Sometimes the best way to find ourselves can be to become entirely lost. I say this as someone who has the knee jerk reaction of feeling claustrophobic at any given moment. At any moment, of any day, I will have a moment when I just want to drop everything and run.... somewhere... anywhere. Anything can trigger it: a crammed diary, too many things on a to do list, or even things just being too predictable and routine. I am nothing if not contrary in my need to feel in control.
A year ago these feelings were seeping in with all too frequent regularity. I was trying to establish myself as a full time blogger, podcaster and writer. I had a small child who relied on me every day of the week. I was navigating the tornado that is separating from your child's father and the legal and financial twists and turns that result. I'd often find myself in the garden, absentmindedly plucking at weeds or sitting in the local park, eyes shut and turned to the sun. I sat quietly in these moments and tried to ignore a growing discomfort with our life in London. Any small comfort rapidly turned to a claustrophobic need to escape. Cafes felt like they were full of others nailing their parenting or freelance lives. The parks crammed so full of people on sunny days that it was like sitting within a mob when you had a picnic. Suddenly I just needed to get us out or face a day to day existence of the mean reds.
I picked us up. I took us elsewhere. Against advice and people worrying my impulsive streak had gone too far this time, I took the greatest adventure I've ever taken. I landed in rural Dorset with limited furniture and funds and invited it to surprise me. It's not disappointed me yet.
Since moving to the countryside, I've spent a lot of time just soaking in the surroundings. Moments with my camera getting entirely lost bring me the much needed space for my mind to shake out all its complicated knots and tangles. It's in these moments that I start to feel creative and free again and words flow more easily. I pause and note the new flora and fauna that week. I take in the dry stone walls. I soak up the stonework of the few scattered cottages and above all, I wander without any plan other than to observe.
Knowing I'd been feeling a little overwhelmed by a second house move, speaking at a fairly big deal conference soon and all the to-do list items I wished to achieve before both, I deliberately got lost last weekend. On my visit to see a friend in Yorkshire, I picked a path and simply put one foot in front of the other. Without any bearings, I went in search of much needed calm.
The most surprising thing that I found in those isolated few hours was a sense of home. There in the hedgerows was blossom that I recognised. The smell of wild garlic beginning to burst into life reminded me of the same event a few weeks earlier on our warmer Southern shore. Clambering over tree stumps, watching a different flock of lambs, felt at once familiar as it did new and stimulating. My brain was mighty glad for the distraction and my heart beat just a little harder as I took in the sight of Spring filling up the world with colour and texture once more.
It was tucked by a stream, listening to birdsong and the gentle babble of water that I realised I finally have a sense of sanctuary. It wasn't that London was scary and overbearing, it was that I didn't have a place there anymore. My adventures lie in green spaces, landscapes washed with seasonal colour and outcrops of buildings rather than a jungle of them.
To me outside is home. It's what I need to reset and make progress again.
Where do you go to refocus?