“Get Lost” Already — With Intention & Wonder

Okay, for all my left-brain reasoning and list-making and bullet points and binder festishes, I will admit something of the mystic in me: I check my horoscope, pretty regularly, and I even sometimes think it makes a huge holy heap of sense. Not always, and please don’t think I’m referring to bullpiles like Cosmo Horoscopes or any horsejunk like that.

No, I have two, and so far only two, sources that I check – Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology (which is delightful, playful and sometimes literarily wonderful) and Jonathon Cainer’s Zodiac Forecast (which is humorous, parable-driven and written with the perfect amount of sardonic positivity).

I mention them only because my Free Will horoscope has been bouncing all up in my head all week long, and I think I’ve finally answered the question for myself, “How can you possibly be intentionally lost?” Especially in light of the tragedies that have been throwing a lot of people off lately, with the Boston bombing rattling everyone’s bones just this week, I think it’s important to remember how to get lost, but not lose sight.

I’m a Virgo (ahem, the aforementioned i-dotting and t-crossing) and this week the stars had this to say to me, which I think is worth sharing as solid (if somewhat perplexing) advice for all:

“Never to get lost is not to live,” writes Rebecca Solnit in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost. In fact, she says that not knowing how to get lost is unhealthy. These are useful ideas to consider right now, Virgo. It will probably do you good to get at least semi-lost. As you wander around without a map or compass, I bet you will stumble upon important teachings. At the same time, I hope you will put some thought into how you’re going to get lost. Don’t just leave it to chance. Make sure there’s a method in your madness.

Madness? Plenty of it. Method? Working on it. The part that really seemed to throw me through a little bit of a paradox hurdle was this: “Put some thought into how you’re going to get lost.” I put a lot of thought into a lot of things: how to manage my work-hectic schedule, how best to get my students to respond with understanding, how to write integrity-driven emails, how to best structure an article, how to give helpful and critical writing feedback, how to keep calm in unpleasant situations, how to set goals, how to reconfigure my head around making money (I’m an idealist trying to break the bad habit of voluntary poverty), how to BLAH and BLAH and BLAH. Sometimes my brain just needs to go nap-nap.

But to put thought into getting lost? Doesn’t getting lost just sort of happen — usually when you aren’t putting thought into anything?

I have this great air freshener (that is now old and not fresh anymore) that I have kept for its wisdom. It says, “Not all who wander are lost.” I have always liked to think of myself as a wanderer, a seeker, a dirt-on-her-cheeks starry-eyed adventurer poking her walking stick into the depths of new caves, but always on some path. Even if the road ahead isn’t visible, the path is there. To where exactly? I have an idea. But to be lost — to be lost is to be cold, isolated, shivery, when the rain is discompassionately beating down on a soaked-through head with no relief and only blurry eyes closing in on themselves. No, we don’t want to be lost.

However, in turning over this idea of being “intentionally lost,” I’ve found a deep sense of peace, comfort and most importantly forgiveness of my current doubt and uncertainty. There are a lot of things this one little body is trying to do right now — from planning a nonprofit business to finding a new roommate to converting an office into something better to teaching to writing, writing, writing to trying to stay afloat financially — that being lost does not seem like something I would want, the opposite, in fact. Here I am, trying to make some sense out of it all. Yet, once again, I return to the wisdom of magic and letting go, and I see that trying to force all the pieces methodically into place just isn’t the best way to slice the cake.

You can’t predict what wondrous openings are up ahead; you just have to keep eagerly anticipating new awakenings at every turn, even from the bottom of the pit. 

If I am out on this sunbeaten, open path toward some great future (as we all are, if we choose to see it that way), and I am focusing all my might on getting from point A to point B with adequate amounts of 1) food 2) water 3) shelter 4) friends 5) inspiration and so on, checking my list every day to make sure all the little necessities are showing up for their head count, I might not see the next crevice I need to fall into.

And if you’re going to fall into crevices, as we all do, wouldn’t it be nice to have as much free will catapulting us into them as possible?

Finally, aha! Today, after a week of chanting the mantra “let yourself get intentionally lost” in my head around every turn, I think I have spotted my next crevice. And I’m ready to fall.

The situation: I’ve been hanging onto a dead-end tutoring job with a company that underpays me and is also pretty rude and draining. I’ve been looking for something to replace it, but I’ve experienced that inertia that the disgruntled often feel: dissatisfaction with my current situation but fear of losing its familiarity.

