August 19, 2015

3 Lessons in the Fine Art of Loss.

RiteshNayak/Flickr

We were in bed, my ear pressed to his heart, my fingers mindlessly tracing the design on his t-shirt. He stroked my hair, kissing the top of my head.

And then he asked the question.

“If money wasn’t an issue and you could spend your life doing the one thing that makes you happy, what would you do?”

I didn’t even think, I just answered.

“Write.”

I’ve always dreamed of being a writer—seeing my name in print, sharing my story with the world. But it never seemed like something I could fully commit to.

How could I spend my days lost in pen and paper when I needed to make money, pay bills and be a responsible adult? So writing became a far-off dream, something I would accomplish someday.

I told myself I was being practical. But I also knew I was scared. I feared I didn’t have what it took to make it as a writer.

I didn’t stop wanting my dream, but I did stop working for it.

Then this man appeared like a whirlwind and took all practicality out of my life. He was like shock treatment and with one question made me believe my dreams didn’t have to wait for someday. His support was consistent and enthusiastic: he checked in to see if I was writing, asked what I wrote about, picked my brain and shared his feelings, dreamed right along with me. He promised he’d be the first in line to buy my book. With him, my dream was never a question of if, but when.

Within a few short months, he was gone.

I spent weeks afterward writing furiously, searching for answers. Then one day while trolling Facebook, I read an elephant journal article entitled “For the Free-Spirited Females with Fiercely Sensitive Hearts” and felt that same familiar jolt. Within weeks I had applied for, and been accepted into, the Summer 2015 Elephant Academy—a three-month apprenticeship focusing on social media, editing and writing for the mindful life.

This opportunity forced me to see myself and my situation head on. I’d lost this person in the all-too-ordinary and heartbreaking way that happens when two people just can’t figure it out together. And the loss of his support and enthusiasm seemed like more than I could handle. But as it turns out, being a part of this program and finally working toward my dream caused me to lose more than I thought possible.

1. I lost my fear of not being enough.

Getting chosen as an apprentice pumped up my ego; how could I not feel like a badass when out of so many applicants across the globe they picked me. But actually being an apprentice? That humbled me in ways I hadn’t imagined. The work was crazy fun, but relentless—engaging readers daily on Facebook, writing and editing personal blogs, all while working my day job and trying to heal my heart.

There were times I believed I wasn’t capable enough to excel. Times when I was crying in front of my computer at 2:00 a.m., trying to perfect an article or find an inspiring quote that would resonate with others. What I realized was, we are never enough—we are so much more than we realize.

Sharing ideas, embracing critiques and soaking in knowledge from my mentors and fellow apprentices showed me that we are surrounded by limitless talent and possibilities for success. I wasn’t chosen because I’m talented enough—I was chosen because I am talented, no quantification needed. We are never enough of something, we simply are.

2. I lost my anxiety about opening up to strangers.

When the program began, our fearless leader Waylon Lewis warned us “folks can smell it if you’re being fake.” It was obvious I wouldn’t be able to hide here—and that was liberating.

Within the first week, I met people from all over the world and heard their most personal stories about battling cancer and postpartum depression, dealing with death and loss and anxiety, celebrating new lives and deep loves.

These women were bold and courageous and broken in the best way. Just like me.

Over the past 12 weeks, I’ve had no choice but to be brutally honest with my fellow apprentices. How can you hide yourself from people who are offering their fear, passion and heartbreak openly? With every published blog and word of encouragement, I found myself more willing and excited to open up. I felt like I had finally found my tribe.

3. I lost my belief in someday.

Someday is a magical world where it’s never too late to try or start or succeed. It is also a convenient wasteland for procrastinators like myself to avoid getting started on the things that seem terrifying or overwhelming. But we don’t have time—we never know what will happen next, how long we have with someone or when we’ll achieve our dreams.

We were all given the opportunity to back out of the program our first week. And after reading the detailed syllabus, I almost walked away. The schedule was demanding and our responsibilities were intense, not to mention the emotional honesty that was being required of us as writers. Two days in and my mind was already exhausted.

But this apprenticeship was the kick in the ass I needed to realize that my time is now.

Having a concrete task to focus on, one that was leading me closer to my dream and farther from my pain, allowed me to exist moment to moment. Someday didn’t seem to matter that much when I focused on each day.

So here’s what I’ve learned: we will never fully understand loss. We accept it, absorb it and work around it, but it’s like a wound that heals just a little off-center.

And sometimes loss is when the magic happens.

I couldn’t see it back then, when my life felt haphazard and my heart was aching, but it was all perfectly aligned: the moment, the man, the question and everything that came after. Had I not found—and lost—this person, I never would have stumbled across a path to my dream. I never would have pushed my fears aside.

I never would have found the courage to follow through on the one thing that makes me happy.

 

Relephant:

When Your Dreams Scare the Sh*t Out of You.

 

Author: Nicole Cameron

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: RiteshNayak/Flickr

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