I was completely lost, four years old, running around the department store looking for my parents who I was afraid had abandoned me. I saw one pair of pants legs that looked like my dad’s: brown, dark shoes, the business uniform. I ran straight into them, crying with relief. Then I looked up, I saw two elderly faces looking down at me and laughing. Wrong faces! Wrong pants!
I screamed and kept running, finally finding my parents about to enter an elevator. I’m still wondering why they were thinking of entering the elevator without me.
I felt lost when I was thrown out of graduate school. The dream of a PhD, of academia, of people thinking I was somehow intelligent was gone. What next? Or lost when the first girlfriend I felt I was really in love with left me to marry (almost immediately) someone else. We would get together later (“just friends”) and everything she felt for me had been lost somewhere and I couldn’t force her to find them.
Lost when I first moved to New York, wandering the city, unsure if I would get fired or not. Nowhere to live. Lost and lonely when I found somewhere to live and I could hear my roommate with his girlfriend pushing up against the wall of the bathroom when they thought I was sleeping. The wall that bordered my bed.
When I started my business and my first wave of clients were finally disgusted with my services, I lost them. And when the business was sold, and its name folded into the name of the acquirer, I lost the business.
Horribly sad and terrified when I lost all my money. How would I ever find that money again when I was so lucky to get it in the first place. And with the money I lost all of its accouterments – a big house, false friends, that feeling of immortality when everything in the world can be bought, found, lost, licensed.
Lost when I couldn’t find love anymore in all the places I used to look for it. A horrible feeling of emptiness when my father died, when my family closed up around me, a myriad of different excuses of why people wouldn’t speak to me, how something inside me had been lost to them.
Lost when I had a bad day in the stock market. I’d invest and companies would lose their value – markets and hence the world losing a tiny bit of optimism that had driven it forward just the day before.
A marriage lost much later and moving into a hotel where other vanishing people were trying to be found until finally they were all ghosts. All pride abandoned when I’d cry and beg to find whatever it was I was missing. Sending out darts in the night to try and Find.
In 2001 I was kicked out of my own company, as about $100 million in investor money was about to be lost. Or later, in 2009 when I couldn’t accept investor money because I lost interest in the idea and I was afraid to lose other people’s money.
I had a dream at night with an idea for a business, a story, a blog post, a talk, but by morning it was gone in a haze. What was that idea again? I had a moment by the river, where everything shimmered in fog and lights and the sound of a train and my daughter sitting right next to me. Another moment later and it had vanished. Did I use that time wisely with her?
Right now I feel a bit of fear. I might start new ventures, I want my books to do well, I want my blog to do well, I want to do more talks, make more friends, make more money, take care of the people around me, not lose anymore in life than I already have, although every moment passed is a moment lost. I can feel the fears in my body, little snakes crawling up a leg, around my stomach, up my back, fireflies beating their wings inside my head. Get lost!
Sometimes I’m lost in my thoughts, trapped in my dreams, filled with my wants to the brim where I wish they would just spill out so I can be an empty container again.
Now I have no pants legs to clasp onto. I know now that as easily as money or love can be found it can be lost. But everything that was lost was yesterday. And everything I have yet to find is tomorrow. And everything that I have ever picked up along the way, like missing fabrics found on the floor, has become woven into my thoughts, my body, my emotions, clothes hiding the soul.
What if today I choose to take those woven fabrics off? Each thought: the desire for money, the thought that success equals happiness, that happiness can happen if X, Y, and Z occur, the shame if A, B, or C were to happen, the pride I have in E, F, and G. Those thoughts that were never me but simply bound and woven into me. What if I take them all off, leaving all those clothes to burn in the eventual apocalypse?
Would I go from being constantly lost to being found? Would I lose my mind? Would I be standing there naked?
Or would something new and mysterious happen?
Instead of clinging to the old pair of pants would I fly into a brand new world, eager to explore. With nothing to lose.