If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found. ~ Unknown
Much of the time, I seem to stumble blindly through life, never really noticing much around me. A perfect example presented itself to me this week. Perhaps your life works like this, also.
My good friend David and I have not seen each other for a number of years now. Despite the fact that he and his wife moved to the Dallas area a year ago, we have yet to see each other in the flesh. Lots of things have conspired to prevent a meeting. This past week, however, we finally made plans to get together for lunch.
Where to meet? My work is north of Dallas, his south. Somewhere in the middle seemed like a good idea. Being only a so-so fan of eating, I left it to my friend to choose the place. David suggested Kona Grill at NorthPark Center. Yes, okay, that’s about eight miles south of me down I-75. Exit 5a on to Northwest Highway, first right turn into what appears to be a city of its own. Ah, there’s a parking space not too far from an entrance.
Did I say somewhere in the middle? Well, not exactly. I had eight miles to drive, David had twenty. He was willing, however, and I felt pressed for time.
I pulled into my convenient parking spot just after deciding not to go through a stop sign and continuing on to what appeared might have wrapped me around to the back of NorthPark City. It was a few minutes before noon, so I hustled into the first entrance that presented itself to me. Where, I wonder, is Kona Grill? Ah, there’s one of those You Are Here signs. I studied the thing with my head cocked just-so as I searched for the little rectangle marked Kona. Having found it, I realized it was on the back side of this monstrosity. Having no idea how large the place was, I headed blithely out in the direction I thought would take me to my destination.
Luckily for me, I have a very good sense of direction. Not as in “taking direction” so much as in sensing direction. When I found myself in front of Neiman Marcus, I knew I’d overshot my desired destination in some way. I backtracked a bit and found another You Are Here sign. Hmm, I think I see the problem. I should have zigged where I zagged. Looks like I can get there by walking through CenterPark, an entirely enclosed green place in the middle of the complex. It’s good to have greenbelts in the midst of a city, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure it was a beautiful green area, though I raced through it without giving myself the time to take much notice.
Another You Are Here sign and I perceived Kona Grill was finally in my immediate vicinity. Yes, there’s the Swatch store. I must be getting close. Finally spotting the grill entrance, I boldly marched up to the woman behind the counter. Had she seen David, I ventured? We are to have lunch together here. No? Okay, I’ll just wait out in the walkway. Kona is located just inside the main entrance at the back of NorthPark. I figure it was no more than twenty miles from where I’d parked my car. From my vantage point in the four-lane walkway, I could see everyone coming and going from both directions whether they approached from the interior of the beast or were moving in from the outside.
I noticed NorthPark has valet parking just out at the curb. I thought to myself, “How lazy can you get?” while at the same time understanding why it might be worth it, considering the hike I’d taken to get this far.
For thirty minutes I paced from one side of the walkway to the other. I got a different view of traffic depending where I stood. Was that him? No, not old enough. Him? No, too much hair. Him? No, entirely too young. Him? No, pretty sure David doesn’t have tattoos and almost certain he wouldn’t wear a tank top on a work day.
I began to wonder why I’d left my cell phone in the car. What if he was trying to call? Or, I could have tried to call him. Now, however, it was too late to go back to the car to get it. By the time I could retrieve it, he might have had his lunch and be heading back south. No, I’d just have to wait and watch.
By 12:30, it was clear something was amiss. I had no choice but to head back to my car, then back to work. I just couldn’t stay away for an indeterminate length of time. It was clear something had come up or that he was also lost somewhere in NorthPark City – perhaps waiting for a bus to shuttle him to our meeting. Reluctantly, I made the decision to make my way back to my car. This is where that sense of direction came in handy. I headed back with no wrong turns. I took the shortest, straightest winding path possible.
I checked my cell phone when I got back to the car. Nope, no calls. Trying to call, I got no answer — no voicemail. I started the car and headed back to work. Once there, I sent an email apologizing for not being able to wait. David’s reply was that he’d left fifteen minutes late, then got caught in traffic behind an accident, but had left me several messages explaining what was going on. Once he’d finally made it to NorthPark, he also found himself at a loss to find Kona for a time.
Ever feel lost even after you’ve found what you’re looking for? This was one of those times. We both knew where we were going, sort of, just didn’t know how to find it once we arrived. A lot of my life feels exactly like that.
You see, there was a flaw in our plans. Okay, truthfully there were multiple flaws in our plan. First, neither of us had zoomed our Google view of NorthPark down to the store level. We knew Kona Grill was at NorthPark – how hard could that be? Neither of us had ever been to NorthPark, so probably should have done our homework a little better. Second, I’d left my phone in the car. Gee, how’d we ever do this before cell phones? Turns out, though, having my phone with me wouldn’t have done either of us any good. We discovered later that we each had the other’s old phone number. David said that at least whomever had my old number would probably be entertained by his play-by-play traffic reports.
Seems to me that we all start out life without a map. Even in these days of Google, iPhones, and GPS, we’re left largely on our own to find our way through life. It’s obvious to me that some do this better than others. Some of us may just be slow learners, though. I believe that’s my category. It’s not exactly that I didn’t know where I wanted to end up, just that I had no idea how to get there or even where to start. Gradually, even my idea of where I wanted to end up became lost. Gradually, those ideas appeared to have died from neglect.
In the movie, Mahogany (1975), Diana Ross sings, “Do you know where you’re going to? / Do you like the things that life is showing you? / Where are you going to? do you know?” I was twenty-two or twenty-three when I first heard those words. At the time, I’m not certain I knew why the song depressed me. If I knew, I chose to ignore it. But, I had no idea where I was going and didn’t particularly like the things life was showing me. Like too many of us (men, in particular), I refused to ask directions. I probably should have asked. Even if the directions turned out to be a little less than accurate, it might have started me back on a path to somewhere I’d want to end up.
David and I are planning to try again this next week. He said, “Now that we’re experts at knowing how to find Kona Grill, we should plan to meet there.” I agreed. We could meet again at the same place — for the first time. God forbid we should choose a different spot we’ve neither of us seen before. Baby steps. If we can manage to find each other now at a place we’ve each found separately, there’s a chance we could find another new place in the future.
Sometimes the path less traveled leads you nowhere in particular. The important thing, I think, is to take a lesson away from each wrong turn. David and I now know where we plan to meet next week. We also have each other’s new cell numbers. I’ve learned it’s not a good idea to leave my phone in the car and also to question whether that convenient-looking parking spot is, indeed, convenient. As I said, baby steps.
The hymn, Amazing Grace, says “I once was lost, but now am found.” It may have taken me forty years, but I believe I am finally found. And to think I was right here all along! All I had to do was surrender to my lostness and grab hold of the hands held out to help. In An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor talks about the value of getting lost in order to truly find yourself. And to think I’d already done that before I even got to that part of the book! I feel like I’m destined for the head of the class.
In a slightly less spiritual sense, Auntie Mame said, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
So, my friends, welcome to the banquet. It may sometimes be difficult to find and you may often feel lost, but it’s worth the effort — even if you can’t find Kona Grill on your very first try. The detour may find you discovering more than you ever expected was possible. And you may just find the person you thought you’d lost forever. I did.