Encouraging myself to “get more lost,” I started the application process again, and today interviewed for a position as a teacher’s aide for a nonprofit that offers an alternative education model for at-risk youth in underserved areas. It pays next to nothing, and the interviewer has repeatedly warned me of the frustration, discouragement and harassment that will likely accompany my acceptance of the role. He’s also basically offered me the position if I want it.

Needless to say, I’m so excited I can barely eat my trail mix.

I will essentially be thrown into a school comprised 100% of the troublemakers, knuckleheads and the most despairing, apathetic, rude little shits you can probably ever imagine, the ones who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and who will bloody your nose given the chance, be provided little to no instruction and guidance on how to handle these situations, and be expected to simultaneously discipline them into good behavior while inspiring them to see that they are actually worth something and have the power to change their lives. Yeah, I think you can call this “being intentionally lost.”

I know it will be difficult. Emotionally draining. Impossible at times. Painful. Disheartening.

I can’t wait.

I’m sure that “feeling lost” is so close of an acquaintance for these kids that they don’t even know what it would be like not to have that sort of apathy sitting on their shoulders. P.S. My imagination is already running wild, creating personalities and scenarios before I’ve even accepted the position… but the point is:

Being lost is not the problem — being lost without intention is.

If I can be lost (adrift, unsure, aimless) while identifying and remembering what I truly want to accomplish (my intentions) and basking in the weird glory of things falling into place (the wonder), then I have a solid umbrella over my head, so that even in those thunderstorms, I will be able to find my way. And if I can, so can anyone with this mentality, because all it takes is a mental shift and an environment to support it.

I may be lost, but I know these things:

  • I intend to use the gift of my life to connect to others so they, too, can see what a gift their life is.
  • I intend to express myself with exuberance and joy, so that others, too, may feel the joy of themselves.
  • I intend to always challenge myself to learn, grow and explore, to never become stagnant (that is the easiest way to spread misery).
  • I intend to speak up rather than let die.
  • I intend to help empower the disempowered so they, too, can feel the strength inside them.
  • I intend to meet all obstacles with humility, grace and compassion.
  • I intend to use my energy to contribute to the solutions, not the problems.

Yes, the recruiter did peg me accurately as an idealist.

But to you, my audience, and later, my students, I want to pose that question. Even during times of doubt, fear, uncertainty, loss and despair, what do you know to be your deepest intentions?

Can you allow yourself to get lost with intention and wonder?

If there’s one thing I might take too much pride in, it’s my analytical, overworking logic-brain. I take pleasure in problem-solving, and I’ve trained myself to be pretty reasonable in a world of chaotic over-churning. Yes, I consider myself something of a mystic (or anyone who really talks to me will categorize me as such, I’m sure) but I’m a reasonable mystic, dammit.

And it can still take a lot of effort to get lost intentionally. 

Intentionally!

It’s not easy. Not as easy as calling yourself lost and whimpering into a dead world, believing that nothing matters. Or looking for a simplistic answer to explain atrocities like the one we witnessed this week so we don’t have to question ourselves. That’s the easiest thing ever. And another quote-punch to the face: “It takes a lot of work to be happy, none at all to be miserable.” During times of collective confusion like these, rather than get up in arms about who’s doing what wrong, the most productive response would be to look inward, reflect and set some personal intentions going forward.

Bringing it back to the moments you experience here and now, and how they interact with others. Then, the wonder is the part that comes in to remind how bleak it doesn’t have to be. Wonder is what keeps us from giving up entirely, from missing the point of all of life’s little delicacies when the resounding “I’m lost” is drowning everything else out.

I know what it feels like to enter the realm of personhood on this plane of existence, when you learn how to connect your mind, body and spirit, and I’ve seen the moment when it has happened for others. I also know that many physical obstacles exist for many people living in dire situations, and that it can take a lot of time, compassion and persistence to integrate the reality of your own existence, when you’ve been taught your whole life that what you’ve got is just your lot. Working with at-risk youth whose lives have been much harder than mine since the day we were born will be new, but I also know how much small and consistent doses of love, support and humanity can mean to someone teetering on the brink.

Especially in the wake of some terrible events lately, from the Newtown shootings to this week’s Boston bombing, I think it’s more important than ever to get lost, but with strength, resolve and dedication to bolstering, not bullying, your values. It’s okay to allow yourself to be lost — that’s how your mind opens to new truths — but retain your intention. That doesn’t mean don’t get angry or confused, because that would be impossible for 99% of us. But the intention to get as close as you can to the ideal on a daily basis is what matters.

