I woke in the middle of the night. This occasionally happens. When it does, my mind is frequently overactive.
The dead of night is rarely the best time to think about deep things. I remember as a child that the shadows on the curtains became monsters; as an adult, it’s sort of similar – fears and concerns are magnified.
On this occasion, three words came to mind, and they wouldn’t go away. They were: ‘Am I lost?’
As I write, I am on the back-end of a crazy travel schedule that’s consisted of a week in Tokyo, a night in London, a week in New Zealand, a night in London, and a week in Canada. and then a night in London tomorrow will be followed by three days in southwest France, before I return home for a week in London for the International Wine Challenge.
This has been the pattern of the last 18 months. Or is it two years? Wandering.
In looking at our lives, we often use the metaphor of the journey. It gives a narrative structure that makes sense of our adventures and difficulties, the occasional success countered by a setback, and the sense that we are always pushing towards a destination that we never quite reach.
In this phase of my life, I’m quite literally journeying. But is my excessive travel a sign that I am lost?
This is the question that wouldn’t go out of my mind. It has been bugging me for some time. And while I think it can be dangerous to be too introspective, the occasional session of self-questioning is probably a healthy thing. It’s also very hard to see yourself in a true light. We are usually good at sussing out what is going on with our friends, but poor at reading our own situations. So I have been trying to step outside myself and look in, and be honest about what I see.
I am in a job where travelling is essential. The schedule I have is on the extreme side, but I have chosen it, and so far I seem to be handling it, making sure I give myself some rest while I’m on the road. I’m don’t think I’m running away from anything: I have a healthy, constructive relationship with my ex-wife and see my adult children fairly regularly. When I’m back in London I enjoy my time, and I value my friends and colleagues. I hope one day to settle in a community somewhere and not travel as much, but I’ll wait for the right time and place to make itself clear, and also I’ll be patient in waiting for my career pattern to shift a bit to make being at home, wherever that is, a more significant chunk of my time.
Still, it is good to ask the question. I suppose all of us are a little lost from time to time. To not be lost requires two things: knowledge of where we are now, and also some idea of where we are heading. I think I have these, at least in part.
But the question was still bugging me, until half way through this latest flight from Montreal to Amsterdam.
Back in February 2016 I was in California. I remember a friend sending me a message: ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ I think it was a line from the Hobbit. The next day, I checked into a hotel in Solvang, and the key had a leather key-ring. On it was embossed the same phrase: ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ It was the most remarkable sign (or coincidence). I’d only recently left home at that stage. It was incredibly reassuring. I’d forgotten completely about this until it came to mind just now. It was and is a voice from the universe saying keep going, it’s all OK, and it will be OK. You aren’t lost. You are not alone.