I recently read, and then reread twice, an excellent article in Buddhadarma by Angel Kyoto Williams that had this powerful line: “You are not doing the work of liberation if you have not come completely undone. That’s where it begins. I have no idea where it ends.”
I know something about that. I recently came undone.
It wasn’t intentional or in pursuit of liberation. It was accidental and caused by a few things, among them a pursuit of shiny ideals, my own tendency to put pressure on myself when I’m afraid to fail, and a messy death of a soul-level love relationship.
It was the messiest I’ve ever been in my life. In certain moments, I still am. I cried yesterday on the way to the Courageous Heart church service, and cried there, and cried on the way home. After all that crying, I decided that what I needed was some soup and so went to the grocery store for the ingredients. While in there, a sweet stranger said, “Excuse me, are you Sarah Poet? Thank you for your contributions and vulnerability.” Why, yes I am. And to affirm your sentiment, look into my puffy eyes, kind man.
I have no idea how I’m being perceived. I have little idea what I managed to hold together over the last three months while coming undone and getting used to it. I said to a friend last week, “I’m back,” and he said, “Well, sister, then you bring quite an away-game.”
I sometimes wait for this to be the best thing that ever happened to me. By which I mean that I find myself anticipating some damn merit for doing this work of liberation. Oops. I watch myself in old habits expecting the big reveal of why things happen the way they happen, the meaning that makes it all worthwhile. The story with the beautiful ending.
I think that’s what got me into this mess and I hope now I’m wise enough to know better. I was thinking that if I worked hard, that if I behaved with integrity according to my soul’s purpose, that if I took big risk, I would be somehow rewarded. It would all work out. Love would win (you know, in just the way I thought it would and of course God would agree with my plan). Isn’t that what hard work and manifestation is all about? Wink.
I believe that the Soul does align us with the circumstances and partnerships that we need in order to learn and grow. At one moment it can look like one thing (bright, shiny, alluring) and the next moment it can look like the greatest challenge of your life. And then we have all those added personality and traumatic histories to add to the cocktail.
In this case, at one moment my life looked like my life partner and I had discovered one another and were both soul-level aware that we had come to do the stuff of soul-union together, complete with past and future life visions and affirmations from a shaman on our mutual soul purpose, and the next minute it looked like massive triggering and poor choices and loss. This as I was still in my not-yet-sustainable first year of business and stress was pretty high.
His voice that I loved so much started to yell, threaten, block. His care turned to power-over, betrayal, dismissal. He abandoned his Yes and then he was gone. It threatened my core, my core wounding. My body. Even my assets.
This is not a post about a man. This is a post about my coming undone. That was just part of the cocktail.
Soul-level relationships will challenge you, because your Soul came to grow and evolve. You might meet under the most incomprehensible conditions, you might see the potential way your life is going, and then, you might see that something else was in store. Or someone makes a choice that changes everything. When you want a romance, have a romance. When you want something real, be with a soul mate. And I will warn you now, get ready. It’s an initiation.
He had asked me one time, as friends, how I knew what I knew about men. From studying them, and studying my interactions with them, I had replied. And then I told him the stories of the men who had come before, who had touched something deep inside themselves in my reflection, and what happens as a woman when men are confronted with themselves, even in non-threatening ways. So over the years, I learned about how to tiptoe around men, how to listen and how to love, and I called it coming into my divine feminine. But that wasn’t how I described it to him. Back when I told him that, I didn’t realize how much I had been tiptoeing.
So I tiptoed, tripped, and fell right into this relationship with him. I was counting on him, in part, to hold me up.
I realized so many things in my coming undone. I realized that I actually had thought subconsciously that if I showed up as best I knew in front of a man, that I wouldn’t get hurt anymore. I actually thought that I if I said yes to following the Soul as it calls to two people in the same way, that it would inevitably mean we could work through anything. I thought that because he saw it too, and actually saw it first, that I could trust him fully, that he would be a safe man. I knew and trusted his Soul, and so I opened myself fully.
What a body does in a coming undone, a traumatic one, is worth noting. As a woman in a body, in MY body, I froze. I have done the fight, and the flight (though I’m mostly a fighter), and this time, there was no more fight. My nervous system didn’t have it. My feminine didn’t have it. I collapsed under the betrayal I felt. Under the loss, the grief, all the things it brought up in my life.
You want to know how I know what I know about men? I’m a woman in a body and I know what happens when a man begins to see you as a threat. From my father forward. I know what it is to trust and to open and to then find yourself susceptible to misdirected male anger, fear, and shame. It can be scary as fuck.
You want to know how else I know what I know about men? Because over and over again, I’ve chosen to forgive them. I grow because I transmute, heal, and learn. That’s the only reason this healing could happen as quickly as it did. Not my first rodeo.
The freeze response took hold in my head, neck, face, and shoulders. It took hold in stillness, confining me to bed and staying inside to process, process, process. In this trauma response, something I thought I’d healed, back came all the feelings of lack of safety. I didn’t keep moving like I probably knew to, because I was inside a trauma response. I wanted to be in water all the time, sometimes two or three hot showers a day. My hips clenched up, this sacred center confused by the sudden mistrust.
Today I danced in the shower, finally. Finally. It’s late March and bees are back to pollinating the flowers and my sexuality just came back online.
I went for orthobionomy and cried on the table. The invitation to unwind in safety is so important. A friend hugged me last week and I just asked him to stand for extra moments while my system took in the touch. Wondering, how did I become this woman again?
