You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.
– Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
Mr. Stuck is a former Boy Scout who knows how to tie a gazillion knots, rig up a shelter in a flash, and navigate by the stars. He was consistently successful in Scout orienteering, where the participants use a compass and a map to go from start to finish on a course via several control waypoints; the one to finish accurately in the least time, wins. (I once read how a person can navigate by how the moss grows on trees; in the Northern Hemisphere, it grows mostly on the north* side of the tree, and the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere. That may work in some parts of the world, but up here in the Pacific Northwest, moss grows everywhere. Trust me.)
I’m grateful for his skills, especially for his ability to find his way around. You see, I have a confession to make: I am a navigational imbecile. That’s right – I’m one of those folks who can’t find my way out of a paper sack or find my car in a parking lot. About the only places I know how to find dependably are my workplace, my parents’ house, and my own home, and even that’s debatable sometimes. And don’t ask me to draw a map to show you how to get there – that’s not going to turn out well. Sorry.
The Mister does this kind of stuff for a living; it’s a perfect fit for his aptitude. His job is to locate underground utilities, and that has taken him to clients in several states as well as all over our own. Most of the time, it’s pretty straightforward, but some days will find him trudging through swampy terrain, climbing hills, or blazing a trail through thick underbrush; it can be very demanding. But I know he will never get lost, no matter where he finds himself.
My lack of a natural sense of direction flummoxes and frustrates him on a regular basis. I’m a map turner, which means I can only visualize where I’m going if I turn the map so north is at the top. This makes me a mediocre navigator at best. For reasons I’m not sure I understand, Mr. Stuck normally has me drive when we’re going somewhere together, unless we’re heading out of town to an unfamiliar place; even then, sometimes, he’ll turn it over to me. (I think it’s the navigational equivalent of eating my vegetables.) Even driving around locally, I still get turned around, and I’m often completely confused as to which way I’m supposed to be going. Poor Mister – he wonders how I can be so smart and yet still get lost in a parking lot. I don’t know – it’s just how I am.
Back in the dark ages, before GPS units graced cars and cell phones, he hit upon an idea for me. Given that I would get to an intersection and my instinct would tell me I should be turning left when in reality I needed to turn right, he gave me some keen words of advice: Go with your elbow.
Huh? What do you mean, go with my elbow?
And then I realized: if I’m pointing left, my elbow is pointing right. Instead of following my gut or trying to remember from whence I came, neither of which is reliable in my case, going with my elbow means I will most likely make it back. Brilliant! It works for me. (Of course, the GPS also works for me, so I use it. A lot. Thank you, GPS inventor!)
Going with your elbow means changing direction, usually 180 degrees, from what you initially had in mind – but it’s not necessarily about driving. Maybe it means changing a habit and learning something new, like what I’ve been doing as I re-learn how to shop, cook, and eat after WLS. Maybe it means addressing the negative thinking and turning it around. Maybe it means ditching the status quo for something new and different. Maybe it means saying no when you’re used to saying yes, or vice-versa.
Fifty is approaching quickly, and I want to head the rest of my life in a better direction. I need a map and a compass so I don’t get lost. Thankfully, I have a great tour guide and companion in Mr. Stuck. The path I was on is deeply rutted; it is full of bad choices and littered with their detritus. I have come to a crossroads; I can follow the well-worn path of getting by, or I can strike out on a different route.
Instead of doing the same old thing, I’m going with my elbow. Maybe it would work for you, too.
*Thanks to astute reader Nanette for correcting me — I had the moss thing backwards. See what I mean? I haven’t a clue! Thanks, Nanette!