Yesterday, I had a lovely time with my Ontario daughter at the Yorkdale Mall in Toronto. We visited, had lunch and did some shopping. But because I had driven myself to Yorkdale—first, I got lost.
The “getting lost” part was so predictable: I have had a lifetime of losing my way. I chronically confuse left and right, and map reading—for me-- is right up there with reading Russian. My directional dysfunction feels like a sort of learning disability, so to compensate, I usually practice if I know I will driving someplace new. I still recall (with some anxiety) that it took 5 learning trials to successfully navigate my way across South Edmonton to a school where I would be teaching. Bruce’s question at the end of my first day on the job wasn’t “How were your classes?” He quite rightly inquired “Did you get lost?”
Realistically, driving to Yorkdale Mall from Guelph is not a big deal so practice runs did not seem warranted. Any ordinary driver would know to travel east for 66 kms on the 401 (the highway that crosses Southern Ontario) and then turn right. That’s how easy it is.
But, somehow, in spite of discussing this trip at length with Bruce, printing off Google maps and directions, and setting my GPS (yes, I even have one of those) to 1 Yorkdale Road, I still managed to turn left, and I found myself whipping up Highway 400 to Barrie.
Sigh. Sigh again.
I have had other unscheduled trips on the 400, but at least I was able to be more resigned—more Zen-- about this latest incident. James, our Qigong instructor, tells us that when learning a skill such as balancing on one foot, it is the effort to train the muscles and the brain that really counts. Standing like a stork doesn’t matter as much as all the neural pathways that are being stimulated by the new challenge. (He doesn’t talk about the benefit to aging brains, but we know what he means.) So he would have been proud of me yesterday. Problem- solving neurons firing on all cylinders, I focussed, I listened to the GPS, I ignored my instincts, and got back on the 401 and reached the meeting place at Yorkdale just in time.
When I began my retirement, I thought that I might try to conquer my Mazeophobia (fear of getting lost). Without a lot more practice, however, I am not sure that this will ever happen completely. But I do think I can become more comfortable as I struggle (literally) to find my way. And at least I can think of it as a positive, brain building, anti-aging experience.
With that in mind, I intend to spend part of this afternoon stimulating more neurons as I figure out how to get to the Hamilton airport, 65 kms from Guelph. My sister-in-law will be flying in from Edmonton in a couple of weeks, and as I am the designated driver, I want to make sure that I don’t leave her in Arrivals while I accidentally head off to Niagara Falls.