Lose Yourself To Find Yourself“Go my friends. Don’t delay. Lose yourself and maybe you’ll find yourself — on the backside of beyond.” – Allan Bard
It is a frenetic world in which we live. Even when one has decent health , good family relationships, profound spirituality, purpose in life , and other markers of a well-adjusted psyche, the pervasive stress of society can erode our calm. We are surrounded by noise, literal (sirens, car alarms, ringtones) and figurative (worries, regrets, expectations). Distractions (nowadays commonly called “multi-tasking”), tend to undermine our sense of concentration, our ability to live in the moment and to give our best to whatever task merits our attention.
Allan Bard, whose words form the inspiration for this article, wrote of “the strained nervous sense of urgency that seems to define life in the city.” Since 1996, when Bard wrote those words, technology has tentacled it’s way into rural areas as well, bringing with it the frantic urban blight of stress.
Negative stress, while universally recognized as a contributor to everything from weight gain to heart attacks, is nonetheless countenanced as an unavoidable part of 21st century life. While it is undeniably true that not all stress can be eliminated; perhaps heeding the spirit of Bard’s comment can help us to cope.
Where is “the backside of beyond”?
Simply speaking, it is a place removed from your ordinary. It is a kid’s fort of blankets, a rickety treehouse in a venerable maple, a small granite island in the middle of a river. It can be a location not thought of as exotic or even particularly beautiful, but it is somewhere that the humdrum course of everyday existence would not normally take you.
I have traveled to the backside of beyond without going more than five miles from where I live. Sitting around a small crackling blaze of piñon wood in a cave in the mountains for a few hours can be a mental transport to bygone times. Taking my lunch aloft in a gently swaying cottonwood tree near the bank of the Rio Grande has more than once helped to turn off the noise in my head.
The backside of beyond need not be expensive. Strange though it may seem, I have felt less stressed after exploring the storm drains under the city streets! Oftentimes we forget the aphorism that “the best things in life are free.” How about going for a bicycle ride? It doesn’t have to be a shiny full suspension mountain bike or a trendily unstylish hipster single speed. Just pedal somewhere.
When is the last time that you explored? I am not referring to the jungles of Papua New Guinea or the solitary Mongolian steppes. I am talking about the often maligned and rarely understood Wander. You don’t have to be a goatee-growing peripatetic backpacker to stroll through a field of wildflowers, amble down a never-before-taken lane, run aimlessly along a new-to-you mountain trail, or saunter through a forest smelling the sun-warmed pine.
Allan Bard described the place we are seeking in cross-country skiing terms :
“Outback might simply mean skiing out back in the quiet woods behind the barn or perhaps, skiing through Central Park when the first winter grips the city in an icy gridlock. It could be skiing down a New England hillside or across the great expanse of a Heartland corn field. You are out on the backside of beyond when you feel the crisp bite of winter air in your lungs and the sting of wind-driven snow on your face, and when you realize how insignificant you are in the face of such harsh adversity.”
What does it mean to ‘lose yourself to find yourself’?
“Wherever you go, there you are”, the old adage reminds us. Unfortunately, we frequently go only to places where we’ve already been. Losing yourself involves a renewal. It requires suspension, albeit temporarily, of the mundane. As children, our fecund imaginations allowed us to ‘get lost’ in another world. As adults, stepping away from normalcy physically, mentally or emotionally, allows us to recapture some of the verve that we felt when our personal world was younger.
A person can careen through life, calendar pages fluttering in his wake, and, sadly, be lost the whole time. Intentional self-misplacing is different. It refreshes and enlivens, allows a person to breathe in new life and feel whole again. Lose yourself by directing the essence of who you are to a place where you don’t normally go. Are you a city slicker? Camp out! Country bumpkin? Visit Manhattan! Do you hate poetry? Read some wherever you find your backside of beyond! Are you a snooty hyper-literate type? Plunk yourself down and watch some episodes of Leave it to Beaver!
What may happen is that you may discover (or re-discover) something about yourself that will help you to refocus, to rekindle your love of life and to unclench your mental fist.
Said a biographer of the late Allan Bard: “The treasure that Allan leaves us is not a check list of adventure but rather the spirit of how he ventured.”
Where is your backside of beyond? Are you lost, found, or wandering? Leave a comment!