a puppy version).
A cat, who I had come to love.
My family– the one I chose and planned to stick with.
Speaking of plans: the plans. All of the plans.
Iditarod in 2017.
My mind/my marbles/my sanity.
Walks in the woods.
A second family.
A space that felt like I belonged.
Here are some of the things I gained this summer:
A community of people like myself (that is to say: queer)
A second family.
Trails (biking, running, walking).
An appreciation for public transportation.
A little (very little) bit of hope.
Vulnerability (a smidge. A real smidge).
I still don’t know what it means to be lost.
I still am very lost. But in this strange ether that is beyond the unthinkable, I don’t seem to care. It’s very weird. Maybe I can’t care. Maybe I don’t have the capacity to care. That certainly seems possible.
I’m not saying that I’m fine. I’m not really fine. I’m often pretty un-fine. Fine and okay are not words I would currently use to describe myself. Neither am I apathetic. In fact, the amount to which I feel seems to have multiplied as it is centered around pain.
If I put it in terms of mushing, I guess this makes some sense to me.
I have been horribly wounded out on the trail. To the point where it is not possible for me to continue exactly on the path I originally planned. Instead, I’m laying on the side of the trail, trying to stop the bleeding. But, in the course of being horribly wounded– perhaps in the moment of it– I altered trails and now I have no idea where I am. Or even where I should go. It probably isn’t a huge aid that, in the metaphor that is me on the trail, as I often think about things, I didn’t have a super clear idea of which way to go in the first place. I thought I had figured out a destination, but the new factor of the wounding, and some other things, has rendered that destination impossible for the time being.
So that leaves me with a myriad of options. I guess, metaphorically, I’ve basically gone back to the last checkpoint, which is this city that I love much more than I let myself remember while I was away. And here I am, putting a finger in the dam, as it were. But. I can’t stay here. It’s a checkpoint. I mean, I could maybe stay here a bit longer. There have been some important and healthy things for me here. Let’s call them– a suture doctor in the form of a ridiculously generous family. And salve in the form of good friends. And a bandage in the form of community I never knew I hadn’t had before. These are all well and good.
But, but. The trail calls, or my brain is crazy and insists we go on. We ARE going on. We are not scratching. This hitch in the plan may have made some major alterations to our schedule. But I am not bowing out yet.
But this isn’t a straightfoward race. This isn’t a well-marked trail. I have to decide which way to go. The way I thought, the way I was told was the way, is not the way any more. So I have to figure out another way.
And more or less, I’m lost.
And I feel like I should probably care a lot more that I’m lost.
But I do not.
What I know is that soon I’m going to exit the cabin that is this checkpoint, tend to my dogs once more, and head out into the night and the snow.
I don’t know what that will be or where that will lead me. I don’t even know which direction I’ll go. Maybe I’ll let the lead dogs choose: hopefully that is the siblings intuition and gut, up front. Otherwise I’m in trouble (I always seem to want to put logic and sense up front, and so far that has served me miserably. I think they were both misnamed).
What it means to be lost is that that is where I am at. That is the only name for the location I am in, relative to the other locations. And this is because I do not know or understand the other locations yet. Once I get there, I will. And I may still there be lost, because I may not know the other locations by that time, either.
It’s not clear. It’s scary. I’m not a fan of this. It was so comforting to be on the trail that was well marked, clear. One I understood and could follow. (But didn’t I say before that I didn’t know where I was headed, exactly? True, true. But the trail was marked, you see. I may have never gone that way yet, but I trusted the markers on the way.)
Now that is gone to me. It exists no more. Maybe– probably– I’ll recognize one day that it should not have existed, or that it was for the best my course was altered. Right now that’s hard to believe.
Anyway, I have to go. I have been healing here for a while. The dogs get restless. They know we haven’t made it yet. I can put them in straw and shower them in snacks, but we have things to do.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.