A New Word


That was the word in my dream, the dream I was having as I woke up this morning.

I think it’s an adjective, and it describes the state or quality of being blissfully lost. Sometimes it’s used as an exclamation describing happiness at not knowing where one is. Dude, we’re lostacious.

As a writer and often spacey person, I’ve always mined my dreams for odd things: reverberant images, weird stories, glimpses of the ones I love who are no longer on this earth—but rarely shards of language. Until now.

Funny, how your subconscious can create an entire cosmos and how it abides by few rules. (Make up a word? Sure! Why the heck not? says the subconscious.)

I’ve always believed that our subconscious brains are all-wise, so in dreams they tell us things we need to know, when we need to know them. So, when I woke up this morning I was thinking: I don’t feel lost. Why does my brain want me to know that feeling lost can be gorgeous and amazing?

Good questions to ponder in the dark, early hours of a December morning, when outside there is a blanket of snow on everything and it’s a brisk 5 degrees. Of course, if the answer is so easy to understand, then why wouldn’t my conscious mind know it, without the need to dream it?

*   *   *

On Thanksgiving holiday I traveled with my two daughters Westchester, New York to visit my family. It was the first time my kids and I have ever spent a major holiday with the Henry side of the family—with my sisters (four of them), their kids (two girls, one boy), my dad and stepmom. My wife was up in New Hampshire, at a writing fellowship, so I was a lone wolf papa. A single parent. The one and the only. And totally, completely, happily exhausted.

The weather in New York bloomed beautiful and warm, and one day my brother-in-law and I rode for a couple of hours at Sprain Ridge Park, a loopy series of trails through dense forests and along a bluff that runs along a bustling highway. I suppose I was lost there, most of the time, as the trails were new to me, so I followed my bro-in-law, ceding control to him, which was nice and relaxing in its own way because I didn’t have to make any decisions—I just rode.

The technical parts rivaled anything I’ve ridden here in Colorado, with severe rock climbs and drops and lots of off-camber singletrack; the climbs were short grunts, alternating with lots of rolling, curving undulations. The most difficult adjustment, however, was riding over—and trusting the grip of—all the fallen leaves, mostly oak. At many points you couldn’t see the trail but you could tell where it was by cleverly picking out a gentle sheen on the trodden leaves, which pointed out the serpentine track to follow. (Something I learned from Mantracker, that TV show I like to watch when my brain has ceased to work at 8 PM but I’m not quite ready for bed. See, TV is educational!)

It was great to get out in the warm air of November, though I missed my kids as I rode, and I wanted to get into Manhattan—to take them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art—but as I spent the only true free day we had riding, we never made it. My girls, 7 and 9, seemed fine with that. They were enjoying hanging out with their cousins, bouncing around on a backyard trampoline and playing with their youngest cousin’s toys.

Being a single parent is: really hard. I can’t imagine being the sole caregiver all the time. I did it for just over three weeks, and while it gave me tremendous confidence and an even deeper connection with my kids, I could see how you could easily lose all sense of personhood. How you could eventually cease to have any identity other than Dad. That’s not lostacious, but there’s a wonder to it, somehow. There’s a sweet sense of accomplishment, which I can only relate to running a marathon or going on a really, really long ride. You have to pace yourself, you have to take the painful and clumsy miles along with the endorphin-high sections, too. And in the end, you measure your miles as successful days, when the kids have been fed and are clean and are finally asleep in their quiet rooms, lit gently by Hello Kitty nightlights.

How does this relate to lostaciousness? I dunno. Perhaps it refers to the idea that my trip to New York involved getting lost twice—first, the losing of myself to dadhood, then freeing myself from my usual (and very nice) life in Denver, for a bit. Both felt good. Each gave me a fresh perspective.

It was lostacious that I got to focus on being one thing: a dad, and losing all those other identities I consider so damn important: writer, worker, rider. Getting lost teaches you to love and appreciate—and feel grateful for—the things you have and often take for granted. That old life that sometimes feels worn and tattered and boring, and which you never really think about because you’re in it, day after day.

So then, the unfamiliar teaches you to see the familiar from a fresh perspective, and to cherish it.

Lostacious: (adjective) State of joy describing the process of getting lost or losing oneself, which makes one appreciate, and even adore, the familiar life from which they have departed.

One thought on “A New Word

  1. Very nice, and embedded deep in your lostaciousness is your amazingness for keeping the family together while your wife wandered away to dream in the woods. xo

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