28 May 2017
I have been thinking about the word “lost” quite a bit lately. “When We Are Lost” is the title of the new book I’m working on and it is something I have felt more than a few times in my life.
When we lose someone we love – our children, our partner, our friends or family – we often feel lost in grief.
When we make major life changes – move across the country, start a new job, change careers, go back to school, etc. – we can feel lost and uncertain.
Sometimes feeling lost finds us – life is moving along as usual and slowly we begin to feel dissatisfied, restless, hollow, unsure if what we have is really what we want.
Lost has been a companion of mine again for a while now. In March of 2016, I picked up my life, my business, and myself to replant myself in a new area of the country. I left an amazing community of friends and a counseling practice to create something new in a new place. I did so because I was starting to feel as if I was losing myself – in old patterns, in old grief, in complacency and fear, in subtle dissatisfaction.
Most of the time, we think of being lost as a bad thing.
I’m not really sure it is.
When my children died, I had to get lost in the grief so that I could find the beauty of living again and remember that love never dies. I had to lose myself in grief for the motherhood I wanted in order to find peace with the motherhood I was given.
There was a point in time when I left my chosen profession of counseling. It was a painful and confusing time. But it took getting lost in order to find my way back to the career I love – supporting those experiencing grief and loss.
When I started to lose myself in my old home a couple of years ago, I had to get lost in a new place in order to find myself again. I can’t say I’m fully there yet and I will admit that I still feel lost much of the time these days. Yet, as hard as it has been and continues to be, I feel more alive than I have in years and I feel truer to me than I have ever felt.
Grief is a time of lostness.
Change can feel like getting lost.
Maybe there’s not specific reason yet we feel like we’re stumbling in the darkness.
And, sometimes, being lost is exactly where we need to be.
Just maybe somewhere in that lostness is exactly where we find ourselves again.
28 Jan 2016
I’m not much of a fan.
Uncertainty. The unknown. Ambiguity. The unexpected. Wishy-washiness.
These things make my stomach slightly queasy. I’ve always been a planner and liked to have things laid out before me, but after having experienced the deaths of so many that I love – my fiancé, my children, friends, and more – life’s uncertainties seemed to become unbearable.
I used to be proud of how well I could adapt to things – new cities, new places, changes in plans, and changes in life. I always liked a good plan but could easily roll with the unexpected and the new. I loved and embraced change.
Somewhere that changed. Looking back, I think it was after my second daughter died. One loss too many and suddenly unexpected changes, uncertainty, the unknown, and ambiguity all became terrifying. The change I used to love and thrive on became coated with anxiety and fear.
What used to feel like possibility and adventure began to feel intolerable and petrifying. Suddenly, instead of enjoying life’s twists and turns, I was spending massive amounts of time and energy trying to control life, to make it safe and secure and certain. I struggled to ensure everything was planned and decided and that it would go as expected.
Except it never did. Something always happened to upset the plan. Life happened, with all it’s twists and turns. The unexpected came. And every time I felt punched in the gut and utterly flattened.
It happened again recently. I was already swimming in a sea of changes and anxiety – writing and publishing my book changed so much inside of me that my world was having to change to keep up.
Then a sudden and unexpected change in a relationship yanked the rug out from my already unsteady feet – again.
For the old me, it would have been sad, but a relatively minor blip on the radar of life. For the post-loss me, it was devastatingly painful and heartbreaking.
It was messy. It was ugly. I felt like every part of my being was aching and broken. Everything hurt.
And it brought me face-to-face with a truth that I have spent so many years running away from and deny:
I can’t control life.
I can’t protect myself from hurt.
I will lose people I love.
I can’t make life certain and safe and secure.
Life is full of uncertainty and ambiguity and the unknown. It will change, expectedly and unexpectedly.
It was clarity in the middle of the mess. And, perhaps for the first time in more than 13 years, I could breathe freely in a way I hadn’t been able to since my fiancé and first daughter died.
I still hurt but I no longer resisted the pain.
The act of surrender is not one that I am all that familiar with. To tell the truth, I’m not sure I’ve ever really done it before. I’ve read books on it and listened to teachers and mystics teach and talk about it, but I’m not sure I ever truly experienced it.
Until one day a couple weeks go when, in the middle of grief and pain and messiness, I gave up control and surrendered to the uncertainty of life.
The shift has been amazing. It’s not that the hurt and pain and grief suddenly disappeared, but it didn’t paralyze me anymore. I felt these feelings – completely and without resistance – and they moved through much more quickly and easily. It came in waves and between the waves I could function and laugh and be.
More than that, I have felt more connected than I have in a very long time. To my friends, to my family, and to myself. Trying to control all of life had the unexpected side effect of also keeping distance and barriers to connection and love.
With control, we lost connection and the sweetness of life.
With uncertainty, there may be unknowns, but there is also connection and love and deeper relationships.
Control is full of fear and loss and anger and resentment.
Uncertainty, while perhaps uncomfortable, is full of possibility and opportunity and discovery.
I have spent years with the unconscious belief that control would make me more secure, make relationships more consistent and steady, and make life feel safer.
It never really did. I was always looking and waiting to when I might lose the people and things I loved. Love was always marred by fear and doubt and anticipation of loss.
The irony is that I’m finding uncertainty to feel safer and more secure. My relationships, while changing, are sweeter and deeper and more full of love. In uncertainty, I am finding the depth, constancy, and steadiness I have longed for in life and in relationships. Love has been freed and cleared of fear and doubt.
Even in the sea of changes rolling through my life, I finally feel safe. I feel loved. I feel connected. I feel at home in myself. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what lies ahead, but I trust and know that whatever happens, I am ok.
I have no doubt there will be storms in this sea of change – loss, grief, unexpected events and disappointments. But that’s ok. I’m learning to embrace the storm.
Because whatever the outcome, no storm can ever take away the love.
Love is the constant in any uncertainty.