My friend and podcast co-host, Luis Campos, recently told me that he was diagnosed with something scary. He writes about it on the Completely Ordinary blog if you’re interested.
Luis has helped me to discover the importance of accepting the gift of the heart. He has taught me this not through knowing the answer and lecturing me about it.
He has taught me by being himself, being vulnerable, failing, not knowing.
He’s taught me by being a friend.
Luis and I have been exchanging emails since he told me about his diagnosis. And just a few moments ago one of our exchanges reminded me of a story that I then shared with him.
I want to share it with you too.
Another friend of mine – Thomas Seibold – went missing in late 2012.
I met Thomas first when I lived outdoors for a winter in 2009-2010. He was one of the other people living with me.
Thomas was a German man, then in his mid-to-late 20s, living in norther Wisconsin.
He was one of the gentlest, nicest, most open-hearted people I have met.
Thomas (pronounced like the English word “toe” and the Spanish word “mas”) loved being outdoors. He loved being connected to the world he loved.
He made his own clothing from hides. He hunted, trapped and gathered his own food, he paddled in remote regions for weeks at a time.
In 2012 he went to a remote area of Alaska on his own.
His intention was to explore for a few months until it got cold. Then he would return to Wisconsin.
When he didn’t return, his wife and friends became worried.
They initiated a search for him.
Nobody has ever found Thomas.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to him.
But the best guess based on the available evidence, is that he was killed by a bear while he went to get another part of a moose he had killed.
I was torn up by this news. I felt so angry. It seemed to unjust.
Why would Thomas be killed? Why somebody so honest and good?
I felt angry that he went to Alaska.
But then I realized something. He was living from his heart.
What I was wishing for, in wishing that he was still alive, was that he would have deadened down a bit, closed his heart, lied about who he was and what he needed. I wanted him to play it safe. I wanted him to be somebody else.
But who I loved was who he was. That open heart. That honesty.
Luis teaches me the same through his open-heartedness, his failings, his willingness to be whatever he is.
And life offers continual opportunity to say say to the heart.
For so long I thought I wanted security and enlightenment and power and bliss and to transcend.
Having gotten so many tastes of those things that I thought I wanted, I now realize that the real gift is the gift that is always here.
It is a heart broken open.
It is the imperfection of being what I am.
It is the willingness to say yes, including during shame and loss and fear.
It is the willingness to connect and make no effort to stop the flow of life, as scary as it can be at times.
And it is the willingness to let go and forgive in each moment when I fail completely.
Nobody has to do anything to earn this. It is not like that. It is available right now.
Thank you to all who have taught me and who teach me to recognize this gift.