Coming Undone

Woman with rope dress in field. Photo credit: Heather Evans Smith

Back in February, when COVID hadn’t yet approached our shores and was still a crisis happening elsewhere, before we locked up, shut in and down, I was pretty sure I was dying. I sat, teary-eyed, snot-faced hysterically crying on the couch of a friend 2,000 miles from where I chose to make my home while she gently reassured me that it most likely wasn’t…you know…an immediate threat. “Sometimes these feelings just come up. There’s a lot happening right now; it’s probably the stress of it all.”

I brought it up to other friends, to my coach, to my partner, to basically anyone who was willing to listen…and they all pretty much said the same thing. “You’re not dying; breathe.” But my coach challenged me further. “Sometimes the death of who we used to be is necessary to become who we were meant to be.”

I can’t say that the feeling went away. I brought it up again with my coach just last week. But this time, there was something else. “Legacy.”

“Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” – Peter Strople

Part of this, especially with the way the blinders have been ripped off about the world in which we live (at least, if you were like me and were only aware on a surface level because your privilege allows you those comforts), is that there’s felt like an overwhelming amount of re-education and re-alignment that has had (and still needs) to be done.

I’ve had to “get right” with a lot of my decisions, choices, and values over the course of my life. It’s made me step back and re-evaluate if the things I say are important to me and the things I do are aligned. If I say I value charity, am I living that value? If I say I value equality and am not actively engaged, then it’s just empty, shallow and meaningless like much of the “activism” I found myself migrating to. Requiring another shift.

And another. And another. And another. I read. I wrote. I thought. I watched. But mostly, I listened.

And that’s when the voice started to quietly whisper, “Legacy.”

“I think you were right a while back,” I told my ever patient coach. “I don’t think I’m dying in any sort of like…immediate way…but I definitely feel like I am ready to mourn the death of the girl who got me here cause she’s not going to get me where I want to go.”

“That’s powerful.”

“Sometimes you have to kill yourself to be better.”

And I realized, too, that while no death is necessarily gentle, that it’s important for me to acknowledge just how amazing this Younger Me has been and how she’s served me. First of all, she kept me alive, which…if any of you knew a fraction of what I’ve been through is honestly no small feat. She dropped out of high school but put herself through two undergrad programs (and part of a graduate one before realizing it wasn’t the direction she wanted to go). She even managed those two undergraduate degrees with no grants, scholarships OR student loans which was pretty impressive. Oh and she did those while working mostly full-time for some of the largest investment, insurance, financial institutions and credit unions in the world.

Though she hated every inch of her body, Younger Me danced with abandon, sat on beaches with friends and soaked in the sun. She ran 5Ks and to everyone’s surprise – including her own – could scale rock climbing walls with relative ease.

She was witty and bright and enthusiastic and threw herself headlong into her work. Everything became a passion. She used to make stained glass. She used to be a novelist. She used to write poems. She used to take pictures. She used to edit screenplays. She networked and she developed friendships and she just stubbornly refused to accept anything with patience and grace. When doors refused to open, she pushed them harder. She climbed the corporate ladder until the rungs sagged and gave way beneath her. Then she built her own ladder and climbed again.

Younger Me has served me well on so many levels and there are things about her that continue to inspire and motivate me. But Younger Me also needs to rest. She needs to know that some of the choices she made, though not the best in the short (or even long-term) were the ones she had to make in that moment. She needs to realize that the people who hurt her, can’t hurt her anymore. And that it takes so much energy to be mad or resentful about it.

Someday, I will be able to fully express how I feel about her. She is, after all, me. But right now, all I can say is I am ready for my next chapter. Whatever that is. Maiden wasn’t much fun, honestly. Mother was challenging in its own way, especially since I chose not to use my uterus for its intended purpose and instead tossed it to the four winds. But Crone?

Crone is gonna be my jam. I’m sure of it.

There’s beauty in the unraveling.