As a side note that seems worth mentioning, one of my students in a class I was subbing one week exactly before the Boston bombings decided to “joke” about how he loves building guns and wants to make nuclear weapons. Where does that come from and how can we reach it? Is there not a huge shift taking place in the collective psyche? If you can feel it, you know it’s there.

Even if I am kind of/sort of lost as to why or how or what it all means, or what exactly it is that is driving me in this direction, my intention is clear: I intend to tough-love some spark of intention and wonder into these kids’ tornado of lost. I, like many other young people hungry for the experience of the world, want to make a difference.

Fully knowing that this path may lead me to feeling so lost, hopeless, discouraged and insignificant at times, my intention is to learn and help as I go. With a healthy sense of wonder for it all.

I don’t need to know 100% why.

cartoon_lobster

And this is my alter ego right now: the getting loster and loster lobster

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Herbalife… Get A Life

Oh poor Monday, how it was wasted drinking lemon tea and gushing about yoga across the table from a Grade A Pyramid Schemer. Real job interview for a “customer service position” at a “health and wellness center”? I think not.

What should have been a totally rad introduction to a blossoming, awesome chapter in my life where I get paid to drink gallons of tea all day, talk about yoga (and maybe do some of it), help people pick vitamins and stuff and generally contribute to a better way of stumbling through existence ended up being a complete waste of my day as a sadly enthusiastic salesman tried to recruit me to Herbalife.

On my way to my new happy hippie health job.

Let me warn you right now, if you happen to respond to a job that sounds awesome and show up to a “wellness center” (that even has a website, albeit a pretty crappy one) with, suspiciously, one singular logo plastered around the office – you guessed it, Herbalife – stop right there, don’t talk to anybody or look anybody in their Pyramid Scheming eyes and scoot your booty back into your car or bike or rollerblades and turn around, go home and continue watching 30 Rock in your pajamas while eating mango ice cream. 30 Rock world is a much better world than Herbalife Bullshit World.

After discovering there was no such happy hippie health job.

I’ve been privy to a scheme or two in my day (ever been heckled by Vector marketing?) and this seemed fairly legitimate. Real looking website with brick and mortar location, YouTube video of the business’s grand opening, NO mention of Herbalife ANYWHERE  and no “get rick quick” phrasing in the job posting, and pay scale listed as hourly (which it definitely is not).

Oh, wait a minute. All I had to do to get an interview was list why I wanted to work in health and wellness. (“Because, like, health is so im-por-tant, and wellness is about mind and body and soul and stuff.”) And I got an email for a job interview within 24 hours. Yeah, maybe this was how it worked in 1913, but not 99 years later in the midst of the worst recession since the country’s last actual depression.

Me applying for a job in 1913.

So, I should have suspected something at that point, but I guess it just goes to show my true nature – a gullibly inflated sense of self that’s usually buried under layers upon layers of self-doubt, surfacing only to lure me into Herbalife traps: “Yeah, I really AM that awesome! See how easy it is for me to get a really awesome paid job I love!”

The second clue that something was not “professional” about this “job interview” was the fact that my interviewer showed up 7 and a half minutes late to our scheduled meeting, and the “office” was locked and empty. He arrived finally, a middle-aged dreadlocked African-American dude with crooked teeth wearing sweatpants and a sports jersey who was waving and shouting enthusiastic apologies for being late.

I probably wouldn't have minded if it were this guy who showed up late...

Okay, so I go into the office and then, BAM – RED FLAG – large empty room with a few tables, a counter full of Herbalife products, shelves full of Herbalife products and Herbalife banners all around the room. And not much else. I should have started smelling something at this point. And then, I did.

In close proximity to my “interviewer,” it became embarrassingly clear that he smelled. This is not something I would want someone posting about me on the Internet, but he smelled. Like unwashed human. Not just B.O., but like living-in-someone’s-basement-and-verging-on-homeless smell.

And the worst part about it? He was so nice. He was enthusiastic, personable, smiley, encouraging – I perhaps am sometimes too giving in my judgments of people (see: creepy stalkers, backstabbing best friends, regrettable boyfriends) so I stuck it out. I sat down (in very nice interview get-up, I should add), told him about myself, drank his lemon tea (delicious, to their credit, those wily ones) and gave him my resume, plus two writing samples I had on vitamin supplements that I thought would be impressive to a health and wellness center, all neatly packaged in a presentation folder. I think it totally would have been at least nod-worthy – to a real health and wellness center.

If by "job" you mean "soul crushing disappointment."

