"No one warns you about the amount of mourning in growth." -Te V. Smith
As I sit here writing this post on an foggy winter day here in Chicago, I feel something changing.
Maybe I've long felt it, or it's been coming out for a while now, in its own way; some sense of new growth, some new reorientation of my very own life.
This happens to me sometimes in periods of inner flux, change, or transition. It hasn't been terribly common, honestly, these periods where it feels like God is specifically saying, 'I'm asking you to let go completely of some things without understanding why right now.' Seasons that require letting go with predictable faith in what's coming, those are more common. Seasons that require letting go and feeling like I don't exactly know why I'm doing it (but doing it anyway), those are not so much. I don't feel in control. But I'm also not scared. I trust. Kind of. Timidly. I still go slow.
One of the themes of my life this year was about personally learning about the ways I am different, or have become different; the ways I process the world that might be unique to who I am. Like all of us, obviously: we all see things differently.
We all process things differently, experience things differently. We grieve differently, perceive differently, love and understand and misunderstand differently.
I know we're all the same, in that human way, on that level of heart. But for some reason this year I've really been leaning into the reality- probably because I've been deeply seeing it in myself- that we are all so totally and truly unique. It adds a new kind of depth to getting to know people. You realize we are all- every single one of us- little, unique, amazing worlds of our own. For me, anyway, I have learned to love the company of people who know that, who have gone into their own little world and offered others some of it.
Our makeup is ours alone, our story is ours alone, our experiences are totally exclusive to who we are. It's beautiful when you really start thinking about it. People use it as a cliche all the time, but it's true beyond that: there will never in the history of human existence be anyone like you. Whether or not you think it means anything profound, it's just simply true.
I think it does mean something profound, but regardless, I've been learning that our ability to process our own personal experiences- our life- has a lot to do with how (and who) we become.
Do you ever look at some people and find them so positive that you wonder if they've ever suffered or struggled or felt sad a day in their life? Or look at others and wonder if they've ever felt happiness or joy, because they're just negative, grumpy, or cynical all the time? We've all probably felt a range of these very human feelings at different point in our life, on various spectrums and to various depths.
But it's how we see them, how we go through them, that shapes who we are. We choose, whether we realize it or not, what we cling to: positive or negative, purity or malice, contentment or drama. No one is just simply happy or sad. The fruit of someone's personality comes less from what has happened to them and more from how they think about what has happened to them.
So I'm learning that: to take inventory of my life often and to know about my unique self. To not let bad experiences stop me. I know I feel deeply. It's a creative thing, it's an artistic thing; it's heavily an empathy thing. I've been learning about personalities on the Myers-Briggs scale (you should totally check it out if you're not familiar with your type), and just to read about my type has taught me a lot.
You find things out about yourself that you just never really stop to think about (not only through a personality test, I mean, but through life in general). This year I learned so much.
I'm quiet but I have deeply convicted opinions. I don't verbalize them to others as much as I simply try to live them because that's what I think is authentic. My opinions are not an extension of other peoples' opinions, they're derived from me analyzing and inspecting and perceiving situations on my own.
I intuitively care for what I think are the realest parts of people: their emotional state, their pain, their joy, whatever they are feeling or experiencing as a human being. I immediately pick up on the emotional energy of others. Immediately. And I'm usually right about what I feel.
My intuition guides me more than it guides other people.
Socially, I don't talk a lot but I observe relentlessly and naturally. I think a lot of wisdom comes from here.
I like getting to know people on a level of depth.
I find meaning and resonance naturally.
I prefer to offer hurting people presence over words of advice. I think people heal when they are seen.
I crave growth. If nothing's happening- changing, evolving, growing- in my inner world, I feel lost and unalive. So I always make sure something's happening in my inner world. Make sure I'm seeking, growing, not getting stuck. I am aware not to let routine mean complacency.
I make connections between things: ideas, situations, experiences.
I think a step ahead. But not too far ahead. Steve Jobs said, "creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious after a while. That's because they are able to connect experiences they've had a synthesize new things."
That's what I do with everything.
And I realize as I write all this, I know so many people who would write something totally different about themselves. And also so many who might write some of the same. And also so many who would probably not even think about these things at all.
It's amazing to write something out about yourself that to you seems so totally obvious- and then to also realize how unique it is to you, because you notice that somebody else might say something completely different about what their intuition is to them, or their feelings, or their values. And these differences say so many beautiful- and helpful- things about us.
