Lessons on Being Lost

One of the worst fears of a child is getting lost.

I was eight years old when I found myself standing alone in the middle of a campground in Jasper, BC. The trees towered around me, encouraging my nerves to crawl faster up my lungs as my galloping heart was beginning to sink into my stomach.

Grandpa had told me not to leave the playground on my own. Wait for the others if you want to head back, he’d instructed. But my cousins didn’t want to head back when I found myself bored, and I had decided (rather daringly) that I could find my way, no problem. I didn’t need my cousins anyway. Why did I always have to depend on them, I often begrudged. I was younger. But did that always have to mean I didn’t know what I was doing? In fairness, no one ever insisted that I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was younger. Still, I could find my way, no problem.

Big problem.

I was certain I took the same way we had taken to get to the playground. I was certain I had retraced our path correctly. But everything was starting to look different. That yellow camper I had seen on the way to the playground is no longer where I’d last seen it. They must’ve left, I thought to myself. But when I realized that absolutely nothing was looking familiar, my eyes began to well up, as I felt the blood rushing through my face.

The whistle around my neck that I thought I’d never have to use, suddenly became my most treasured possession. I grasped it tightly, holding it close to my chest, before bringing it up to my lips. My hands shaking. I exhaled every bit of breath I had left within my lungs. And the whistle pierced my ears.

Please work. Please hear my call.

Nothing.

When a stranger would walk by, I’d try my hardest to look “normal.” Be nonchalant, I’d tell myself.

Regret set in.

Then shame followed.

I should have listened to grandpa.

At that point I was in a frantic state, beneath my seemingly calm appearance, I was beginning to lose hope. I had passed that same tree stump four times now.

I blew into the whistle again, for the tenth time, and decided to sit right there, on the side of the loose dirt road, and wait.

Anxious thoughts danced within my mind as I placed my face into my dusty hands.

They’re never going to find me. No….they will find me, stop worrying. They’ll find me, but I’ll be in so much trouble.

My tears streamed mud down my cheeks.

They’re never gonna find me, I thought again. I’ll be lost in this gigantic park, in this giant, unfamiliar province far away from home… forever.

To this day, I still have no idea why I thought it was such a wise idea to not listen to my grandpa and head off on my own. To this day, I still remember the feeling of my heart dropping to my kidneys, and the flush of heat rushing up my cheeks.

This wasn’t the first time I had done something I knew I shouldn’t have. Like that time I decided that it was a brilliant idea to fix up everyone else’s thank you cards in my grade three class. I convinced myself I was just trying to help, while in the back of my mind I knew there was something not right about me essentially wrecking my classmates’ artwork. But still, I carried on, adding colourful borders and extra colour to each one.

That lesson was learned quickly when I had the entire class upset with me. Each pointing finger and burning glare taught me to respect the art of others.

I never touched another piece of art that wasn’t mine again.

Just like I never found myself lost (at least, physically) again, on my own, as a child.

Hearing familiar voices, I raised my head, wiped my nose with my sleeve, and tucked my hair behind my ears as the blurry figures in the distance began coming into focus.

A wave of relief crashed over me as I realized who it was. Relief then morphed into angst again, realizing that I was probably going to be in trouble for going off on my own.

Grandma and my cousins were making their way toward me.

I heard them one after the other, Jenny! Jennnyyyy! Jenny!…

Greeted with arms wide, and smothered in love, I smiled warmly, feeling at home.

Grandpa was disappointed in me, but relieved to have me found. I hated disappointing him.

Just as God guides us through life, sometimes we get lost when we don’t listen to His directions. We can disappoint Him too. But His love is always there. I hate disappointing Him too.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Sincerely + gratefully,

Jen

A letter to 12 year old me.

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Dear Twelve,

I’ve not forgotten you, do not worry.

I remember that day you chose to wear that t-shirt. You know— the one with the giant head of a pig on the front, wearing a straw hat and chewing on a strand of hay.

You wore it without thinking anything of it. You liked it. You liked the way it fell just past your bottom. It was comfortable. And it fit just right.

But you didn’t like that comment. This age can be so tough, dear Twelve. I know you know that. And I know you remember those words, because they’re burned into your memory— the memory that we share.

Thirteen didn’t forget it either, nor Fourteen, Fifteen, and Sixteen definitely didn’t. Sixteen couldn’t handle it. She let it break her.

Can you blame it all on that one comment? Of course not. I know it was a combination of things. A mix of words, actions, looks, and events. But this one comment is an example that certain memories can stick with you, and can have a huge effect on your life…if you let them.

Those words were something like, hey Jennifer, you wore yourself on your shirt today. Followed by a chuckle.

Lovely.

Now, Twelve, I know I didn’t have to remind you of those seemingly simple words. You remember them well. In fact you laughed along with them. You kept yourself safe with the shield of your laughter. But behind the shield, another little piece of your self esteem crumbled.

I need to remind you that they are only words. And the person who said them had no intention for you to hold them close for years.

You are more than the negative thoughts and words of others. Let yourself shine. Let yourself be you. You are beautiful, not based on others. You are beautiful because of your heart, and the beauty you see in everything. Take care of you, Twelve, and everything else will fall into place.

rescue

My head, in a painful fog.

My heart, in an aching war.

Alone, out in the darkness.

This blade within my core

is severing all my joy.

It’s strange to know that I

am my own assailant.

Every twist of this blade

that made me feel vacant,

was initiated by me.

I’m unable to console

the emptiness within,

when I’ve lost all the control

and the will to start again.

If I am my own assailant,

can I be my own amazement?

My own rescue in disguise,

telling me to rise,

and combat all the lies

that I weave within my mind?

If we have the strength to be

our own cruel enemy,

then surely we are strong enough

to rescue and to rise above

the pain we put upon ourself,

replacing it with love.

-Jen Kessler

regarding emotions

Her emotions become chaotic,

She’d wish she was catatonic.

‘Cause the concealed pain

Revealed on this emotional train,

Is often far beyond her grasp.

Her control will never last.

Her eyes will bleed of tears,

Familiar through the years.

Her voice will spew of hate.

Words she can’t relate,

‘Cause she doesn’t mean them.

Here in this cycle once again,

Hauntings of her past

Confuse her present task

Of staying steady,

And emotionally ready

To give and to receive

The love she thought

Would always

Leave.

-Jen Kessler

The flame

I had the first few lines of this poem written and tucked away for quite a while now. I picked up on it again this morning and finished it in about fifteen minutes. It’s interesting how quickly certain words come to me when I least expect it, and how those ones turn out to be my favourites.

The Storm

This has, and I believe always will be, one of my favourite poems that I have written. I wrote it in about ten minutes, after feeling a complete writer’s block for quite awhile before. And I’ve learned that the best ones always happen when least expected, and that they just fall out of me, so delicately, yet freely.

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend with your loved ones.

Here is a little bit of my heart, wide open: