“I wonder if you realize that all of us … me, the children who survived, the children who didn’t – that we’re all citizens of a different town now… a town of people living in the sweet hereafter. “ — Russell Banks
Change transforms our very core— our identity. As we relate to others, we take on complicated roles; parent, grandparent, lover, spouse, sibling, son, daughter, teacher or student. Sometimes we grow so used to these parts, like a comfortable pair of jeans, we find it hard to let go. But time reshapes who we are. The change can be exhilarating and confounding at the same time. We may fear death, aging or separation, while embracing marriage, parenthood or a new project. But even positive change means releasing a particular identity and forging a new way of relating to the world and if we’re attached to our former “self,” we suffer.
Powerful rituals like communion, bar mitzvahs, birthdays, weddings and funerals mark our passages. We coalesce new identities in this way, accepting adulthood, the aging process or loss. But some passages go unmarked by ceremony. Profound experiences like falling in love, aging, illness, betrayal, changing belief systems or loss of innocence, play out in the privacy of our bodies and thoughts. The power of these unsung passages can be devastating— all consuming, transforming us so completely, we are almost unrecognizable. It’s important to honor the life altering power of these changes, allowing ourselves the space and time to heal, adjust and emerge from the psychic cocoon back into life.
Transitions act as doorways, leading us to the Sweet Hereafter, that alien country where nothing is familiar. Sometimes our old “self” is unhealthy and we need to let it die and adopt a healthier identity. In that moment of realization, our life is no longer reliable but unknown. This is also where the most potential for growth lies. As our ego is shaken up and dislodged from its habits, we soften and become adaptable. The Sweet Hereafter is that place of pure potential, strange, new, definitely uncomfortable but filled with possibility. Once we free ourselves, we can become anything. [Read more…]