Blah, blah, blah – I put on the impressive act, raving about how much I love yoga, and how health is so important to me, and how I really, really want to do a spring detox cleanse. He LOVED my passion for yoga (in fact, maybe I’d like to teach a class?), he kept confirming how well I was getting “it” and he refilled my tea (biggest bonus points for this one). He ate it up, and that repressed ego we talked about earlier surfaced up to offer commentary on the event, “Heck yeah, I AM actually pretty fucking rad, huh? It’s in the bag.” Too bad this was mostly his expert sales coddling bringing it out in me.

And you know, at first the job did sound like something I could be interested in, when he explained it like I would be a motivational fitness coach to help severely overweight people get healthier, run and organize fitness classes, manage the office and track clients’ progress to their goals. Then he showed me a cheesy Powerpoint on Herbalife, the vitamin line they sell. So it’s not really a wellness center, but a hub for Herbalife sales reps, huh? (The classes and nutrition counseling are all just to sell more Herbalife and no one gets paid for any of it.)

And finally, he got to the pay scale.

Yep, you guessed it – 100% commission. And once you train two people, who each train two people, who each train two people…. that’s when you get $4,000 a month for doing nothing. Un-huh. That sounds like bona fide pyramid scheme to me, buddy.

Typical.

At this point, I had all “impress interviewer” signals go into sleepy, angry mode and kind of slumped there waiting for him to finish, trying to be “nice” but planning my exit. Just to finalize the no-deal, he showed me their “activities board,” on which are weekly (unpaid) training meetings, weekly (unpaid) conference calls, monthly (unpaid) longer training meetings and annual (unpaid) training conferences. Oh yeah, and the fitness classes they teach for free are all unpaid and all climax with a refreshing Herbalife free sample.

Also, to get in on this fantastic career, all you have to do is start by buying a $68 training kit, which supposedly includes some sort of “nutrition certification” and samples of Herbalife shakes. Un-huh. Plus, it’s highly recommended you test out the products yourself in order to sell them to people – oh, but you have to actually buy them.

Look at all these great and valuable items that come in an Herbalife starter kit.

Okay, so when we were wrapping up and he asked me if I had any questions, I looked him straight in his friendly little eyes and asked, “This isn’t a pyramid scheme, is it?” to which he subtly looked away, got a little quieter and assured me it was not. Oh, okay then. Problem solved. …Not. (Did he forget that at least three times throughout our “interview” he had jovially expressed to me how much he loved being paid to tell stories to people?)

After I asked this question, I started heading for the door and he said he’d follow up with me around Wednesday. I haven’t heard from him since, so I hope he’s astute enough to have gathered I won’t be playing. I just wonder: he said he was a divorced father of two kids who was a stay-at-home dad for seven years, but is he really? Does he really believe in what he’s saying and is just a poor fool getting duped? Is the economy so bad real jobs don’t exist anymore? Or is he an expert con artist, lying and scheming his way up to the theoretical top? Did he really lose 40 pounds in 4 months? Is Herbalife REALLY all natural (judging from their list of 35 different ingredients with chemical-sounding names on every package, I highly doubt it)? Is everything he said to me a lie?? Do I even exist???

Where am I? Is this heaven?

Okay, yes I do exist, and so do pyramid scheme catchers (PSCs) – apparently, Herbalife actually is truly a 5 billion dollar industry with claws in countries all over the world. They’re technically what is defended as a multi-level marketing business model rather than a pyramid scheme, since they sell actual products, but I think it’s just a fancy way of saying shitty fucking company. Though a quick search on Google reveals this type of network marketing is not in fact illegal because there is a product at its core (think Tupperware parties or Avon ladies), it might as well be called a pyramid scheme. As shown in the European settlement case linked above, the commission made from retail sales is nothing compared to the incentive for building a solid base of bodies beneath you to climb and piss on as you Herba-strangle your way to a Caribbean vacation.

Not sure I’m right? Here’s how the guy broke it down: I’d get 25% commission starting off then 50% later on for anything I sell. A single product goes for about $15, so whoop-dee-do, I sell one vial of lab food to some beef-eating sucker and I reap a whole $4. However, if I train 2 x 2 x 2 (14 more minions on the bottom), I will get a comfy little reward of $4,000 per month. And a “full-time” worker supposedly makes $118,000 a year for having successfully weaved a thick bloodrug made out of the mushed brains of Herbalife zombies for people to wipe their feet on.

So, anyone who has been unwittingly lured into a fake store that is full of Herbalife salespeople, tuck your tush in and head out the door before they can stick their vitamins in it.

Not worth your soul.

Now go out and get a real job, whydontcha.