January 3, 2012 | 12:02 am
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
On New Years Eve, only a few hours shy of 2012, I decided to drive from my house in Silverlake to Huntington Beach, so that I could be with a woman whom I have recently started to date. While driving in the dark on an unfamiliar route, halfway between our houses, I hit some very dense fog, and was having trouble reading the signs along the highway. I was also having trouble with the navigation because I was unfamiliar with my new GPS. I began to get the feeling that I may have already missed my exit, but I wasn’t sure, and kept going. The drive had become an intense experience, and I became anxious and frustrated. To top it off, I am truly clueless when it comes to having a sense of direction. I was lost, and by accident, had even gotten onto the wrong highway at one point. I decided to just get off the 405 and attempt to use my GPS again to help me find my way from wherever I was. Turns out that had I driven several miles past the exit, and added an additional half hour to my trip.
I found myself getting angry at the situation. Right after I had gotten off the highway, she had sent me a text saying that she was getting sleepy, and I immediately had the urge to just drive back home. As soon as I recognized that I was getting caught up in the unhealthy cycle of being angry, I stopped myself and said, “What is my responsibility in this situation? How can I see things differently?” In that moment of surrender, I acknowledged the reality that I am often unable to wrap my head around directions, and when combined with darkness, fog and a faulty GPS, the moment is going to get complicated. I need to be more aware and prepared for when these kinds of situations may come up. I also acknowledged that my anger was a defense mechanism, and that it was really just masking the embarrassment I had for getting so lost.
By 11pm, the drive got even foggier because the route I was told to take was on the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the ocean. When I first got onto PCH, I was bummed because I couldn’t see the beautiful ocean at all, and I immediately recognized my negative thinking, and instead of getting upset about that, I rolled down the windows and let myself feel and smell the ocean air. I began to feel the presence of the ocean, even with the fog, and it made me happy. In the past, when I was struggling with addiction and felt dead inside, when I would look out at the ocean, I would feel nothing. I could be at the beach witnessing the most magnificent sunset, but still felt nothing, which depressed me even more. Here I was, driving through dense fog, and yet I could still feel the presence of the magnificent ocean. It made me realize how far I’ve come from my struggles, and that I felt open, alive and connected. I became grateful.
As I arrived to my destination, I became annoyed for a moment because I couldn’t find parking anywhere close to where she lived. After I parked and began to walk through the foggy streets, I crossed a man who initially came off to me as being a bit creepy. As soon as he asked me a question and we began to talk, I could see that he was a sweet man. He was just lost in an unfamiliar and foggy neighborhood, like I had been lost on the highway, and just wanted some direction. When I told him that I wasn’t from around there, he thanked me anyways and gave me a nice smile and wished me a happy new year. His voice sounded genuine, and when I said it back, I knew that I was also being genuine. The experience made me feel good, because of how in the past, when I felt empty and dead inside, I struggled to connect and have genuine experiences with most people, and here I was having a genuine, sweet and simple exchange with a stranger.
As I kept walking, I began to think about what I could take away from my experience with getting lost in the fog. What was the message that I needed to learn? I believe that we are given the opportunity for personal growth, with every challenge we face, if we choose to do so. I realized that similar to the lack of visibility that I experienced in the fog, as we enter the New Year, we really don’t know what we’re walking into. We can have a general idea of what’s to come, but we cannot predict all of the challenges we will face, as life unfolds. The radical and unexpected changes, unseen forces, and wildcards that we will face, offer us the opportunity to empower ourselves by having the ability to surrender to the perfection of the bigger picture. I felt really good as I thought about walking into the unknown, because I have faith and integrity these days, and a strong ability to handle challenges. When you struggle with addiction, you cannot count on your ability to handle issues well, and in fact, you create most of the issues for yourself and those around you. In that moment, I had transformed what could have been viewed as an awful experience, into a spiritual one. In every moment we have an opportunity to transform the way we view our reality in order to create a new experience. I want to make the most of this life and reach my highest potential, and remove the stumbling blocks that come my way. Even though I had a far walk to her house, it allowed me the chance to discover my new years resolution, which is to be really mindful of my attitude during challenges, and empower myself to transform my experiences. I am actually grateful for the fog, because it blinded me from outside distractions and forced me to be in the present moment. The irony is that fog was the catalyst to help me shed the light needed to clear my own foggy mind.
As I entered her apartment, I felt really good because I knew that I was meeting her with an uplifted spirit, and not an angry one. She had left her front door open, and when I walked up to her, I was greeted with a sweet smile, as she was just waking up and stretching. I realized that the embarrassment I felt for getting lost wasn’t even necessary…the only reason why she told me she was getting sleepy was to let me know that she was going to take a nap. Since she had been sleeping, she didn’t even notice the time it took me. I’m so glad I didn’t turn around and drive home. I ended up having a really nice time with her.
I’m sharing this experience because I want you, the reader, to think about how you can empower yourself to completely transform your experiences. We often get so caught up in our heated emotions over situations and challenges, that we let them fog our minds, and we loose sight of the blessings that can be found within almost every situation, if we allow ourselves to.
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