I Can’t Find What’s Not Lost

I’ve asked myself in those quiet moments, WHO am I now? who AM I now? Who am I NOW? Each time I ask the question, stress a different word, it leads me back to more questions. A sister with one less brother? A daughter whose parents feel as if they’ve driven into a concrete wall? A woman who wants to shed her skin like a molting lobster?

woman walking through the fieldFor the past 3 ½ months since my brother walked out of this world and into the next without saying goodbye, without any warning at all, my attention drifts and floats when I’m alone. I’ve not been able to read anything longer than a Haiku poem. But over the past two weeks, I was ready to be pulled into another world, if only for a couple of hours at night when QUIET comes a-knockin’.

I went into my office, sighed my sighs as I stared at books yet to be read. I picked up WILD, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed that sat on my bookshelf for two years, because I didn’t want to read about a woman on search for herself after a tragedy.

Cheryl’s mother died at 45 when Cheryl was 22, leaving a hole in her heart the size of the Grand Canyon. Four years later, she hiked 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail ALONE to find herself and heal a broken heart. (I highly recommend this book http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Found-Pacific-Crest-Vintage/dp/0307476073 and all other books by this author)

ImageUnder the sun, as I read her journey through hell, I imagined myself lacing up boots, stuffing dried nuts, a water filter, an army knife, and a cracked heart inside a backpack. I imagined hiking that trail, finding the new courageous, healed me.

Plain truth: NEVER in three lifetimes would I have that kind of courage to hike three months by myself.

But, I did ask myself, “What FEARS are holding me back now from going after those dreams I’ve dreamed about under a star-speckled sky? What fears are living inside the new me  who was kicked in the heart with a steel-toed boot? The me who understands that now is all we truly have–at least in this flesh and blood form?


In this knowing, I wait for a new, bolder kind of courage to rise up through the fears and crack in my heart, because what, truly, do I have to lose? Yet, I continue to dream about chances and risks I want to take. I journal about them. I talk about them. I prepare and re-prepare to molt and climb out of my old self.

Though I’ve taken risks, they’ve been calculated with very few unknowns—other than jumping on a plane to Asia three days after my brother died. Even then, I knew all I needed to. Rocky was dead and would not be waiting for me when I arrived.

The kind of risk I’m talking about feels equivalent to driving a hundred miles an hour into a thick wall of fog, or soaring off a cliff without a safety net to break my fall, or hiking a thousand miles alone.

ImageBecause I’m a great “sign” seeker—not as in highway signs—more like celestial NEON signs, I search for them daily to get the green light from the universe that I will be okay if I take this one chance to discover the person I’m becoming without a net to catch me.

One Friday morning, I drove to Boston to be a guest on The Dr. Stem show, a local half-hour TV show, to talk to parents and kids about the importance of discovering their passions and to live accordingly; A topic I believe in wholeheartedly, until, that is, it comes to following the whisper of my own heart.

As I followed Cheryl, with her profound courage, down the barren and lonely Pacific Crest Trail, as she sidestepped rattle snakes, came face-to-face with a black bear, and was on the lookout for lions, it led me to a conversation with my brother, Rocky, the MOST courageous person I know. I prattled onto him the way I do every day, asked for another sign to give me the green light, to let me know I had a pinky-sized portion of his courage, of Cheryl’s, and that’s when a ROCK hit my windshield and cracked it in the left hand corner.

ImageThe striking Rock, struck something more deeply inside of me. I’ve walked my own thousand miles to get here. I’ve faced my own rattle snakes and black bears and lions. Some internal. Some external. It is the painful grit of life that calls to us to surrender, to stretch, to trust.

The darkest and most frightening times in my life when I felt as though I walked alone along my own Pacific Crest Trail, I had a partner. Me. I’ve never been alone. Not in the fog. Not in the sunshine. Not inside myself. And not since Rocky died. I can step off the cliff, barrel into a wall of fog, or molt my old skin, because I will be with myself wherever I land.

We only have today. This one moment. And it’s time to choose what you want to do with it.

Are you ready to jump off a cliff, drive into a wall of fog, and molt an old skin? Is there a dream you have just waiting to be realized? Is there a fear that holds you back? Share it here!


