Entering the Cave of Fears

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek" - Joseph Campbell

I am starting to have a realization that my choice to restart pretty much ALL areas of my life since Drew died means that there is still a hell of a lot to rebuild and build anew. Probably way more than I even can understand right now. When he died, I quit my job and moved out of the city we called home to live with family for support. Not only did my heart have a major change, but my city, and home, and support system changed too. Looking back, it is astonishing how much change I endured all at once. No wonder it seemed like I was floundering for at least a year or two.

Even during those first few years of aimlessness - which I think are vital after a major trauma like this - I was always trying to create a new direction for my “after” life. Though most of that ended up in my hopping around from one thing to another or just wandering about. I learned that, though I felt like I had no sense of direction, there was in fact a direction slowly taking hold.

Over time, one failed direction after another, I kept trying to find a new direction I could to pour my heart and soul and guts and sweat into that would one day hopefully, be able to sustain me financially too. A direction that - even though he was not standing beside me for - he would somehow be the core of. That was it. Something that would give purpose and meaning to his death happening.

After 3 ½ years and a lot of wandering, I’ve finally started to feel like I have some sense of direction… primarily with my art and writing. I’ve managed to find myself traveling more in that direction than any others now and I am incredibly proud of the work I’ve done thus far. It’s been meaningful work. I’ve helped others feel less alone with my writing and photography, and myself too. Both of these are my ultimate goals. Help others. Help myself. I’ve made a little money here and there also, but things have to move forward. I have lived off generous family support and savings in order to get this far, and money is running out now. There has to be a change, and soon.

Now come the new fears and questions… what if I have to go back to a regular job and give up on all this? This direction that gives so much meaning and healing and goodness to his death and to my life and to so many others? I know logically I should not listen to that voice. I realize that, ultimately, even if I take a regular job again, I will not let it stop me. I will find the time to create meaning. Plenty of people do it everyday. But it gets so easy to listen to the voices in your head sometimes, doesn’t it? Telling you that you’ll never make it, that you’re not capable of achieving what you dream of, that you can’t handle as much as you were able to before he died. That you’re weaker now. None of that is true.

I suppose now I have a different fear than I did before all this happened in my life… not a fear of losing security, but of losing purpose and meaning. Either way, it’s a fearing of losing something else I’ve fought hard to have. Losing things is still the biggest fear at hand… understandably so.

It’s no wonder, given everything I’ve lost… that fear of loss be so hard for me to face. Not to mention that it’s human to fear losing things to begin with. It makes us feel vulnerable, insecure, unstable, weak. I’m deciding, for now, to give it a little longer and to try some new things. It’s winter here in Ohio, which means plenty of time to hunker down indoors and work out the logistics of things. I’m going to give myself until the end of winter to try and figure out some new steps forward that will bring meaning and healing into other people’s lives while bringing me more financial support to continue on with this work.

This is likely going to mean stepping into some very new and uncomfortable situations - like creating online courses, recording podcasts, doing more interviews and presentations. Yeah, it’s going to be seriously vulnerable… I’m about enter into a glorious cave of “I don’t know what the hell i’m doing”, in a major way. But I really do believe that this cave is the direction to the outcome I want. This could just be the beginning of something really important. I have a feeling about it, and I’m willing to try. So, the end of winter, that’s my deadline. I’m not giving up yet. I’ll keep sharing with you all as it goes.

As the days go by, I’m going to try and remember that, Even without the added complexity of grief, building a business is incredibly hard and takes an unbelievable amount of time and stamina. Just the same, even without building a business, the work of rebuilding our hearts after losing our partner is incredibly hard, too. I should be more patient with myself on both of these fronts… and just take one step every day in the direction I have started to carve out. Eventually, one step, each day, I will get somewhere new. I will get to a place where I am able to help others for a living. I just have to keep my sights set on that. Thanks for listening, it’s going to be good to have the support of everyone here as I start making my way through this confusing, vulnerable and seriously scary new area of living on.


Photo Credit: Nicolas Ilinski 

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  • Alison Miller
    commented 2016-01-11 19:23:22 -0800
    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah….I think and you write exactly what I’m thinking and eloquently state exactly where I am right now, with life, with this grief. I know, when I slow down my head, that I’m in the midst, have been in the midst, of creating something…I know not what yet…but something, since Chuck died and I went on the road. I’m building a foundation for something, but in the meanwhile, mostly I too feel as if I’m just doing hit or miss and I’m trying to feel passionate about something but don’t feel passionate about anything other than staying on the road. I, too, like you and so many other widows, must find a way to be financially secure, and I will somehow, and I know it has to have something to do with this experience because after this experience, after living on the road for almost 7 years, how can I bear to return to an average, normal, life? Reading your blog this week was opportune for me, widow sister, and I thank you for writing it. I’ve been getting myself crazy with stuff and this offered me some reassurance~
  • Carla Duff-Calvert
    commented 2016-01-11 17:12:12 -0800
    I wish I had the courage to walk into the cave. I can’t wait to read more about your journey.
  • Flo R
    commented 2016-01-11 04:52:45 -0800
    Thank you for sharing your quest. Walking into that cave I fear in order to find purpose and meaning is necessary for me, too. After trying other avenues, which helped me recognize and build my inner strength, what was there left to do? You sound hopeful that what is in your highest good will ultimately be in others’ highest good. The fear I walk with is that my highest good will untether me from my illusions, maybe one of which is that my highest good will help others. We’ll find out as we boldly walk, and tell others.