True north…or is it south?


Despite the fact that someone once told me my heart points true north, I wouldn’t know true north if, by some act of God, I was facing true north. This can surely be catalogued as another one of my father’s greatest disappointments in life. Three out of four offspring pass the directions test. I am the flunkee. We grew up listening to, “Now, head south two miles, veer west about a half-mile past the second telephone pole, and immediately after Sobieski’s, turn east.” This was all fine if you headed south in the first place. If not, the rest was moot. Fortunately for me, Iowa boasts a recognizable paved road within 30 minutes (usually) of even the worst of directional errors. Things are much different in Wyoming ,Colorado, or say, Montana. Two hours is the general rule of thumb for correctional driving. Luckily, I found this out when I was not driving (sorry Big Man) and we had a full (ish) tank of gas.

At any rate, the obvious errors in my internal navigational system appeared long before the Iowa gravel roads started carrying the snappy names they have now. Rural Route 2 is now Story Avenue. Clearly, the universe has a sense of humor.

Since I am coming out as “directionally challenged”, I may as well confess that there are not enough appendages on my body to count the number of times I have been in tears in a car by myself attempting to sort myself out. While I am not afraid to ask for directions, it usually has to happen after I can wipe all traces of drama off my red face and I have a clear sense that the person giving the directions truly knows what they are talking about. Any prefaces of “I think” or “I am not sure, but…” will not instill hope into my barely existing confidence. I will mutter”Thanks” and bolt.

Directions for me must be specific to the point of being exactly as things exist on the road while I am driving on it. I don’t want options….just directions. My greatest peeve is, “Well, which way would you like to go?” You are assuming I know my options, I care about them, and I will understand the nuances of their differences. I do not. I just want specific directions that get me from point A to point B.

I freely admit to this chip on my directionally challenged shoulder and so to save time, embarrassment and harrassment (by you to me for being so pathetically, directionally challenged), treat me like the hopeless being I am. Pretend you are speaking to a poorly educated eight year old. Give me landmarks (more is better) and be current. It doesn’t help to ask me to use a navigational device…it is likely I can’t use that either. It is impossible to listen, watch for signs and landmarks, and look at a map all at once.

Stronger people look at these things as a challenge to overcome. I look at it as a waste of tears…I need to shore up for real pain…not mere frustration caused my genetic incompetency.

Better than any Garmin is my live human navigational system currently run by my sister and husband. With the right mix of cheerleader, zen master, and no-nonsense teacher, both have safely navigated me out of major mishaps to the desired location. I have received non-judgemental, loving, and helpful guidance on the side of many a road while my hazards flash, the snot and tears flow, and hiccups subside. Oh, I well-know what they must say to their friends after we are done. But for those moments, I am re-centered, bolstered and re-directed with such care that what they may say or think afterwards does not matter one iota to me.

I should change. I should grow a spine, study maps, toy with Google Mapquest, and install that talking app on my phone. None of these things really gets at the glitch in my own system. I will continue to be late, lost, and properly directed while unable to follow directions. My hope is that people will remain tolerant. After all, my heart remains in the right place.