27 thoughts on “I Can’t Find What’s Not Lost

  1. –Susan,
    your beautiful posts continually resonate w/ me. I read your words and think, “Yeah, perhaps I can go on living, too!”
    We all find our way to survive somehow. For Cheryl Strayed, it was the ultimate hiking adventure—For Elizabeth Gilbert, it was traveling to exotic countries. For Annie Lamott, it was finding God. For me…it’s Words. I drown inside of them.
    I love your positive energy and heart ❤
    Keep writing, savoring, educating, & jumping off cliffs! By doing this, you help others to jump, as well. xx
    Ps. It's been 4 years and I only started reading again. After Kay, I could only read poetry & short blogs.

    1. Thanks, Kim…and the beautiful reminder of how we all find our way…I love the other journeys these women have taken to heal, to live more fully. If it were not for you, I probably wouldn’t have published this post…thanks for the encouragement, for taking the time to read my thoughts and I truly hope that by sharing my personal journey, I really am inspiring others to do the same, to jump, to believe, to keep walking the path…I remember this moment when Cheryl thought she was “lost” and had gotten off the PCT…it was such a perfect metaphor of this life…when we truly do feel lost and yet, we never are…we just are where we are and it’s the only place we can be.

      I love your energy, too…thank you for sharing your walk with me. xoxox

  2. Here’s the truth: I have no idea where I’m going. I’m wandering in the wilderness, and you know what? I’m reminded that i like the scenery… and hell, just walking in general. I love the adventure! I’m afraid to ask for help to fund my book, that I’ll seem self-serving and that I’ll fall short of my goals, but so what? As I like to say, God’s got me where He wants me. It’s all unraveling, and I’ve got my Swiss Army knife.

    1. Oh…Alissia…You do know where you’re going…or at least your soul does…it just takes a while for the rest of you to catch up! I published this late last night…left a whole paragraph out and repeated myself at the end…I think it’s all fixed now. Note to self…don’t publish at midnight!

      And about your book…remember…it’s not self-serving…your work is to help heal others…REMEMBER that, please. AND yes, God has us all where he wants us…we are exactly where we are supposed to be with or without our Swiss Army knife!

      Thanks for your thoughts, sister…we will get there one step at a time! LOVE YOU!

  3. Dear Susan,
    I was just typing dear when I misspelled the word to deaf…hmmm, I wonder if there is a hidden message there. I love your blog. I feel bad though that you are struggling with your loss and will be for a long time to come. It is so hard to think of your sibling being snatched away without a goodbye, a hug, a kiss, a moment to say what you feel. Oh if we could only turn back time. I have so many things I would say to my sister. I would love to have a conversation with my birth mother Jeanne too. I sometimes cry thinking about how my life would have been different if only those two people have lived longer than their precious 29 and 19 years respectively.

    I try really hard to live in the moment. It’s a challenge…so many distractions, messages and thoughts coming in my head, to do this or do that. We all have 10,000 things to do and yet so little time.

    I wanted to share with you a story about my adventure in Montana. My birth mother’s sister Kathy lives in a beautiful log cabin nestled in the woods. From her kitchen window, I can see a Rock jutting out of the hill that was calling me. I wanted to hike up to it, I was drawn to it. So, I packed water, snacks and started out. My first obstacle was a river that I had to cross, I saw a huge tree that had fallen across the river so I maneuvered my way across. The forest was lush with greens, ferns, moss, sticks, fallen trees, it was beautiful. I climbed over the logs, and continued up and up until I reached the ridge. I looked across and could see Aunt Kathy’s cabin, it looked small from so far away. I kept going until I reached the Rock then sat there for a long time. Feeling the sun on my face and pondering Dianne’s death. My sister and I were so close, we were only a year apart and did everything together. I sat there for a long time hoping she could hear my thoughts and feel my love and sadness. I had to begin the trek back… but somehow I got twisted around and lost because when I got to the bottom the river was going the wrong way. It wasn’t what I remembered. I told myself not to panic and to follow the water as it must come to a bridge…and it did. I was grateful to find a way across without getting my sneakers wet or having to swim. I walked up to the first cabin that I came to and knocked on the door, by then it was getting dark and I’m sure my aunt would be worried as to where I went. As my good fortune would have it, the person who answered the door was a friend of my aunts. He drove me back to her cabin. I had wandered 3 miles from my starting point and realized that I was a lucky girl, my angels were looking out for me.

