The Luxury of Being Lost

Posted On: 05.04.10

lost

Two weeks from today, my debut novel Life After Yes hits shelves. I tell you this because, yes, I have plunged into that filthy pool of shameless self-promotion. (Ick.) But I also tell you this because this incontrovertible fact, the close proximity of publication, is affecting me.

(Translation: I am a certifiable mess.)

People around me, people who care about me, keep saying some variation of the same thing: “Just let yourself enjoy this time. Soak it all up.” And when they say this, I smile an automatic smile, a packaged smile, and nod. And then I tell them I will. That I will try.

And I’m trying. I am. I remind myself that I am living a dream. Because I am. My dream. My utterly improvident and far-fetched dream I hatched as a newbie lawyer. I remind myself that this – this reality, jitters and all – is exactly what I hoped for. Because it is. I remind myself that the near crippling nerves I feel these days are par for that proverbial literary course. That all rookies – and all veterans – probably weather this exact storm. Because I imagine they do.

But the reality is that even though I got a wonderful book review and things are looking good, I feel a little frightened and very lost. I feel like I am floating – and frantically – between two places – the Past and the Future. (Aren’t we all?) I feel like the waters of the Present are friendly, but foreign. I feel like I am fighting to stay afloat. (Don’t we all?)

The reality is that in many ways I am lost. Lost in the way that each and every one of us is. Aren’t we all headed for destinations unknown, ones we can picture and ones that by nature elude our imagination? Aren’t we all in some sense traversing uncharted territory? Isn’t this experience of traveling blindly, to the extent that we focus on it, unsettling and a bit scary?

I think so.

Last night, I had a mini meltdown at the end of dinner. I sat across from Husband and as I sipped from my water glass, I told him that I was really quite overwhelmed. He listened to me and asked what he could do. I told him I didn’t know. After spinning my wheels for a while, I popped up and looked for my very favorite metaphor book Sister C gave me recently. I know it sounds odd and dorky, but I find metaphors – strongly concentrated poetic words – to be somewhat medicinal. For me, a strong idea is a bit of a magic potion. (Told you dorky.)

But I couldn’t find my book. Husband and I looked for the book for twenty minutes. To no avail. Husband then did the most amazing and unnecessary thing. He grabbed his keys and went to Barnes & Noble. In no time, he returned clutching a replacement book and my favorite fat-free ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. He didn’t need to do these things. But he did them. And in that moment I realized something I’ve known all along: I am tethered to a good, good man.

And so. We sat together on the couch. I turned on a recorded episode of Oprah. Husband scoured the contract for the sale of our home. And while listening to Oprah interview the new-and-improved Naomi Campbell, I flipped through my new book. I ingested the words of other travelers. Bits and pieces of timely truth. And suddenly – sitting next to my biggest love and fiercest supporter, swallowing a delicate dessert of faux ice cream and real words – I felt a little better.

And then. Then I stumbled upon the perfect quote. The perfect metaphor.

“One does not discover new continents

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

– Andre Gide

And reading these words, hugging this idea, made me smile. A real nobody-is-watching, goofy smile. Reading these words, hugging this idea, made me realize. This business of being lost, of squinting to see distant and ephemeral shores? This is adulthood. We have no choice but to leave behind the cozy coast of childhood. And then it’s up to us. We swim and struggle and flail and dream and discover. Then we live.

This business of being lost, of squinting to see distant and ephemeral shores? This is life.

This business of being able to be lost, of allowing ourselves to squint and conjure cryptic coasts? This is a choice. This is a luxury.

And so. With the help of Husband, a little ice cream, a little book, and a little quote, I went to bed last night cuddling a brand new attitude. One that I hope sticks. I went to bed calmer, feeling lucky to be lost, fortunate to be flailing and sailing towards continents unknown and exquisite.

_________________________________

  • Do you ever feel lost? How do you handle this feeling?
  • Are you energized or unnerved by the unknown?
  • Have you ever reached a goal – or come close to reaching it – and felt unbelievably overwhelmed?
  • How do you handle anxiety when it rears up?
  • Do you agree that being lost – and feeling lost – is part and parcel of living? And in many ways a luxury enjoyed by those of us who are free to explore and discover?

* Thanks to so many of you who left thoughtful comments on yesterday’s post about Green Chimneys. As promised, thanks to your words, I just donated $200 to this wonderful organization. If you would like to contribute as well, please visit GC’s online donation page.*

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Comments


32 Comments for: "The Luxury of Being Lost"
  1. kat

    Beautiful post today. I’ve read that quote (a different variation of it) before and it always helps me when I need to do what I’m thinking of, but kind of scares me.
    We all crave comfort, and safety and security, but I think sometimes you have to let yourself get uncomfortable in order to really know yourself. And reach your full potential.
    And you’re lucky to have someone to be, as you cleverly put it, tethered to, who helps you along the way so supportively.
    I think when people tell you to “enjoy this time” what they should say is “enjoy the ups AND the downs of this time” … that’s what it’s about.

