I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

Joshua Tree National Park-Cholla cactus 
During the first part of March, I took a solo road trip down to Southern California. I had never driven anywhere that far by myself before. My goal was to see if I could really do it, drive myself 8+ hours somewhere and arrive safely at my destination without too much pain and heartache, i.e. getting lost!

Spoiler alert: I made it! And I didn't get lost. Well, that is a small fib actually. I took one wrong turn but quickly corrected myself once I saw that I was headed in the wrong direction (my car has a navigation readout on the dashboard). 

During the next several days there were actually a few moments like the above; moments where I sensed I was going in the wrong direction and had to stop. I would check my notes, the map, and my phone, and then reset my course. After awhile, I became aware that I was actually navigating on my own, getting a good feel intuitively for which direction I was headed in. (I am very directionally challenged as a rule though in the past few years, I have made an effort to get better.) 

Luckily, I did have some help in finding my way around. For one thing I had done my homework prior to setting out. I had paper maps, written directions, and routes loaded onto my phone. I also had the addresses of places where I would be going so I could easily look those up using my phone as well. (Isn't the Internet swell?) Lastly, a hiking friend has tried in the past to help me learn about the sun's position in determining both time of day and direction. I actively used her advice in conjunction with my car's location readout. It was fun to see if I was guessing correctly. (Most of the time I was close.) All in all, I had only a few missteps in getting around. It wasn't too hard to correct my course and get going in the right direction again.

Lately I have been thinking about my navigational experiences in Southern California. So much of our daily lives demand that we be able to spot missteps and regroup; to change our minds, our attitudes, and our actions. Sometimes this has to happen quickly, much as it did for me as I missed an off ramp on the I-10. Not to worry though and cause an accident by trying to catch that exit! There is almost always another chance coming up to get off of the freeway. There can be times though when you may be miles past the correct turn before you realize you have made a mistake. It may take some maneuvering, but you can almost always backtrack and find the correct route. There may even be multiple ways of getting to that destination.

My time on vacation, of navigating by myself, has made me thoughtful in some surprising and unexpected ways. For example, as I was cooking this morning, I considered that finding the correct route and maneuvering around a new city or town is similar to many things that we do in life. We often have to correct course. I realized that I have gotten a little off track lately with my eating habits. Too much added sugar has crept back into my diet. I also love the Veganaise a little bit too much! None of that is going to do me in (I hope!) but it isn't going to help either. I simply haven't been actively paying attention. As Ellen Langer might say, I have been mindless and not mindful. (I highly recommend checking out Ellen Langer, by the way. I listened to a podcast that she gave and it was an eye-opener!) Being mindful requires being awake and paying attention. It's noticing things and being aware. It's so important to do this; to be actively participating. That's a tall order, I know, but it's critical. We need to be flexible, to recognize that we are going in the wrong direction, and we have to actively cultivate those skills that are needed to self correct. You can't do any of that unless you are making an effort to really notice things.

There's no better time than now to hone these skills in a consistent kind of way. I felt that this morning I was really doing that, really paying attention. I am not making any big resolutions about that sugar intake or the Veganaise, but I am simply commiting to thinking about things. I am correcting my course just like I did in the car when I realized that I had made a wrong turn. And in the spirit of that self correction, I am not going to rid my pantry of the "no-no" foods (that would be too radical a move) but I will make some better, more conscious choices about "how often" and "how much". Same thing with the Veganaise. (It's hard to find this product in my area anyway now so that makes things a little easier.) I have a couple of hummus recipes picked out to try instead. It certainly can't hurt.

Big changes are not my thing. I can make small moves much more easily. I would never swerve off of the freeway from the left hand lane in an effort to catch that missed exit that is rapidly disappearing in my rear view mirror. It's more likely that I would calmly change lanes safely, and exit further down the road, all the while trying to pay attention (and not beat myself up for not paying attention). I'd rather catch myself and correct course than to just go cruising past the exit, never realizing that all the while I was heading in the wrong direction!

Good luck with your navigation today! Thanks for reading.