“In the end what matters most is: How well did you live? How well did you love? How well did you learn to let go?” ~Unknown
In a matter of days, it was all gone: the role in a company I adored, the future I had imagined, and our friend Max, so loved by all who knew him.
The loss washed over me in a sudden gust. I was being called to begin again, to re-examine what I thought was important. And, in facing the feelings that arose with being stripped abruptly of these attachments, the inessential was forced to fall away, bowing to the essential.
Re-birth can sound so majestic, so beautiful. It can signify a time of starting fresh, of being conjured anew, of creating a blank page for the future. Flowers are born anew each spring, butterflies born from their cocoons.
The scent of re-birth can imply blue skies and endless vast horizons. Everything is suddenly awoken, stirring with possibility.
But re-birth does not always occur as the delicate unfolding of blossoming petals. Sometimes, it entails the unnerving shriek of the phoenix consumed by the flames. Sometimes, it’s the pressure from the heat that turns coal into diamonds.
Often, we must taste the darkness of death before we can rise from the ashes with a strength and courage we did not even know we had, until it was tested.
In this experience of loss, I was initially distraught for days—brought to my knees as the figurative tower of everything I was building with all my heart and soul crumbled around me. Pieces of rubble showered me with a deep reality check, a wake up call.
Part of me was angry, and tempted to launch into more “doing” to “prove myself” and to begin rebuilding immediately and swiftly so as to “undo” the loss.
But that denial could not last long. Instead, I had to accept and be with the grief of what was gone, and surrender to the new task of letting my life speak to me and through me, rather than trying so hard to dictate all my days.
When we cling to things, we struggle. When we grasp at what we desire, we suffocate it. When we identify with a laundry list of accomplishments, we always fall short in the end.
You may have heard the saying “We are human beings, not human doings.” Living is a balance of both: centering yourself in who you are, and then expressing that core self through what you do in the world, as you grow within it.
Our focus can so often be on the externals that we get caught up in the scramble to achieve and forget what is really important, what truly defines us.
When our friend Max passed, people did not honor the castles he’d built, or the deeds he’d done. They honored the spirit of immense life and joy that he embodied, lived, and spread through being fully himself in every moment.
They remembered how deliciously Max dreamed, how immensely he believed, and how sweetly he treated everyone around him.
In death, we have the chance to appreciate and glorify the best in others; but why wait until then? Why not uplift each other and magnify our gifts while we are here, together, in this crazy beautiful flesh?
In every moment, we have the chance to taste the fragility of life in death, and choose to re-invent ourselves through becoming re-born again and again and again.
But first you must transform anything that does not serve, you must release what you hold on to so tightly, you must agree to melt.
In truth, when the caterpillar goes into its cocoon, it actually proceeds to dissolve into a pool of atoms. It lets go of its old form and completely comes undone. That is how it reconfigures itself and transforms into its next glorious form as a butterfly.
In my own life, I have taken a pause from re-creating. I know re-birth will come, and that soon it will be time to fly again. But before that, I immerse myself in the process of bowing with humility and utmost surrender, listening to the wisdom in the silence.
It is time to re-evaluate all prior priorities, coming into closer contact with the values, people, and experiences I cherish, and looking for the beauty in the stillness, in the amorphous puddle of “not-knowing.”
If you’re also dealing with loss and undergoing transition, can you release your attachments? Can you let go of what “things” and “titles” you identify with, those things you think define you, that really won’t matter in the end?
Can you melt into ultimate love, into the powerful grace of knowing that you are both nothing and everything at once, a single drop in the powerful ocean of life, still shining as bright as the pinprick of a star?
Can you let go, let go, let go, knowing that soon, when you are ready, it will be time to rise and soar?
Man in stars image via Shutterstock