I am sitting in a little diner called Nicks in downtown Athol, Massachusetts. It is a bustling place, with people coming and going and all talking to each other as I sit in the corner and write.
I am in Massachusetts every week now. The woman I love, my new bride, lives and works here. So until she finds good work up in Vermont, we are sort of a migratory couple. I spend 2-3 days a week down here, working out of diners and her apartment, and she spends three days or so up in Vermont over the weekend.
It’s not ideal, perhaps, but having her in my life, day to day, each morning and night, is worth the extra driving. Fortunately for me, she seems to feel the same.
So, every week for the past couple of months, I’ve found myself in Athol.
Athol is one of those Mill Towns that dot the New England landscape. Unlike many of those mill towns, they still have a couple of factories running that employs a fair number of people. That’s one of the factories in the picture.
For me, Athol has become a place to explore. Some days, when I finish early, or when I have a hole in my schedule, I go out and wander around. Being away from home for a few days each week means that I need to find places to get things done. A diner to work from. stores to buy things. And like today, a place to get a hair cut.
I’ve done this much of my life. The truth is that I haven’t lived in the same state as my offices or where I worked since the early nineties. I’ve wandered as I worked since I was young. I have spent a lot of time each week in strange cities and along the way, I have explored and found where each had good pizza to eat or places to change my tires. I’ve found museums and drug stores.
I like the exploring. The learning of new places. Growing to feel their culture and energy.
And I get lost a lot.
That’s OK, I have learned. Getting lost is part of finding our way. We remember better when we get lost the first time or two than we do if we easily guide ourselves to a place. Google maps is a wonder, but at times, I prefer to blunder my way around, half lost.
When I am lost, I learn new things, new places, and always, new things I want to explore. I may be a little late to where I am going, but in the end, being lost has led me to some wonderful little corners of the world. So the fact that I get lost easily no longer worries me. Eventually, I will find my way. I always do.
It’s much the same with relationships. I’m a little dense sometimes. I don’t know if it is because I am a slow processor, because I listen too much to words and not enough to body language, or if I am just thick headed sometimes, but I very often miss the sub contexts of what’s going on with people and end up lost for a while until I catch up with what is really happening. Yeah, I am lost a lot. I freely admit it.
Because of that, I tend to listen more than I talk. I need to let life and people flesh out what they are talking about so I don’t make it up or assume or simply say something stupid.
But just like my life and work, I’ve come to accept that as part of the journey, that whole being lost thing. Not ideal, but it’s part of it. People rarely tell us what they are really thinking or feeling the first time or few. So wandering through uncomfortable territory is just part of the trip.
Here’s what I know. I will never stay lost. Eventually, I will see enough landmarks, or get my bearings and find my way. And once I do, I’ll never forget my way.
I am fortunate. The people closest to me are patient with me. They think I am worth waiting on, they seem to know that there are sometimes benefits to someone who is slow to react, slow to anger, slow at conclusions. I am grateful to all of them.
I use Google Maps sometimes. But mostly, I don’t. And of course, there is no Google Maps for relationships. Sometimes I wish there was. But other times, I am glad there is not. Where would the adventure be if there were? And I’d hate a life without adventure.
So I am off shortly. To get a haircut before my next work appointment. The haircutting place is right around the corner from the diner. I shouldn’t get lost.
But anything is possible.
Be well. Travel wisely,