This piece was inspired by Christina Rasmussen; a pioneer in the field of loss, bereavement and resilience. She's an extraordinary writer and mentor, and her work inspired what follows.
In this piece, I have written a letter to my false self; the part of me that spent years hiding behind an identity of loss, shame, of fear. I am directly addressing this false self in the language that follows; it is part of every one of us and must be released continually, persistently, and intentionally, in a spirit of self-forgiveness.
This false self creates a space that Christina refers to as The Waiting Room—a place where many of us find ourselves handcuffed by fear and self-sabotage, especially amidst difficulty. I encourage you to read this from a place of vulnerability, and if it speaks to you, to return to it regularly.
As I say often in my writing, adversity, loss, and fear will never go away. But we do have a choice in how we respond to them. They can destroy us, or they can be used as agents of change. The latter is much more rare and difficult to achieve, but far more rewarding and honorable.
With love and gratitude, let us stand in our brokenness together, and release it's control over us.
Every. single. day.
To My False Self:
I’m mourning you. I'm mourning the loss of my identity of loss. The identity which encapsulated an almost inexplicable shame. And grief. Isolation. Suffering. Guilt. And the pangs of unworthiness. I cannot stay here any longer. While I do feel excitement, I feel much more than that. In fact, it aches terribly. It feels as if you are dying. Fading into the ashes of history. And you are.
You are the identity I have been fruitlessly fighting for. Wallowing in. Inhaling deeply, as in a cloud of pernicious smoke.
But you are suffocating. You have become toxic, a disease that cannot be expunged through avoidance or ignorance. No, you must die. You must be released.
And it fills me with sorrow. I cannot see you, but I feel you with such intensity that I tremble at the thought of your passing.
It is felt via the echoes of pain that reside within.
Reverberating throughout my soul.
Calling out to me from the deepest recesses of all that I have ever felt.
Not seen, but felt. Experienced. Blissfully and tragically wrapped up inside of me.
Like the winds you don’t see.
You beg me to stay. Beseeching me with the intensity and agony a mother feels when losing the child she so adores.
But you must be released. Not with abandon, or resentment, but love.
From love, and only love, will courage follow. Courage will reveal who I really am, declaring myself to a world I have largely circumvented and avoided. That avoidance, however, is no longer possible. My spirit has declared you irreversibly infirm. You are dying, and holding on is tantamount to moving into the future with a knife piercing my heart.
I am sorry, but I am also grateful. I’m screaming inside, and I cannot thank you enough for that. I feel the desire to connect with others so powerfully it is now almost unbearable. I am so indebted to you for that.
And so I say to you, my dear friend, farewell. You have shaped me. You have taught me more than I can comprehend. You have gifted me with compassion. You have brought forth the empathy which has allowed me to feel so deeply. You have shown me that even regret is a gift, for in regret lies the possibility of forgiveness. And forgiveness has the capacity to bring forth the most tender of all freedoms.
Regret has also been my teacher, as in regret is found the seeds of nostalgia, perhaps the most bittersweet, vividly majestic of all feelings.
You have cultivated my confidence—not alleviating my fear, but recognizing that the fear I have felt in perpetuity has been a gift from the heavens. I now have the confidence to say goodbye to you. Both nothing, and everything, has prepared me for this. I suppose I could say I never thought I would find myself here, but that is only because you would not allow it. Though you have finally lost your grip. And although you hate that—although that terrifies you—I need you to know that it is not tragic, but breathtaking.
I am not healed. I do not possess any secrets. I have not found anything unique.
In fact, I am broken. You have always told me to hide from that brokenness. Though that is no longer possible. The only option now is to embrace it, and to do so fully. This is the only way for the stunning vista of life I see before me to propel me to live the life I am most certainly called to live. For that is my path. You are, and have been, part of that path. But you are not the path itself.
You have done something so magnificent it literally brings me to tears. You have allowed me to embrace myself, so that I may embrace others. It will not always be pleasant. In fact, it will often be arduous. Though it will bring the gift of fulfillment, as it already has. I adore that. You have no idea.
I am no longer weary of pain, but of the pleasures I have cultivated to hide the pain. Those pleasures you have provided to me, I am most grateful for. But they amount to nothing more than a mask, which must be destroyed. In that destruction, I now know that devotion will arise. Devotion to myself, and to every soul on this earth I will have the fortunate opportunity to share with and learn from.
A transcendent experience.
A continuum of grace.
A longing for what is yet to come.
And for that, I thank you.
You have taught me to feel so deeply. And I now know that I no longer need to feel any shame about that. In fact, it is essential to the very essence of who I am. You always wanted to lock that away and throw the key off a cliff, but I now know that I must emphatically jump off of that cliff to retrieve that key and share the depth of my experience with the world you so forcefully advised me to ignore. That, however, has ended. Others desperately need me. I need them as well; I need them so much it fills me with a love so powerful it’s almost indescribable.
An exquisite terror.
A majestic trembling.
An embrace of astronomical simplicity.
I ache to be reconciled to the cosmos. To thrive for the sake of others, to touch even the outer recesses of their pain, so that I may truly live, and that they may see the possibilities in their own pain. For it is universal. Loss is inevitable. Change is unavoidable. And it is beautiful. This would not be possible without you.
You do not need to protect me any longer. To do so would be nothing more than a vainglorious attempt at the preservation of nothingness. For that is what you are. You exist now only in my mind. But my heart has claimed me.
Thus, I release you. I am leaving you now, but you will not be forgotten.
I love you.