    I have made the journey up to the Rock again with others and it feels good to be there. Both of my grandparents, Papa John and Grammy Bea asked to have their ashes spread there. It’s a special place.

    Keep writing Susan, time doesn’t always heal wounds but I promise you with sharing, loving, and being, you are surviving and Rocky is smiling. He loves you so…Hugs, T

    1. Theresa,
      I love to read your stories…you are a beautiful writer! This story about heading out to a “ROCK” is a poignant metaphor for me as I read your story…being drawn to the ROCK and losing your way…and then “saved” by an angel. Since Rocky’s death, I have felt at times as though I’ve wondered away from myself…feeling numb at times and always looking for signs that he’s with me. When I was talking to Rocky that day, asking for a sign and the ROCK struck my windshield, I knew it was my brother saying, “Pay attention! Go after whatever you want. There is no time like the PRESENT.” I know he’s “with me.” I can feel him. I know he’s in a place that you’ve described: In a lush green beautiful place…and I still want him here…this process, I know, is not a sprint, but a marathon. I love you, Theresa…thank you for sharing your “ROCK” story with me. All my love and gratitude, Susan

  4. Such beauty and bold intention in your tragedy. Oh, how I love your heart, your courage to move forward, your gift in using your words to piece it all together and share so that others can be inspired by your powerful message. God bless you as you go forward – with the one and only YOU.

    1. Christine, thank you…it doesn’t take much for the tears to flow…and this comment made them come this morning. Each and every time I write a post…I think people are going to stop reading, tired of hearing about my process with my brother…and wondering if people will walk away with something to apply to their own lives. It’s comments like yours that keep me moving forward and motivating me to keep writing this blog and sharing it DESPITE my fears. I love your heart, too…thank you for being so loving and taking the time to comment. With deep gratitude and love, Susan

  5. Good morning, dear Susan. Just catching up with my emails. Totally connect to this post. No mistake, perhaps, I, too, finally dived into WILD. But, it does remind me of my own heading out alone, disconnecting, challenging myself such as when I headed cross-country at 18 in a frail car with a dog fresh out of the pound. Or, heading out into the Rockies alone with a pack and a dog. Or, heading into the woods off the Debsconeags near Baxter, alone to explore the lakes my great grandfather loved. Its hard. Maybe I felt just the tip of “courage”, dabbled toes in the fears it evoked. But, I never really embraced my biggest fear — that I would fail, that I was damaged, that I was not good enough, that I didn’t fit and never would. Now, as I realize my life is long past its mid-point, I face the worst possible fear — that I will die having never had the courage to truly commit to myself, my gifts and the challenges I want most to say, “Yes, I did that. I did not live defined by fear. My life on some small scale advanced the human condition towards the positive.” What might these things be? They come to me in meditation: To write, to hold humility, to travel, to do my art. I put a prayer out and pray it is answered. The answer keeps coming LOUDLY that everything I need will appear exactly as I need. But, I have to do the work. As I look back, the right EVERYTHING has come as I’ve needed. Maybe not the tidy sufferless packages I wanted, but better things that have enriched me. Suffering coaxes us into deeper levels of compassion, understanding and love. Much love and thank you for all your courage and love. Berry

    1. Berry, thank you for this beautiful comment and sharing a piece of your story with us. I want to hear much more about that story when you were eighteen and traveled cross country and headed out to the Rockies! I, too, believe the RIGHT everything comes when we need it…I also believe that we are more powerful than we can begin to imagine…and the more risks we take, the more steps we take into our own fear…the more RIGHT (and opportunities) show up for us to live the grandest expression of our soul. This is my hope for myself and for everyone else in this big beautiful world. We are not here to live small…but I do think we are here to encourage each other, support each other and sometimes be COURAGE for each other to take that next step no matter how big or how small…as long as we take it…and sometimes we need a gentle push and other times, we need a shove! I’ll walk with you sister…in the joy and in the pain as we travel our next thousand miles. And then we’ll both be able to say, “Yes, I did that. I did not live defined by fear. My life on some small scale advanced the human condition towards the positive.” So are you ready to take that next step with me? LOVE you!! And thanks for the link to the meditations!! xoxoxoxox

