I feel like I’ve taken the longest possible path to get to this part of the story. But, I guess that’s how life goes. And now that I consider it, maybe that’s also how it should be. Storylines and thoughts begin, but then fade into other topics without goodbyes or resolution, knocked off course in the changing winds of time and cross currents of obligation. Lessons are learned in the moment, but perhaps not built upon in the most efficient or eloquent manner. There’s a connection there somewhere just below the surface, but I just never really seem to get around to saying it. Like the man adrift, and all the other examples I’ve scattered through these pages, through seemingly disconnected thoughts. It seems at times that I’ve lost the plot. So how do I bring this back together?
Our narrative arcs look like roller coasters. There are days storms blow through and we get knocked around. There are days where everything looks like smooth sailing and we seem to be making real progress. There are days when we drift off course without ever realizing it, caught in a current we don’t see or feel.
But something to consider is being off course doesn’t necessarily lead to tragedy. Sometimes getting lost takes you to places far better than you originally planned. Sometimes getting blown off course leads you to places and people that you would never have considered. Sometimes it puts both your body and mind in a place where you can see the world through clearer eyes.
Sometimes getting lost and finding yourself in a place you never intended is a gift.
This ultimately is the point of the hero’s journey. It is a refining fire that transforms the protagonist into someone stronger and better.
But, while storms and currents may alter our paths, we don’t want to passively let them define our destinations. When we just continually allow ourselves to drift we get caught up in the cycles that keep us lost.
So first things first. You have to figure out where you are. This is your reckoning.
1.) Take in your surroundings. Go to the most basic element and try to figure out an approximation of where you are. It does no good to lie to yourself. You are where you are, not where you want to be. Starting from a lie will only hurt your progress. This is why learning situational awareness is so important. You’ve always known a day like this could and would come. Don’t wait to learn something until after you need to know it.
2.) Examine yourself honestly. Does your heart still pump blood through your veins? Can you breathe? Can you think? If the answers to those three questions are yes, then you are unbroken. I don’t care what anyone has ever told you about who you are and how broken they want you to believe that you are. You aren’t. Your boat may be battered, but the thing that is you. The thing that is really you, your soul, remains unbroken. You have to remember this.
3.) Grieve what is gone appropriately and then move forward. Find a way to get forward motion. It doesn’t have to be much and really doesn’t even have to be in the right direction. Just break the inertia that’s holding you down. Do not sit still feeling sorry for yourself. You may mourn while in motion.
4.) Decide which way you think you want to go and get moving. It doesn’t have to be a perfect decision. Just get going. Try your best to go closer to the thing you think you want in the most basic of ways. You don’t have to work out all the details. The best approximation is all you need at this point, you can adjust your course as you go. If you live in North Dakota and want to go where it’s warmer, all you need to know is go south toward the equator instead of north toward the Arctic. Orientate yourself toward the direction that is going to offer the greatest chance of success.
5.) But a word of warning. Don’t confuse motion with progress. In sailing there is a difference between being underway and making way. Underway just means you’re no longer tied to the dock. Making may means you’re moving towards a destination. You can’t sail the ocean if you’re stuck in a landlocked lake.
You’re the captain of this ship. It’s your responsibility to grab the wheel and chase that horizon.