    So excited to read your book finally!

  2. I can definitely relate to this post. Anxiety is a sneaky thing, isn’t it? As I’ve approached major changes (or even accomplishments) in my life, I’ve had problems relaxing enough to enjoy the ride. Talking through my fears with loved ones seems to help me, as does yoga and being outside. I hope things get better soon! Glad to hear that you have such a great partner on your side.

  3. You will do fine with all this uncharted water you are in. Swim when you have to. Rest when you need.

    As I was reading your words, I thought of running races – the runner and metaphor lover in me. I seldom know the courses these times around as I am a fairly new runner. I only know that there is a distance and it needs to be traversed as best I can.

    You know you need to promote the book and yourself. You are unique so no one can tell you how to do it as your way will be as unique as you are.

  4. Ice-cream and replacement book? Husband sounds like he is a true man, a genius in fact. Good catch! As for feeling stuck between the past and future, I spend most of the time feeling like that!

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  6. Becca

    Beautiful, honest, sweet and oh so real Aidan. Yes, we’ve all been there to different extents and we all figure out a way to enjoy the moments or at least get through them.
    I emailed you earlier before reading this and now I am certain you rolled your eyes and said, “ugh” when I wrote, “relish these moments”. Although I would still say the same thing, i know it’s not what you need to hear. Xo

  7. So true…sometimes you have to get lost before you can discover new parts of yourself. To find yourself as a writer, you had to first get lost as a lawyer. I wonder if you can choose to get lost, or if it needs to be a natural wandering to be meaningful.

  8. Lovely post. Aidan, you perfectly described how I felt before the birth of my first child. I was blissfully happy yet nervous about not knowing exactly how my life would change with the addition of a new little person. I enjoyed the little the quiet but was anxious to start the next stage of my life.

    Relax and enjoy the peaceful sail!

  9. Jessica

    Thank you for this beautiful post Aidan! I love that metaphor – definitely an uplifter.
    I am days from my college graduation (which has been 5 years, 4 homes, 2 schools, and what feels like many different lives in the making) and am feeling the same way. I’m so excited by the opportunities that lie before me but am definitely feing a bit lost as the familiar college bubble comes to an end and the “real world” begins. The advice to enjoy it is noble, but I think that it is easier said than done. I know for myself, the focus on commemorating the past and imagining the fast-approaching future has left very little time for savoring the present… A problem which, as you said, I think many people probably suffer from. For me, reading posts (and metaphors now haha) like this help calm that anxiety and realize that we are all human and fear of the unknown is a normal condition, which keeps me grounded and inspired.
    So happy for you and can’t wait to read Life After Yes! Congrats!

  10. Good luck with your book! It looks fab, and as someone on the receiving end of your email, I can tell you it didn’t look the least bit spammy or obnoxious (and I get tons of those things). The fact that you were honest and open and, well, AWESOME made me that much more excited for you!

    Keep us in the loop!

  11. Amy

    Love this post…I just turned 24 this past weekend and since reaching “adulthood”, I have been scared, tired, and overwhelmed. I recently got an offer from a competitive firm and turned it down due to my firm making a counteroffer that wasn’t as muuch but I love the work/life balance and quality of life that my firm offers…making a decision was hard and brutal. Telling my manager that I had a new offer out of nowhere was hard and I was scared and lost…nice to know that other people are just as scared or lost as I am. 🙂

  12. First of all, that is some husband you have. I want to send this post to my husband, who is amazing, but I’m not sure would know to do what your man did. He would probably tell me I was being crazy and not indulge.

    That’s a great metaphor. I’m going to try to keep it in mind, thanks for sharing. I am many steps behind you, in the throws of writing my first book, and people keep telling me to “enjoy the process of writing.” I’m trying, but its hard when you put the amount of pressure on yourself that, well, everyone does. But this is a great quote… Perhaps I should just buy the book.

    Can’t wait for the book!

  13. I hope you write that quote down on a little slip of paper and carry it around with you. It’s perfect. These next couple of weeks are going to be exhilarating, terrifying, exhausting, energizing, and every other “ing” word I can think of. It sounds like you found something that helps though so hold on to it and enjoy the ride!

  14. I feel lost when I don’t feel grounded,when I feel like I don’t have an anchor. But I guess like that ship searching for new continents you do have to pull up your anchor and trust that the wind will carry you in the right direction. When I feel lost, I think of a kite flying way up high in the air, and I trust someone is holding the string on the other end, someone who’s on the ground. And then thats when I can start over again with a better attitude.

