Holding the key

Last week, I misplaced the key to my house. I was pretty certain it was somewhere in the house, in a bag or pocket I'd yet to empty. But just as I was about to go on the hunt for it, some kind of internal Mr. Miyagi said to me: Maybe instead of looking for the key, you should wait for the key to find you.

This is not the kind of thought that generally occurs to me. There's a reason my daughter affectionately calls me The Finder: I have an impressive track record of locating pretty much every item she's ever lost (assuming, of course, that socks are excluded from the data set). But somehow it seemed that the lost key was indeed a test...a lesson...a gift.

So, I dug out a spare key and went about my business. And a few mornings later, when I went to find the spare key, I found the original instead. There it was, in the back of my backpack. I had been carrying the key around with me all along. I just didn't know it was there—until suddenly it was hard to miss. You can knock self-help metaphors all you want, but I was beginning to like this one.

Right now, I am hungry for answers—especially answers to big questions about my life and work, about the next chapter and the one after that, and even questions about the final chapter and how my choices now will influence my feelings then.

But I am slowly coming to realize that my usual mode of finding answers—research, reasoning, doggedness, and discipline—may not achieve the best results. I think I am indeed carrying the answers with me, but their location still remains a bit hidden. And the path to that location will not be direct or obvious. The challenge, in this moment, is to become something of a flaneur when it comes to my future—letting myself wander and wonder, get lost, get inspired, and eventually find my way to a place I didn't realize was the destination when I first set out on the journey.

This, of course, is not easy for someone who has spent most of her professional life in pursuit of clarity. I like to claim that I'm comfortable with ambiguity, but that's really only because I feel confident I can quickly conquer it. I don't actually like ambiguity. It always strikes me as something to be endured more than enjoyed. But I think the moment has come for me to get to know ambiguity better, to invite it in and find its charms—to let it linger longer than I have in the past. I think ambiguity will unlock some doors I didn't even know existed, and I need to stay lost long enough to let those doors come find me.