The Gift of Disorientation

A couple things before we begin. For the past three months, this idea of disorientation has been at the forefront of my mind, because I feel it strongly every single day. I actually can’t shake it, so I wrote about it. The problem, though, is that I wrote this very post over two weeks ago now, and I’ve been reading and rereading and analyzing and changing it, and I honestly can’t quite figure out what to do with it. In fact, the title of the document on my computer remains “blank 2.” That’s how I actually feel about it.

And so because of that, I almost forgot about this collection of words, didn’t post it. I almost left it to die among so many of the other works on my computer, until I remembered a few things I believe about writing space and creative processes…

Since I’ve defined myself as a writer of personal things, I have been given so much conflicting advice…

“Don’t ever post anything until you yourself have fully processed it.”

And then almost in the same breath: “Don’t worry too much about editing and post the most authentic part of your writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect, fully understood. The most important part is that you’re going for it.”

For years, I’ve fallen more towards the first piece of advice, and it’s honestly served me fairly well. But life now looks much different and is experienced much differently. It’s more nuanced and unfamiliar, and it requires more. So today, I’m listening to the second advice.

Today, I’ll take up my creative space in the world, although incomplete, because women especially often just don’t. And I’ll let it be incomplete because so often when life is uncomfortable, we simply won’t let it be that. And I’ll let it be wandering because that’s the posture of the constant unraveling and transition of the life we live.

So here we go, friends.


I remember as a little girl spinning around and around and around. So much so that I would eventually fall down with nothing but laugher from my belly and giggle-tears steaming from my face. It was innocence at its finest and pure joy at its core.

It was also the closest I ever got to feeling largely disoriented in my childhood, for which I’m thankful.

These days, though, are much different. I find myself spinning in circles over the constant transitions of life. Marriage spun me one direction. Moving across the ocean kept me spinning. Add in starting a new job and making all new friends, and I continued to spin and spin. It’s spun me right into a constant state of disorientation, and instead of laughter, it’s made me nauseous. This isn’t a game of innocent spinning and spinning, then falling into the grass underneath me.

For years, I’ve understood my life in a variety of ways, reflecting who I am off of people, places, experiences, words. I’ve embedded myself in rhythms that offered me grids to understand my world and have surrounded myself with people who know me, support me, and love me. I’ve figured out how all of me fits into the world – formerly as single, as a student, as planted, as well-known, as the one involved in everything. And honestly, it was a time that I found much comfort, joy, even laughter. It was the kind of spinning in circles that has a childlike posture to it, one that is simple and carefree because the cost is low. It’s orientation at it’s purest.

While these ways of knowing are good for a time, helpful for a moment, they are awfully unstable. They, like so much of what’s around us, can change at any minute, without warning. And even when there is a warning, uprooting ourselves from how we know us is difficult, uneasy at the very least. And we know change is always going to happen, transition eventually happens. It’s the rhythm of humankind.

And when it unravels, when the supports that were usually around aren’t in place anymore, when the building gives way to collapse, we’re spun right into a place of disorientation. It’s confusing. It can be isolating. And it really has little explaining to do for itself.

But here’s what I know in this place. Just as laughter and joy are necessary, so is disorientation. And it’s necessary because it serves a purpose that I don’t think any other state of being an offer. Disorientation whacks just enough of our life off center to break open what needs to be broken open.

It’s an unraveling, a breaking open, of what we’ve created and built and grew around what we knew to be true.

And in this new state, we are offered yet another chance to be full and be free. Disorientation is a way of spinning out all of the clutter. And when you spin out all the clutter, you actually get to breathe and live once again.

What I’ve learned is that for every dis- there is a re-. For all the disorientation is there is always a reorientation to who we really are. For every changed course, there is a new course. For every derailed track, there is a new track to align ourselves on. For every falling apart, there is a putting back together – this time being more intentional than the last.

Disorientation is a gift in the work of becoming. Because every time the world around us and in us becomes disoriented, it’s a way of reorienting ourselves to a fuller, truer sense of who we are being created into. It’s the dis- in disorientation that turns us away from a journey we were never meant to have and reorients us into the our actual “true North,” to the adventure that is ours to enter into.

How to become reoriented? Spin back the other way. Turn to the things you once did, which are almost always the simpler thing.

Lately, I’ve found myself interested in the simplicity of plants and the art of cooking my mom’s dishes. I’ve been marveled by the sea waves and the faces that pass by me on the quiet British streets. In the disoriented state of me, these are the things have taught me much about reorientation. They’re the things I used to do when I was a child. They are simple and healing and reorienting. They offer me a clear path back to the foundation, back to the center after wandering about.

This major life transition required I get rid of a lot of clutter, both in my home and in my life and all around me. And what it has been offering me is a chance to see clearly. To live simpler and freer. And for that, I thank this state of perpetual disorientation. I say thanks that the spinning that leaves me feeling nearly sick is what’s actually making me healthy and whole. What’s leaving me confused is actually keeping me clear minded. The state that is leaving me alone is actually allowing me to be loved. It’s the backwards design of disorientation and reorientation, and it’s the greatest gift in becoming.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Beth Messerli says:

    This was beautifully written, Kristyn. I’ve felt the same way during my life changing moments. It’s disorienting but feels good to get stripped down to our true selves again. 🙂 Much love!

    1. Kristyn says:

      Thanks so so much for reading and engaging with this, Beth! Hope you are well, my friend 🙂

  2. San says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Needed this

    1. Kristyn says:

      San! So great to hear from you. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It makes my heart so happy that there are others standing in it and doing the hard work of loving ourselves. <3

  3. This piece is gorgeous and true. Let the clutter fly, the simplicity come into focus. Thank you for putting this out into the universe.

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