"Left, left, left," I repeat to myself as I turn through the roads of Oban. The highways were fairly easy, but in the city I always want to turn into the wrong lane, and get frustrated when there is a car there, until I realize that car is exactly where it should be; it's me who is trying to go the wrong way. I'm forever a little disoriented. "Left, left, left," has become my mantra in the UK, much as I get my bearings in a new place by finding north and then staying constantly aware of it. North, north, north, trying to orient myself.
You'd think that keeping a part of my brain attuned to a direction would distract me from noticing other things, but it's not true. I am actually more attentive to everything when there is a part of me that is on high alert. Being disoriented has the odd effect of making me more aware of the things around me, and also of my own internal state of being. I know, in an existential way, that I am disoriented, and so I feel more deeply all of the other things that are going on within me.
This trip has been an experiment in disorientation in many ways. I didn't realize how rooted in my own community I have become until I was somewhere else for a prolonged period of time. It's good to be rooted, but it has also made me a little automated and numb, expecting all the same sights, within and without. During most of this trip, I have had no idea what I would see at any given moment, and no idea what I would feel, either. I have seen mountains rise out of what I thought was only mist, raging rivers where I expected trickling brooks, whole islands that weren't on my map. I have felt deep joy, anger, peace, frustration, anxiety, heartbreak, vulnerability, and intimacy...usually at the "wrong" moments, the moments when I predicted that I would feel something entirely different.
I have spent this journey being challenged, by people, ideas, landscapes, weather, roadways, accents, emotions. I have been disoriented by just about everything. But in disorientation, something of my haze has been blown away. I am aware. I am alive. Would that I would always be so disoriented.