  15. The quote is perfect. I had to stop reading for a moment to soak it in.

    A couple of other thoughts: 1) Husband is worth his weight in gold. 2) If you weren’t feeling a little lost you’re probably not being honest about the magnitude of this moment. 3) Don’t worry too much about taking it all in. You’re blogging about it and that will serve as a bit of a time capsule for you. If you look back in six months and don’t remember the entire month of May, you’ll have it recorded right here to jog your memory.

  16. The good news is that being lost comes and goes. I’ll be 41 this Sunday and for my birthday I have been given confirmation that I am…not where I want to be. I think I know where that is, but I am not positive.

    I feel a bit like Odysseus. The guy goes off to the fight in the Trojan War and then spends a decade fighting to get home.

    To me the question is whether you can enjoy the journey that comes with being lost of whether being too far from shore to see land scares you.

  17. I love that quote. Also, I just pre-ordered my copy of Life After Yes!

  18. Holly

    Wow, Aidan, what a perfect post for me today! I have been experiencing many of these emotions in the last few months. I’m in a PhD program and recently had to take a big exam to advance to candidacy. I was TERRIFIED of taking the exam and what would happen if I did or didn’t pass it.

    What I found most helpful for the anxiety was to take time to focus on something other than the impending exam…do yoga, spend time with friends, create something…yet all the while working my butt off!

    I think it is really helpful to reframe the anxiety by affirming that I have chosen this path, and I knew from the start of grad school that I didn’t know where it was going to take me. I have never looked back on other major life decisions with regret, because they have produced beautiful results. Sure, with some pain and anxiety, but those are going to be present to some extent in any life scenario.

    I think that being lost is the tradeoff we make anytime we venture into the unknown. My best solution is to just keep exploring and to treasure what we DO know.

    Thank you as always for your insights, Aidan!

  19. Promote the heck out of yourself and your book. Don’t be to proud.

    And don’t be afraid of success!!!

    Congrats on the reviews and I wish I was in NYC for your reading. But I’m sure you’ll be in San Francisco signing away. Ask your publicist/publishers about The Book Passage. It’s a wonderful place visited by amazing writers. And I’ll throw you a party! An unknown friend connected by words…nothing would give me more pleasure.

  20. Exactly.
    Much less poetic but: no pain no gain; growing pains and all that.
    Nothing worthwhile ever comes easily or simply. Sounds like you’re right on target!
    And the fact that you angst over things of this nature is what makes you who you are. That seems a very good thing!

  21. Jessica

    First, you have the best hubby :).

    Second, transitions are really scary. You are about to be a new Aidan in a lot of ways, almost like becoming a new mom. But like becoming a mom it will be an amazing transition I am sure!

    Now that I think of it, there is a therapist with an interesting blog dedicated to transitions – this post might be interesting for you. xoxo
    http://sherylpaul.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/friday-favorite-quote-the-unknown/#more-499

  22. You might feel lost, adrift at sea – but have faith that you are headed in the right direction!

    And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Take time for yourself, get enough sleep, get a massage. You deserve it!

  23. Erin

    I was reminded of this article (below) when I read your post today. Thought you’d appreciate it, however different or similar your own experience proves to be. Wishing you well — whatever your undoubtedly bright future holds! Congratulations…

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/08/the-perils-of-literary-success/4132

  24. Aidan, your writing is so dear to me. I can literally feel your words as if I was there with you, probably because I know the feeling so well (not the book publishing part – sigh, though I wish) but the feeling of being overwhelmed and lost. But you are doing what you have to! You are thinking it through, plunging ahead and with a great support network. What your husband did for you brought tears to my eyes. That is just so lovely! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Your bloggy friends? We are all here for you!

  25. Love that quote, always have.
    What a generous and sweet gesture by your husband!
    xo

  26. I’d be a freaking wreck, too! But you ARE tethered to a good man, and really–it’s gonna do well!

  27. Ice cream, a fitting metaphor, and a supportive partner … Sounds like you’ve got everything you need to guide you on this journey and keep you “found.” =>

  28. I often feel lost and frightened, especially when I think about having knee replacement surgery or leaving my marriage. Fortunately a bag of Wise Cheez Doodles will shut up the voice of panic.

  29. Julia Masi

    I feel lost whenever I am not working. Anxiety holds my hand when I’m alone in a room full of happy people. I pray for others experiencing anxiety and loneliness whenever a way of fear or uncertainty crashes down upon my head.

  30. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but this post just resonated so much for me that I had to comment. I feel like this right now and that quote so embodies everything that I’m feeling, all my fears, all my hopes.

    Much luck to you with your book!

  31. I LOVE that quote. Yes indeed, the luxury of being lost. I’m smiling now too, cuddling with a bit of a new attitude myself. 🙂

  32. This is life! 🙂 When I first joined Facebook, I was trying to think of a way to summarise my insanely-many hobbies and interests in a shmall text box, and I started with “getting lost in as many countries as possible” to sum up my attitude to life and travel. I’ve kept some variation of that phrase in every bio I’ve written since then. I love this life-long adventure!

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