Advent 15: Lost in the Woods


Parker Palmer had a beautiful Facebook post this morning, referencing David Wagoner’s poem Lost :

I thought of [getting lost in the woods] when I woke up this morning feeling a bit lost in the wilds of my own life—lost because, for the moment, I’m without a strong sense of purpose. My temptation is to run madly toward something, anything, that feels like it might fill that void.

But that’s the way to become even more lost! So I need remember what happened on that mountain trail. I didn't keep running trying to find what I'd lost. I stopped until it found me.

Right now, my job is to wait out this feeling of being lost, to open myself to life and trust that it will find me—if I keep my eyes and ears open and am willing to follow the clues.

As David Wagoner says in this marvelous poem, "Stand still. The forest knows / Where you are. You must let it find you."

I love his phrase, “Getting lost in the wilds of my own life.” And how honest he is about being without a strong sense of purpose. (After the many books he’s written and non-profits he’s started, I want to tell him to take a breath! But that’s probably why this time in his life feels so uncertain.)

In the last week, I’ve felt lost in the wilds of my parenting life. It turns out that adolescence is a real phenomenon wherein one’s child might lose his way and wonder who he is. And it turns out that is painful for everyone and can’t be totally mitigated by a mother, no matter how enlightened or emotionally intelligent she may imagine herself to be.

I have such an urge to FIX things, to treat this whole season as a technical challenge with a technical solution. But I know it’s an adaptive challenge for all of us, and that relaxing into who we are is a journey that may start in adolescence, but continues throughout our whole lives.

This morning I went to a cycling class at the YMCA. Those 75 year-olds kick my butt every time. The instructor played rock-n-roll Christmas hits. The man on the bike to my right sang every word to Bruce Springsteen’s Merry Christmas Baby, and the senior in the back of the room wore a t-shirt that said “Yeah” in glitter letters. I said to myself, “Everything is going to be alright.”

And then I had breakfast with my friend Janel and cried all over my toast. She said, “I will leave my phone on. You can call me in the middle of the night if you need to.”

Okay, Parker. Okay, God—“Right now, my job is to wait out this feeling of being lost, to open myself to life and trust that it will find me.” At least for today, I was found.