Lost Again? Blame Your Genes

Throughout my life I’ve feared going anywhere new and unknown because of my apprehension of getting lost. And getting lost is way stressful. Of course, I don’t let this stop me – I just go armed with lots of anxiety plus detailed directions AND use of my GPS (if I take my car) – which gets me even more confused, somehow. You’d think it would have been custom-designed for people like me, but somehow that voice commanding me to go left, right, bear left and make a slight right at the next intersection makes me want to smash the darn thing.


But lost I get. I even managed to get lost last week coming out of a theater in New York – a city I know like the back of my hand, having lived there for so many years. I emerged from the doors of the theater not knowing which way to turn to head back to the train station. Suddenly the pleasant memories of the show were replaced by the anxiety of feeling so utterly confused.  So I did what any lost soul would do: I asked a street vendor – a street vendor! – to point me east. Oh, those tourists, he no doubt muttered, in whichever language he spoke. Talk about feeling like a stranger in your own land.

 You may be asking what this has to do with happiness, a subject I promised I’d be focusing on for the next few weeks. I’ll tell you what: I am ecstatic right now (that’s happiness times one hundred, I suppose) at this bit of new research: it’s not me: it’s my genes!

This Matters> Researchers have found a genetic disorder (named Williams syndrome) which causes disorientation among us unlucky lost souls. What’s basic to some people (like my husband and sons, who can go to a foreign country and maneuver around as if they’ve lived there all their lives) is actually genetically impossible for people like me. This syndrome is rare (affecting only one in 7,500 people), and translates into having trouble with skills like doing puzzles or copying patterns or navigating your body through the physical world. It’s no wonder I feel like a spinning top whenever I’m challenged with getting anywhere.

How does this help me? Is there something I can take to make up for this wayward chromosome? No.

But the next time I wonder where in the world I am,  I won’t blame myself by thinking I’m stupid, dense or clueless…or feel too embarrassed to tell someone that the reason I’m an hour late getting to their house (which I’ve been to dozens of times) is because I took a wrong turn.

I can blame someone else; that small amount of genetic material that is missing from one of my chromosomes. Who knows? It may have gotten lost along the way.

Do you get easily lost and confused? Or are you lucky to possess an uncanny sense of direction? Maybe you can offer some pointers!

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