“If I were a magician, I’d hand out broken compasses. It’s all about misdirection.” – Jarod Kintz
Taos creativity retreat. Years ago. Stashes of colored craft paper, newsprint, crayons, markers, glitter, scissors and glue spread out over a large table before 40-plus participants. Our challenge? Make a map that depicts your life. Your journey. Where you came from. Where you are going. And plan to share it with the group after lunch. The room burst into a flurry as we gathered our map charting materials.
Back at my table, I waited for the green and pink colored craft paper I selected as my home base to speak to me. Army brat. Gypsy wife. Detroit. New York. Los Angeles. Atlanta. Hopes. Dreams. Betrayals. Celebrations.
My left-brain was the first to speak. “Well, you’re screwed. How you gonna map out your mess?” My right-brain rebelled against flashes of intersecting points created by lines and pictures that stated, “You were there. You are here.”
I started tearing the green paper, trying not to look as lost as I felt. Maybe a collage. Odd shapes dropped onto the table in front of me. Then I noticed. One of the pieces looked like a heart.
“That’s it! A map of my heart. Where it’s been and what keeps it going.”
But it couldn’t be flat. It needed depth. Dimension. Peaks and valleys that spoke to joy and achievement, disappointment and heartache. I grabbed the pink paper and tore it into strips, crumpled them up, and reached for the glue. The chatter in the room faded into a distant hum as I glued crumply pink strips onto a smooth green base.
“Good but not enough,” I thought. Brush and glue in hand, I started sprinkling glitter. Gold for days. Silver for nights. Red for passion. I wanted to capture this heart’s dance with the light, even in the deepest, darkest places. My map had to show the healed over craters that spoke to blasting points and pieces that were lost along the way.
Tear glue sprinkle. Patch mend patch mend. The dance of light revealed even in the shadows. The rough terrain is what makes its journey beautiful. The places it has visited, the experiences it has had is what draws me in to explore its map-wisdom again and again, even on sparsely documented roadways.
I looked at this tiny little heart held in my hand. MY hand. Choices to love anyway flashing before me. My eyes welled up. This was my map. Always had been. Always will be.
But it wasn’t finished. It needed one more thing, something for the journey ahead. I looked around and noticed a pink feather in the ephemera stash. Yes! A wing. But just one. One spoke to the kind of grace that having just one angel wing offered in this world. An invitation to lift off and rise just slightly above the journey before me to see a bigger picture and remind me that experiences do not define me, but rather, refine me.
I kept this paper heart. The pink and green has faded. And it is dusty. But its message remains clear.
The beauty in each of us is not always found in the perfectly smooth and well-manicured landscapes. Sometimes it is hidden in those rumpled and crumpled messy places we try to hide.
Embrace them. Yes, the uncharted messy places. Embrace them because the raw energy they offer can uncover and refine your shine in a way that manicured landscapes cannot. You didn’t come here to simply be a tourist. I know because you read this far. And if you find yourself lost in a bewildering wilderness, take a moment to breathe and look around. I’ll bet there is someone nearby who isn’t afraid to venture off the map with you and embrace you where you are while you find your glitter and glue. With your heart as a map and your soul as a compass, you will never truly be lost.