When we can’t find something that we need, the first question that we may hear, from either ourselves or from someone who is trying to help, might be, “Where did you see it last?”
Sometimes, if we are really frustrated, or feeling particularly salty, we might respond by saying, “If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for it!”
But it’s a good question. Remembering the place where we last saw our keys doesn’t mean that we will find them there. But it gives us a place to start. If the last memory we have is of our keys being in our pants pocket, it may lead us to search our pockets. If we can’t find it there, it may trigger the thought that maybe they fell out in the car, down that crack between the seat and the console, or maybe we should check the washing machine. It helps get us started, and we can use the clues that come up from that question to help us track down what we’ve misplaced.
I had lunch with a friend of mine this weekend who I don’t see often. He runs a business that has changed a great deal in the last ten years, and he is struggling to figure out a good direction for the business, and by extension, because he is the owner of his own business, his life.
We talked for an hour and a half about the business, bouncing ideas off one another, trying to come up with some solutions. Towards the end of the meal, he said,
“I’ve lost my purpose. I no longer know what my purpose is.”
I felt bad for him, because I could hear the searching and sadness in his voice. He started his business as a service to others, and external factors had affected his desire to continue with the same model. When I got home, I told Jennifer that I wish I’d had something to say that would have encouraged him, or pointed him towards the answer, or had him walk away and say, “Boy, that Hendley character is brilliant. He knew just what to say, at just the right time.”
But I didn’t and he didn’t. Instead, I waited three days, but I think I came up with a pretty good answer.
The encouragement I want to offer you, if you find yourself in a similar situation is this:
Where did you see it last?
Start there, and see where it leads you.
Where was the last place you felt that joy, or knew that purpose, that you find yourself now longing for?
If you can’t remember where you saw it last, think about where you can last remember seeing it, and go from there.
Many times, after searching for something that I’ve lost, I often find it in a totally ridiculous place. “Why did I leave my keys there?”
If you lost your purpose, or passion, or joy, and you think about where you last saw it, you may find it in a ridiculous place, and wonder,
“Why did I leave it there?”
It may take some sustained thought to consider why you left it where you did or why it was lost. Did you allow someone to take it from you? Were you seduced by money, power, or notoriety to the point that you lost your way? Have you been beaten down by a specific situation, failure, or judgement? Did you get away from it on your own and now need to find your way back to it?
Also consider this,
“Why did I have it there?”
What was it about that place, or that job, or that time in your life that filled you up?
Only you can answer those questions, and it may take some time.
In the movie Peter Pan, Tootles said he lost his marbles and everyone thought he was crazy. The marbles he lost supposedly represented his “happy thoughts”. One of the Lost Boys found them and Peter eventually returned them and Tootles was no longer a senile old man, after being reunited with his “happy thoughts”.
You are not senile for feeling like you have lost your joy or your purpose. And you are not crazy for looking for it.
There is however, cause for concern if you are hoping Peter Pan is going to fly through your window and deliver them to you. That my friend, you must do on your own.
But you can do it. Retrace your steps. Think about where you saw it last. You’ll find it.
And when you do, protect it, take care of it, carry it with you on your way, and let it help inform you about where and how you’ll move forward.