I never did read Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, but I remember it was all the rage in the nineties. I know it to be a young girl’s coming of age story and the journey that led to what eventually would have to come undone. Some things must come undone, must fall away, must be released and let go into the ocean of life in order for us to evolve into whom we truly are. Anyone who has ever experienced an undoing of sorts knows it is an experience in loss. The undoing isn’t so much an experience in losing, but rather of letting go and allowing change to enter, a reality that, although not always easy—who so easily lets it all go for the empty space of the unknown? —it is the way to see what is and what is to become.
In March of 2017, I started coming undone as though I looked myself in the mirror and said, I was no longer going to wake inside the same life-work routine that had been my entire adult life. There was little breathing space or wiggle room inside the confines of wake, work, eat, sleep, wake, work, eat sleep, then wait for the weekend, rinse and repeat. This isn’t to say that I was miserable or unhappy, or that joy was missing in my life, because that isn’t so. It is more to say that for me there was always an inner voice whispering that life had far more layers than those, and that the weekend was an insufficient forty-eight hours inside of which to explore. I was tugged in the direction of freedom, but how does one leave a lucrative job and lakefront apartment for the unknown without coming undone? You don’t. The coming undone is the start of freedom.
August 15th, I was standing inside of SFO with four pieces of luggage and my Nikon camera backpack waiting to board a one-way flight to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a small colonial mountain town I had heard of less than a year before. I wasn’t quite sure where the journey would lead me, but I was certain that I had to leave in order to live, differently. I had no plans to return. There was nothing to which I could return. I had quit my hospice job. My apartment was no more. My car, gone. All things are impermanent either by choice or by design. Nothing lasts forever.
Mexico is indeed a foreign country. It doesn’t matter how many resort towns you see where people play sand volleyball or spend days in luxurious pools with swim-up bars, or out eating gentrified Mexican food, it is not America. It is Latin America. It is a throwback to another time kind of country, a land of simplicity and quick tongues speaking a beautiful language that, as you learn, you’re able to eavesdrop a little to hear the way of the culture. I lost nearly ten pounds my first month, between the bacteria and walking. I was coming undone. The layers of who I was were peeling back and revealing my essence. Who are we when there is no job, no stable home, no car, no native language, and no familiar faces? Whom do we become when the fall back no longer exists, and we’re left to the real present of now?
Everyone talks about the now. Ram Dass wrote about it in his widely popular book Be Here Now where LSD was certainly involved. Yet in the States this comes with a bit of a caveat as though what we’re really saying, is be in the now as long as the now is comfortable and looks and feels the way you want, otherwise resist what is. Yet this isn’t the reality of what it means to be in the present of now. Being in the present of now means we are being with the isness of this very moment however it arrives, and that we consciously show up for its arrival and use wisdom and compassion to move through it.
It is times like those when we come undone that we’re truly in the now. Times of loss and uncertainty, of collapse and rebuilding, of having gone from evidence of disease to remission. When we’ve gone through the dark night of the soul then we can talk about the now. When we’ve released the need to control; when we’ve stopped resisting what is; and when we’ve turned ourselves loose into the arms of surrender, that is the beginning of entering into now.
Ten months later, I am back in the States, yet not in the same (inner) state. Much happened in Mexico. I am different in many ways, more awake and seeing things with eyes that spent nearly a year navigating foreign land. You do not cross over into difference and remain the same. I’m in Atlanta now. No longer a California resident with a lakefront apartment. I am without car. I am without job. I am without a place to call my own. I am with faith. I am with joy. I am with freedom. I am sustained by life’s Magic. I am living inside of having become undone.