But of all the differences I've found in and of myself, there has been one that has really marked the past year of my life, pertaining to the quote I shared earlier: no one warns you about the amount of mourning in growth. When I read that, it hit me in a way I don't think it would have a few years ago.
I have experienced growth before of course- growth, as well as mourning. We always are growing, in all different ways. From birth until death, literally. And as I said above, I am the type to seek growth anyway. But this quote struck me because this was the first year in my life where I really experienced specifically the idea of mourning in growth.
Mourning. The feeling of loss. Deep loss. The sense that something or someone is gone. That's not something that I've ever felt in my life correlated to growth (I've mourned losses, but not specifically because of the fact that I grew).
But a kind of growth happened to me this year that has meant, in a way, becoming too big for things that require me to be small- or not who I am, or who I'm becoming. This is difficult. It means coming to a point where I've become mature and powerfully vulnerable enough to really invest in and love people, but also knowing I have to leave some people and friendships behind because they don't grow me in the depth of character, righteousness, and womanhood I know I am called to becoming.
It is painful because a high level of empathy means you are always deeply concerned with others' well-being. Even when they are not there.
Combined with the fact that I connect deeply with people (not their superficial or external selves, but their real selves), combined with the fact that that empathy- the natural ability to feel other peoples' pain (or any other emotion) almost terribly realistically and deeply, combined with the fact that I invest authentically and humanly in others and in relationships- means what it might not mean to a lot of people: that any kind of growing, or moving on, means mourning. Not just a casual walking away or cutting of ties. There's a sadness that comes from allowing feeling, and real investment in others, right from the beginning, even if you know you could be hurt. Which of course, you always could.
It means a reorientation of the space- the space inside my heart and mind- that certain people occupy. Leaving is different than mourning. I've left a lot this year, and as long as I'm growing, leaving will have to happen. And it hurts because you learn to love people, and then with each new adventure you have to say goodbye. It's beautifully painful because you are enriched.
But mourning is different. It's not just 'letting go': it's a ripping out of roots that you let grow deep. Mourning is a residual feeling that comes after you have to leave something that you intentionally cultivated a space for in your heart. That is hard. There is grief in that.
It's why it hurts when we lose people in death. Because our whole lives long we let them in. We let them have space- take roots- in our life. And when they are gone we feel something much heavier than just having to 'let them go:' we feel that when they do, some part of ourselves is gone with them.
When we lose people by growing, they keep, whether they realize it or not, a part of ourselves too: the person we were when we were with them; very often a version of ourselves that we liked just fine, but a version we know is not all we're meant to become.
It's so hard to become the person you're meant to become.
Each new journey reminds us of it. I move again in a few weeks. It was almost a year ago this day that I moved to Colorado. It would be dishonest to say that along the way, I didn't learn to love people. And in different ways, myself. To choose to grow, to keep growing, is no easy choice. I was saying to a friend a few days ago that no matter how wonderfully adventurous and creative life may look, and may actually be, it is still costly: it costs love.
Investment makes you vulnerable. Very vulnerable. In people, in ideas and hopes- creative and otherwise- that might not come to pass, in giving all you have to some endeavor, in business or personally, that doesn't pan out. It happens to all of us. And there have been so many times this year where I've fought with the desire to change or suppress who I am to avoid criticism, heartbreak or any kind of pain- or inflicting any of that onto others.
Because, honestly, life would be easier if I didn't care. If I didn't invest. If I just got a 9-5. If I wasn't empathetic. If I didn't value growth. If I didn't feel deeply. If I weren't an artist. If I weren't convicted on values, and if I were impatient. Life would be so much easier. No one likes rejection or failure or not feeling good enough, and the horrible irony of a creative life is that you feel all that in spades a lot of the time because on top of creative rejection or delayed success is being human and having to sometimes feel it personally.
But this is life. The only way out is through and the only way through is by going. There is mourning in growth, it turns out. But we're also promised that there is new growth with any loss. It's not a 'maybe,' it's a truth. There is. You mourn. And maybe it's best to really just feel it all, even if the feeling is pain. I always remember this quote by Charles Spurgeon: "whenever God means to make a man great, He always breaks him in pieces first."
Mourning can seem to break us in pieces. Feeling imperfect the way we are can break us in pieces too, as can finding the perseverance to keep living the imperfect lives we were given. But I don't know. I hope- I'll always hope- that no feeling is final and no story is over until it ends in something beautiful.
Until then, you live and learn who you are, and you trust that even if it hurts you, who you are is who you are for a reason.