Undoing

It’s starting to sink in that I’m not going home. I can’t—my home is now completely undone.

“But Sarah, your home should be in yourself,” you say. “You can always go home to yourself.”

Yes, but for right now at least, that home is rather undone, too. And that’s okay. More than okay, it’s important, really; my inner home is…under renovation.

The day before yesterday I stood in the back of a moving truck/August afternoon oven with a man I’d met only a few times before—one of the saints who volunteered to help my partner and me move out of our little cottage. He asked me a question over his shoulder, I don’t remember what, and I apologized for not knowing where something was or not having planned something ahead of time quite right. He turned away from the heavy three-dimensional puzzle he was engineering out of all our cat-hair-and-dust-covered belongings in the truck bay and squarely faced me.

“No. No. You’re not expected to. You don’t need to apologize for any not knowing right now. Your mind is in multiple quantum places at the moment. So when I offer to do something, it’s not because I doubt your abilities; it’s just because, in this moment, I know it’s easier for my mind to handle this.”

That one goes in the hall of fame of greatest moving day gifts I’ve ever been given. Put it up there on the shelf next to the time my mother and dear friend Mandy disassembled an entire New York apartment I hadn’t planned to move out of while I literally lay under the bed with a glass of wine.

I am actually a very capable person with special skills for moving. I can pack a box and load a car with the best of them. I am a resourceful materials gatherer and a clear and consistent labeller. Given advance notice, my timing and logistical prowess are on point. In other words, I have honed all kinds of coping skills to try to hold things together when I have to take them apart.

“It’s always easier to help someone else move than to move yourself,” I said looking out from the back of the truck at my standing lamp, my yoga mat, my empty dresser drawers strewn with everything else across the front lawn.

“Yes it is,” said the moving day saint, firm but kind.

Right now I am wishing all of you dear readers moving day saints when you need them–ones who understand that moves stir up our inner worlds as much as our outer worlds. And may we all pay these great favors forward.

Upturned chair

This ain’t my first rodeo. I knew putting all of my stuff into storage and one suitcase would be a complicated organizational challenge, and I knew squaring away all my affairs before absconding across an ocean for a year or more would be an emotional marathon, so I started the packing process about a month and a half ago. Maybe earlier.

Giving myself so much time meant I never felt rushed in a traumatic way, but it also meant a longer period of intimately experiencing the unraveling of my life—hard on the psyche, but not necessarily negative.

In his book Crossing the Unknown Sea, the poet David Whyte mentions seasons of doing and undoing, and if I hadn’t already packed the book, I would refer back to it for wisdom and pull out an illuminating and clarifying quote about this idea and put it here. He might have referred to it as undoing and creation…but never mind. We’re talking about undoing today and I’ll do my best to remember.

Whyte gives several examples of both sides of the coin. Moving out of a house is an undoing, helping someone in their last days of a life on earth is an undoing, leaving a job, sending a child off to school, getting a divorce are undoings. This week on Facebook, one of my friends shared a beautiful and generous look into an uncoupling ceremony that she and her partner had just performed together to honor and transition out of their relationship. What I love about that, and what I love about David Whyte’s naming of the undoing alongside the doing is that they give space for a side of life that is too often given short shrift.

In our culture’s love of MORE and NEXT we are pretty good at celebrating and supporting what’s getting added onto a life, but the undoing is often left in a lonely shadow.

Most of us don’t like to look into or spend time with it. (Count up the number of engagement parties and baby showers you’ve been to surrounding even one wedding or birth compared to events associated with a funeral or a break up. Or are these things we’re supposed to suss out in the quiet? I don’t know.) I’m learning, though, that there’s nothing wrong with a little shadow. And I’m learning that undoing isn’t just important because of the role it plays in preparing for growth (MORE! NEXT!); undoing has equal or greater value of its own.

A beloved friend and mentor of mine is a chaplain in a continuing care retirement community. A few weeks ago, she sat with me in my almost empty house and asked if I knew the term “thin places.” Similar to liminal spaces, in the Celtic Christian tradition “thin places” can be physical locations or moments in life. Thin places are spots where the boundary between this world and Greater Mystery (call it the divine, call it God, call it the overwhelming natural order, or what you will) becomes…well, thin. Sheer. Especially permeable.

Trusting the undoing might be the best way to ready ourselves for these thin places.

It might be the only way to get there.

So I am allowing my jumbled moving day mind and body time and space to be tired and vulnerable. I am trying to learn from my undoing and relax into this thin place. What about you, dear reader? What does undoing feel like to you? What have seasons of undoing brought you face to face with?

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