My body understands lack of safety. Inherently. It understands the work of unwinding trauma. I didn’t know what lived in the memory of my nervous system would be woken like this again.
All the understanding in the world, all the skills in relating or all the intentions won’t override the nervous system that feels the threat. I know what I know and bring it to Embodied Breath because I am a woman in a body. As a woman in a body, a woman who has lost a child and lost lovers and also found myself in the touch of others, I know that the body is really what’s in charge.
My coming undone was a pile, a mix, of body and emotion and loss and resolve. Of wonder and mystery and sorrow and shame and forgiveness. An identity crisis. A shame shit show. An initiation and karmic unfolding. Another opportunity to explore my own fear of speaking my truth. A humbling. Sometimes all at the same time.
We were told, he and I, that our mutual soul mission was to live in the courageous heart. (And yes, there happened to be a local spiritual movement with the same name at the same time, as I mentioned above.) For six weeks, I was in complete trauma & fear and couldn’t access my heart, let alone be courageous. In that fear, I watched some fo the constructs I’d built to protect myself and build up my world fall down. Because they were weaker than I’d thought. I stood in the rubble. I recognized that I’d asked for all of it, in one way or another.
And then I found my way back to my heart. Through deciding, receiving support, clawing for my own liberation, pounding the floor, wailing when needed, and doing what needs to be done. The trauma needs to be set free, healed, and then we can breathe again. But moving past the resiliency of trauma, and coming into our wholeness, we also access our hearts. A heart broken wide open, who loved another soul purely and has no more space for resentment or futility, is a beautiful space to witness.
It is the most beautiful space I’ve ever experienced, perhaps. I like myself better Undone, at this depth. I like myself better now, with so much less to prove, with such a humbled understanding of how we all try to get it right and how we don’t always win.
I am not blaming a man. I am saying that there was a catalyst in the form of a man I actually miss very much. A situation I chose, my Soul chose, and I participated in, and was designed for my evolution. I hope his as well. Brandi Carlile sings so damn beautifully in the song Every Time I Hear That Song: “By the way, I forgive you. After all, maybe I should thank you, for giving me what I’ve found.” That’s a little of how I feel. He would love that song.
I was still trying to hold up too much, to prove too much, to prove successful in ways that I didn’t even realize I was striving to prove, until I came undone. You’ve heard the phrase “a beautiful mess.” That’s this. I remember what I knew, why I came, what I’m doing. I believe in my mission and I’m regrouping to deliver something I couldn’t have delivered before. Something stronger and more real than ever. My client relationships have benefited from this. My heart serves my relationships now more than ever.
Liberation. It’s not a word that was on my mind before reading this article I mentioned above. But I think that’s this liberation of the heart. A liberation into truer and truer love. And freedom from expectation or condition. Freedom to live into an opening.
I used to have judgements about people who gave up. Now I know what it feels like to consider it. I used to have subconscious judgements about people who couldn’t pick themselves up out of their sorrow. Now I know what it feels like to stay there longer than you expect you might. I actually bought a book on sorrow in December thinking, “I need to better understand this in order to serve my clients who have trouble pulling themselves out.” And… queue life.
I’m sorry if you’ve come undone. Please ask for support if and when you do. The cracking open could be the opportunity for liberation. The way that my community wrapped around me in these months is nothing short of divine. Each of you is a divine gift. Thank you. The blessings that each of you provided are enough to bolster me for a lifetime (but keep them coming, because I want us exchanging our gifts for the rest of this lifetime). I came undone alongside some of you and our conversations have deepened. Our love expanded. I want to live this way.
I will also say that I love to look around right now and see that publically, I saw so many women owning their undone-ness. So many female public figures owning the mess. Right on time. Queue life. I don’t want a one of us to think that we’ve got it more together than another, or that another woman doesn’t suffer like we suffer. One woman said to me last week, “You owning your mess allows me to own mine.”
I always thought that I did this, owning my mess, as a person, as a woman. Then life served up one big ol’ mess to see what I was made of. The thing is, I still don’t know sometimes. It’s an investigation, a witnessing of Self. Sometimes I know I’m here and worthy and ready, and other times I hide because I’m still scared to bring my all. Sometimes I know how much I have to offer and I put it out there, and sometimes I still wait out of fear. Sometimes I remember my courageous heart, and other times I have to be reminded of it. I will continue to share the walk, the mess, the liberation.
I am now somewhere comfortably undone. I feel the fresh breeze of liberation. Freedom. As my body begins to release the tension, as the nervous system lets down and begins to heal, I feel a space again. A space to move my hips, a space to remember to do neck rotations, a space to breathe into what’s next. This is the space that allows for connection. I look forward to opportunities to share my heart, and again in time, my body. I am preparing to shift my living arrangements to allow for more space to come more fully, more willingly, more beautifully undone. The future is wide open. Liberation, freedom, is our invitation. As Angel Kyoto Williams said, “I have no idea where it ends.” Maybe that’s the point, to ever-more willingly release our grip on life.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for stopping me in the grocery store and reminding me to keep writing. Thank you for your hands on my back in warm embrace. Thank you for loving me even when I mess up or am a mess. Thank you for your humanity. Please, let’s keep extending it outwards to all. It’s the stuff of living, of doing the hard, good work of living and having a place to land. May I be such a space for you when you need it.