Five years ago I began this journey of becoming whole. I realised pretty early on that the only way to do this was to lose before I was able to gain. Even though I knew this, I was unaware of the extent of the loss and the reality of walking it.
Loss pulls at every part of you when you’re born in the West, because early on we are conditioned to pursue a life that goes up and to the right. The mantra of the world I live in is ‘more, more, more’. We are supposed to get more money, more followers, more talented, more influence. No-one teaches us that we humans are not supposed to follow a graph that keeps on going up, no-one teaches us that this is neither the way of humanity nor the divine. Even the recent cultural move to celebrating failure is only done through the lens that failure is key to success – you can take a dip, but only if it gets you more in the long run.
Wholeness is not the pursuit of more, not in the way we’re taught. It is the process of less – of letting go. When you start unbecoming, you have to lose. You have to lose the stuff that props up your ego, the rules you lived by in order to do well in an old system of succeeding and belonging. You somehow have to lose your life to gain it. Who knew??!
You will probably lose friends, definitely influence, sometimes family. When you stop playing the game you stop winning, and you start losing. And all of this hurts like hell, for a while. It hurts that friends ignore you and people literally cross the street. It hurts to lose work and influence and finance and status. It hurts to lose support and peoples’ trust and your reputation.
It hurts like hell until one day you realise it hurts less.
If you keep on pulling that thread of unbecoming, you will unravel enough to realise it hurts even less that you thought.
At this point in my journey, I panicked because I thought I was becoming thick skinned to the loss, and this was like death to me. I never want to become so thick skinned that I stop feeling ALL the feels, because feeling everything is my superpower (more on this later!)
Then one day, it dawned on me that I wasn’t numbing, I wasn’t feeling less, it wasn’t even that I was getting used to the discomfort of all I was losing.
Suddenly I realised that it hurt less because I literally couldn’t lose any more. I couldn’t lose, because it was no longer about winning and losing… I had metaphorically sat down on the pitch in the middle of the game, taken off my trainers, and stopped.
It hurt less because you can’t lose at a game that you’re not playing. My loss had been intertwined with my measures of success. And after a while all those things that felt so very important, all the ‘enoughness’ I had been seeking – were no longer successes for me, I refused to play this game.
I was no longer seeking approval through numbers and measures, through climbing ladders and being seen to be a big deal. I didn’t need certain amounts of money, or accolades. I didn’t care if the powers-that-be loved or loathed me (well, mostly…I’m still human!) I stopped measuring my worth in my jean size, through my kids grades, in followers or book sales or salary or likes. I realised ‘enough’ needed to come from a different place.
As I dropped the chains of everyone else’s measures of success I felt freer than I had in a long time. Weirdly all the loss became a grace, a gift – and I finally saw that I had been saved from receiving the ‘more’ I had once craved. Honestly, the more you have before your unbecoming, the further you seem to have to go to find your foundation.
Now less is actually more.
I have less people in my world, but I have not lost true friendship, I have more.
I have less platform, but I have not lost my voice.
I have less accolades, less status, but with that I only lost my ego.
And instead, I gained the much needed emptiness, that can only come with loss, that I needed to ask the real questions about how I was going to measure my life and myself in a way that pursued wholeness rather than culture-driven success.
So what are my measures now? How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction even if the right direction is down not up?
These are the rules of my new game, one I’m willing to get back on the field for…
1) Tell the truth (even if it’s unpopular or disruptive). Because the truth sets you free and freedom matters. I know the biggest reason I felt like half a person is because I was not telling the whole truth. I had lost my voice with certain people, about certain things. I don’t mean that thing where people say every damn thought that comes into their head, or that awful thing where someone has to have an opinion on EVERYTHING and they just have to tell you over and over to try to convince you. Not that. I mean not staying silent on things that matter.. I mean speaking up for those who have not yet found their voice. I mean being willing to raise you hand and be the one who questions the dominant view which, if you live in a world anything like mine, is usually white, straight, cis, powerful and male.
2) Prepare to change your mind. Certainty is over rated and actually requires little of us other than arrogance. I am learning to listen to new perspectives, to seek out difference not sameness, to recognise where I got things wrong and change my mind. I’m realising faith comes from questions and doubt and the space between the gaps that certainty squeezes out.
3) Follow spirit. One thing you’ll learn pretty quickly about me is that spirituality and faith are still integral to me, they’re the air I breathe. But much of the religion I was raised on is troubling and hard and makes me furrow my brow a whole lot. Much of it is troubling but much of it still feels true. My faith is still transitioning, I think it always will be but one thing I still believe is that there are spaces where we feel ‘lead’ in some way. Call it spirit or God or energy or resonance or instinct… I call it all of the above… I know when I sense it, when I feel it. Some things draw me even if they don’t make sense in a traditional way. I can’t always explain why but sometimes I know I need to follow spirit and I know if I do what will be there will lead me to wholeness.
If I can get to the end of the day and know I spoke the truth, I was willing to change my mind and that I followed the sparkles of spirit – this, my loves, wins the game. This is success. This is the less that is actually the more my soul craves for and helps me heal myself back to life.