The Inspiration to Carry On
This fall my dear friend Bryan Edwards crossed over the rainbow bridge after a strong battle with pancreatic cancer. He lived a wildly adventurous life in the mountains of Arizona and sailing the sea in the Caribbean.
In one of our many conversations we had this year as he was dying, he told me a common thread in his life was being an inspiration to others.
Bryan was the man who put me back at the tiller the year after losing Jameson and our beautiful experience of sailing together. Jameson and I had bought a 21’ sailboat that we enjoyed for one and a half summers before he took his life. I was at a loss of how to proceed with sailing alone: I knew I loved the boat and being on it, but the pain of doing it without my sailing partner made the experience torturous.
It was my second winter after Jameson’s death and I had mentally and physically crashed and was completely exhausted, exceedingly depressed, and barely able to get myself out of bed in the mornings. I had taken a sabbatical from my educational social work job and found myself living in a guesthouse on the beach in Hopkins, Belize. This trip was different than all of my other travels: my will to exist had faded and it was a terrifying time of my grief walk, as I often wondered if I would escape the dark cloud of depression and feel my joy again. Finding Bryan by swimming to his sailboat Brujula off the coast of Hopkins during my first days back in the village was a godsend. Bryan threw me a lifeline to hope and joy during some of my darkest days.
We instantly made friends and I went out on multiple sailing trips with him to the barrier islands. We talked about our challenges, sunken dreams, and where we would go with our ever-changing lives. We shared our heartaches at sea and let them drift off on the wind.
During those sailing trips I found my confidence to carry on with my passion for being on the water and sailing. I found my smile and my joy. I found moments with freedom from depression and the heavy weight of grief. I found beauty and friendship and inspiration to keep living.
Fast forward to this past summer: I had found myself overworked and stressed trying to manage the Crossroads Hiker Hostel alone. I was suffering from some extreme pain from a torn tendon in my foot and having to push through it to get the daily tasks done. I was eating hiker food at night, which made me feel even more crappy the next day. Facing the possibility of reconstructive foot surgery if I couldn’t change this trajectory, I was living with some very real fear of my mobility and dreams of sailing being taken away.
At some point I decided the mountain of pain was too much to climb and I would resign myself to being a fat, old lady at 44. I had had a good life full of adventure.
After some weeks of spending my evenings with my ice pack, I realized that once again Bryan’s journey had plenty of inspiration for me to grab ahold of. If he could fight for his life against all odds, who was I to give up so easily? I began to get my act together and do everything in my power to heal this.
Bryan did more than inspire me. He rescued me from sinking. He gave me new experiences worth living for and encouraged me to keep sailing. If I hadn’t chosen to swim to his boat and make friends with him, I doubt I would be out here living on this sailboat today.
As I find myself once again rolling with the rhythm of the sea here in Guadeloupe, I think often of my friend Bryan and the ways amazing friendships and relationships come and go. I have been giving a lot of thought to all of the inspiration I have gathered from the incredible people I have been fortunate enough to know and love and the timing in which we meet and inspire and influence each other during different chapters of our lives.
To me, it truly is one of the best parts of this human existence: the ever-changing landscape of important people and the ways we walk though phases of each other’s lives hand in hand. The support, the camaraderie, the sense of family, the trust, compassion, and having people around that really get what we are going through creates a feeling of home and safety wherever we end up on this journey of life. There are times in our lives where the magical timing of a new friend showing up or an old friend returning brings us exactly the medicine we need, often with unexpected surprises and the inspiration to write new chapters. During this new chapter of my life, I am giving some thought to what parts of me I will choose to bring to the surface when I meet new people out here in a world where I have no old friends to surround myself with.
How do I keep the best parts of who I am shining bright so that all those around me can be inspired to live their best lives? What actions do I choose to take to keep creating mutually beneficial experiences with those around me?
How do I choose to respond to adverse situations? Can I remain in joy and gratitude and inspire that in others?
How do I influence the landscape of human connection and relations in my immediate surroundings?
Everyday the choice is ours to make. Sometimes it is a much bigger mountain to climb to find the joy or the gratitude in the midst of the dark nights of the soul. Sometimes it is not possible to bring our best selves to the table, but on the days we can, I believe it is important that we offer our best.
I continue to write and share my journey back to freedom and joy after a long period of suffering the emotional turmoil of losing the love of my life to suicide. This writing is for all of you in the hopes that I ignite some flames of inspiration, hope, and joy that keep your heart warm during your darkest days.
Know that you are loved.