My heart began to race as the frost-laced fields sped by. Had I just done the one thing that would ensure my disappearance?
He had said it was the right thing to do — to get onto the empty bus, going in the wrong direction. And I had trusted him. I had stepped on board, and now I was hurtling into the unknown. Even more recklessly, I was ignoring the mandatory seatbelt rule.
But my trust wasn’t complete. He was a stranger, after all, and he didn’t speak my language. Or, more accurately, I didn’t speak his.
He could easily keep driving, turn up an abandoned road, collect a few of his buddies, and have his way with me.
I was completely disoriented, with no specific idea where I was. The cellphone gripped in my hand was useless for anything but a snapshot of the drama, completely disconnected from any of the mysterious wifi mojo that would gain me access to a world under my control. My self-defense training was hidden in the back recesses of my brain.
We really shouldn’t have gotten into that conversation last night about the differing crime rates in Norway and the U.S., and gun control, and childhood traumas, and the latest season of “The Bridge.” I shouldn’t have mentioned how cute I thought the guy who stars in “Vikings” is, or how much that show keeps popping into my head since I hopped into the Viking Museum last week in Oslo to check out the thousand-year-old Viking ships. I shouldn’t have been distracted by the Milky Way’s imprint, and how long it has been since I last saw it, when she was instructing me on bus routes and times as we stood in the night’s bitter cold.
But that’s what happens when you’re catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in almost 20 years.
And so now I found myself with an overactive imagination, on a well-heated local bus, traveling country roads across Norwegian hillsides.
And I had to laugh at my dark thoughts.
Here’s a choice: reorientation or fear.
I travel to reorient myself in the world.
By placing myself into unknown situations, under unknown conditions, with unknown variables, I am confronted by my assumptions, my expectations and my perceived limitations.
I see my self with a clarity often difficult to obtain when I’m immersed in a long-standing status quo. (Difficult, but not impossible, I acknowledge.)
And with clarity comes conscious choice.
- Do I want to be a trusting or a distrusting person?
- Do I want to think the best of people or the worst?
- Do I want to step into the unknown or stand back and let it pass me by?
- Do I want to take a risk or remain exactly where I am?
- How have I been answering these questions recently, and how do I want to be answering them going forward?
I am also confronted by the assumptions, expectations and perceived limitations of my culture.
These are the beliefs and habits and views of the world, and my place in it, that, consciously or (often) unconsciously, I’ve adopted as truths.
- Don’t trust strangers.
- Don’t show weakness.
- Don’t look lost.
- Don’t wander off.
The warnings may be left over from childhood — as so much of what keeps us from leaping into our fully expressed selves can be, remnants of once valuable boundaries decayed into barbed wire barriers against mirage boogiemen — but their hooks are solidly planted in our psyches.
I took a deep breath. I noticed the blue sky and bright sun, the first of both I’d seen since getting to this particular corner of the Viking world. I watched the frost melt and the fog lift over the pines.
I noticed the similarities to the worlds I’ve known. I noticed the differences. I noticed the beauty, all the details burning my pupils black.
It’s the details that help us reorient ourselves toward the direction we want to go.
And I opened up. Actually, I think I even thawed. Just like the land.
The bus slowed to a stop. An old man got on. We both said “hi.”
And I glanced toward the Viking marauder behind the wheel, noticing his smile.
Of course, I also eventually got to where I was wanting to go.
Now, tell me, what are you noticing to help you reorient in the direction you want to go?
Let me know if I can be of any help as you navigate your way.