Lost in the city

Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

Flashback to … April 16, 2012 (just after I left my ex and moved to Richmond)

Do you remember when you were little, how being dizzy used to be fun? Maybe it wasn’t that way for you. But it was for me. My brothers and I used to play at it. We always seemed to make dizziness into a game somehow. On any given day we could be found hanging upside-down on the ratty beige couch in the living room, pretending to walk on the ceiling. Or maybe spinning around like barefoot helicopters in the emerald grass, arms outstretched, staring at swirling puffs of cotton in the baby-blue sky. Ooooh, who can spin around the fastest in Dad’s gigantic office chair without barfing and before we get caught? And what birthday party is complete without some kind of activity that involves a bandana-blindfolded dizzy kid flailing wildly with a pointy object aiming for a donkey’s hiney or swinging a bat at some candy-filled amorphous animal?

Yeah, back then dizzy was fun. Disorientation was associated with mystery and excitement, and nausea spelled adventure, right? Now? Not so much.

Disoriented? Yes. Exactly. That is precisely what I am right now. And can I just say? It is not fun. Not mysterious and exciting. Not adventurous. Not right now. Actually, quite frankly, right now? I HATE IT. Go ahead. Call me a weenie. Tell me that I’ll come around. That I need to look at my life as a blank canvas and use this as an opportunity to find myself and do something significant, make a fresh start. I know all that stuff. I tell myself that, too. But, guess what? I’ve decided that sometimes I’m allowed to hate where I’m at too. Still, I admit, I do have a wee bit of perspective sometimes. Observe and partake of my wisdom. (Or the brief moment I experienced of it the other day. I figured I had better capture it so I could revisit it later … in my not-so-wise, hateful type moments … okay so maybe like now … *sigh*)

As it so happens, I pretty much have absolutely no natural sense of direction. That might have something to do with the fact that I’ve rarely lived anywhere longer than about five years. So, here I am in a new place again, trying desperately to learn the lay of the land and basically failing miserably, as usual. Not wanting to break character, I took about an hour detour on my way home from a doctor’s appointment last week and ended up downtown. And, just like every other downtown I’ve ever visited, the streets are laid out as though someone put down a piece of paper, drew a bunch of x’s where the skyscrapers were going to go, then dropped a pile of spaghetti noodles on top and said, “Yep, that’s where we’re going to put the roads.” (A friend of mine once described our downtown that way and I thought it captured the essence perfectly!) Oh, yeah. And don’t forget that each of those roads needs to be one-way only. At first, I panicked. What? I thought. I’m not supposed to be here. Then I struggled. How do I get out of here? Where am I? I don’t know where I am! Then I started to worry about my safety. I don’t know where I’m going! I missed the way back to the highway! What if I end up in a sketchy part of town? Are my doors locked? My phone is almost dead! Help! Then I just had to pray and drive. It was the only thing left to do.

After circling around seventy-five different city-blocks for what felt like an eternity and listening to my GPS announce the word “recalculating” for the five-hundredth time, something happened to me. I began to submit, and to stop and look out the window. And I saw more than the roads. I saw the people in the city. The construction worker in his dirty white hard hat and day-glow vest pausing to wipe the sweat off his brow. The college student cycling by in a shirt, tie, slacks — a red backpack slung over his shoulder. The slender dark-suited woman clicking her high heels through the crosswalk while talking on her cell phone. The two chums chatting while walking a fluffy golden retriever through the streets. All of them seemed so busy. So purposeful. And suddenly I felt even more lost and alone than when I’d been concentrating on the roads. What am I doing here? I thought. They all know why they are here. They each have a purpose. They are working or walking or going to school or chatting with a friend. I am just lost. I am just a wanderer. I have no real purpose. I don’t belong here. I tasted the salty sting of the tears as they burned down my cheeks. And I let them fall. I embraced that moment of self-pity. Because it’s okay for me to mourn what I have lost. I’ve left everything I’ve known behind — my friendships, my life, my marriage, my home. They have all been destroyed. Broken and shattered beyond repair. I have to pick up the pieces and use them to build something new and different. Because what I have left behind can never be rebuilt. It would be like trying to rebuild a tree from the ashes remaining after a forest fire.

The images through my car windows blurred as I wept. I felt angry and broken and lonely. And so lost. Lost in the city, in so many more ways than one.

Then something funny happened. I went over a bridge. There is a massive river that runs through our downtown. And I was struck by the majesty of it. I looked down at the rapids and was caught up for a moment in the sheer beauty of the view. It lifted my spirits a little. And I let it. Feeling empowered, I turned off my blasted GPS and decided to trust my gut (eeek!) and try to feel my way through. Would you believe it? I actually managed to turn another corner. And I came upon yet another unexpected sight — an enormous stretch of rolling almost-florescent early spring grass and exquisite flowers that nearly took my breath away. Actually it was all I could do to not ditch my car and go running through it in my bare feet.  Even now, my heart is racing at the thought of taking my little boys back there to romp around. It seems there is a city park in the middle of our downtown! And quite a sizeable one at that. Who knew? So, in the end, I drove in a few more circles. So what?  Do you know? I actually started to laugh at one point. I was so lost. But, I decided — I decided — to stop, chill out, smell the flowers if you will, and laugh about it. And you know, I got home later than I expected. But I did get home. And I was really lost out there. But I couldn’t change that. So I just dealt with it the best way I knew how.

I hope I can do that with my life.

At the very least, I can give it a shot, right? And whenever I’m feeling angry, weepy, lost, hateful, bitter, or just plain MAD AT THE WORLD (which is allowed, by the way) perhaps I will just come back here and partake of my little epiphany.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Ansulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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