  6. Oh! PS:   Life Rushes Back: Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the Gifts of Solitude  Life Rushes Back: Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the Gifts of … The writer’s words from 1955 resonate even more profoundly today in an era of technological ubiquity. A meditation on the gifts of solitude, loneliness, and silence… View on http://www.onbeing.org Preview by Yahoo   (OnBeing is a wonderful website and NPR show. I listen to podcasts.)

  7. I too have allowed fears to hold me back. My mind constantly tries to convince myself it’s better to stay at the shallow end of the pool and be content where I am. I will never be a big risk taker, no hiking trail for me either, but I have done things that really scared me. Scared for my health mostly, scared of the consequences. Small fears, I know, but I’ve allowed them to deny me joy more often than I can count. For those kinds of little fears I find I can lean into it now. To feel the fear and do it anyway. There is such joy in that. As a result I’ve fulfilled my dream of going to Tibet, had my dream wedding, am opening a webshop (is in the works, yay!) and best of all…every single day I experience the joy of our new pup, Watson. And YOU my friend, inspired me to look past the “what if’s” and other fears and to think of the JOY he would bring. And what a bundle of JOY he is.

    I hope to remember from now on not to listen to my fears, but to go where the JOY is.

    Thank you for the inspiration. You, our friendship, these posts…also bring me great JOY.

    1. Yvon…I practically jumped out of my chair when I read that you’ll be opening a webshop!!! Does this mean you are going to share your ART with the world? When your site opens…POST it here for all to see!! I know I’ve told you this many times before, but you are a living, breathing example of a human being who is NOT held back by fear. You’ve walked your own thousand miles to get where you are today…and you walked them DESPITE being afraid at times. I love you my friend and you always give me things to think about it and today I’m going to go where the Joy is!! xoxoxox

      1. Yes, I am opening a webshop! My brother in law offered to set one up for me, and I am very excited. And he can build in translation tools so I can post everything in English as well. I love the new possibilities it brings, from writing articles and featuring other designers/artists to maybe even making tutorials. It will likely take a few months to set it up, but once it’s ready…you’ll be among the first to know. Thanks for the words of encouragement, love you hon.

  8. Sometimes Courage can be a hard thing to muster up when life continually offers up opportunities to live at a new level of engagement. God Bless the concept of “reliable repetition” where we will be presented with similar kinds of opportunities over and over again, until we decide to do something different, or choose something different. Even after several events and actions I chose to take with Courage; and being witness to many Blessings, it is STILL hard to muster it sometimes when I am presented with yet another opportunity to grow.

    1. Peter…I’ve thought a lot about reliable repetition since Rocky died…and yet, I have not experienced this level of grief before…but I have experienced grief. And mustering up courage to feel and experience the waves of emotion that hit me out of the blue…is something I work at everyday. Thank you, Peter! xo

      1. I think that article I referenced is really profound and very much applies. I think that the level of intensity of your grief is profound and shows that you are really feeling, really alive, and that is a testament to Rocky’s beautiful message for you and everyone who misses him. The growing intensity of that grief means that you have GROWN as a person, and are approaching closer to the true meaning and essence of our existence, and that it is indeed okay to feel and express as you do, and why that article is so damn stunning.

      2. Thank you, Peter…I feel as if I’m GROWING up and GROWING down…damn…it’s painful and miraculous ride on this path of life…I truly hope you are right and I really am “approaching closer to the true meaning and essence of our existence…”

        I truly always appreciate your responses…thank you for taking the time to catch up! xo

    1. Peter…this is the most STUNNING piece I’ve ever read on grief…I didn’t see this on FACEBOOK! Thank you a million times over…I will read and re-read this over and over again.

      So much LOVE and gratitude!

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