When I was at school, we had an English Literature book called ‘Things fall apart’, by Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. It was an interesting and profound read and while I of course have forgotten most of the detail, what stayed with me was the title.
One day, when I was overwhelmed with grief because I knew that my marriage could not survive, I sat staring ahead, feeling numb and those words just came to me – things fall apart and I have revisited them many times since.
At that time, my whole world was rapidly collapsing and I felt really helpless and lost. I am (unfortunately) famous for having absolutely no sense of direction. I can get lost (while driving) without much effort and when I do, I usually panic. On more than one occasion, because of Murphy directing the laws of life, my cell phone has only had about 3 percent battery remaining. I have been known to call home to say ‘not to worry, if I’m not home for a while’ (in the bravest voice that I can muster), as I try to navigate my way out of no mans land.
You may be wondering, why I don’t use an electronic map system to direct me. Well, I do. But during my WTF am I moments, as I drive past cows and see signs indicating that the ocean is ahead (I live in the city), me being lost has been because my American voiced map, does not know about a road closure or a new highway.
Just to add to the experience of getting ridiculously lost and driving past the same cow (who by that stage is on a first name basis with me) on the same wrong road more than once, my petrol usually starts to wave goodbye to me with a flashing light (true story).
As you can tell by the mere fact of reading this tale, I thankfully always (somehow) find my way home in the end. How do I go from hyperventilating in the middle of the countryside to suddenly recognising a street and breathing a sigh of relief that I will not have to abandon my car and catch a bus home (or worst case scenario, join the circus)? Well on one occasion, I wondered if a prayer that I had whimpered (ok … cried) was suddenly answered. Then there was the time (after being lost for nearly an hour, with a dead cell phone) that it felt like a stroke of good luck, if you believe in such things. Whatever the (unknown) reason may be that I manage to get out of my embarrassing predicaments, the only thing that I can say with certainty, is that I always do….
When things fell apart in my marriage and I had no map for how I would go forward in my life, somehow, I also found a path to follow. Was that because of a higher power and praying or was it luck or karma or something else? Well I think the answer to this is because of a whole lot of things (again) depending on where your belief lies.
Finding a path home after my marriage ended has not only meant that I have arrived at the me that became lost, but also that I found a great gift. And that is the realisation that firstly there is no set path and no map for our lives, certainly none that is revealed to us. Once I came to understand this, I no longer felt lost. Yes, key elements of my life, were lying scattered at my feet, but as soon as I was freed to tear up the map that had existed (only) in my mind (for so long) and decided to try and enjoy the (unchartered) journey, I began to slowly rebuild what had fallen apart, with new bricks. I now know that these bricks can and will chip and break and need new plaster and paint and that I may renovate (often), but that I have the power to be a great architect. And next time I get lost whilst driving (and I will), I will take a deep breathe, stop and have tea with my friend at the side of the road, Molly the cow.