A few months ago I tattooed this on my left forearm:
It’s a Death’s-head Hawk Moth. A symbol, for me, of the deaths that come with transformation. Reminding me that death is real and comes without warning. Of my vow to break open again and again. Of the Buddhist teaching that we die (and are born) 108,000 times a moment.
For a caterpillar to become a moth, it must literally digest itself. It eats and eats until one day it’s time to build its cocoon. Once inside, our caterpillar friend liquifies. L i q u i f i e s. Every cell – except for a few imaginal cells that hold the information needed to create wings, antennae, body, brain (we’ll get back to these later) – surrenders to the process; dying to the life and purpose it knew in order to fuel the form to come.
In a manner peculiar to me (although I have to believe there are other’s of you who harbor the same tendency) in which I notice what’s happening when it’s already in process and far too late in the game to turn around, It’s become painfully obvious to me that some time ago I started building my cocoon. And now: I’m liquifying. Slowly melting into a gooey pile of latent potential. Trusting that my imaginal cells – community, intimacy, purpose, love – are not only surviving this annihilation, but designing this transformation.
A rather large part of said liquification is relationship. More specifically, intimate, romantic, sexual relationship. I’ve been breaking down this part for the last four years. Very much on purpose. I thought I was done. After a few years of outside-the-box experimentation, I thought I finally knew what I wanted: monogamy, partnership, commitment. So, I went after it in a way that I don’t think I have ever pursued something in my life.
Until one day a friend+elder+teacher+guide said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, “You seem... desperate.”
I doubled over.
Taking that blow to the gut with very little grace and loads of embarrassment and disgust.
After quite literally picking myself up off the floor, I decided some change was in order. I took dating and relationship off the table, along with a few other tools I use to distract myself from the gnawing loneliness, frustration, and disappointment that visit me in moments throughout the day: no netflix, no sugar, no anything-that-distracts-dissipates-or-diffuses-discomfort. Yes to anything that brings me closer to the discomfort, loneliness, frustration, disappointment.
In the space I created I noticed something really important:
Over the last few years, I’d pushed edges and boundaries when it came to relationships, sex, intimacy. I’d explored all kinds of configurations and contexts to find the ones that actually felt true and nourishing to me. In a turn of events so classic I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming, I found that all of this exploration lead to very few answers, and to more and exponentially complex questions.
Don’t get me wrong, I learned a fuck-ton: I tried things I never imagined I would and many more I never even imagined, I felt deep grief and heart break, soaring pleasure and ecstasy. I am nothing but grateful for all of it. And, I sit here now feeling more confused about relationships-intimacy-romance-love-sexuality than when I began unraveling it all a few years ago. More confused, and more curious.
And the important thing: At the center of the confusion lay a revised fairy tale of “the One.”
It goes something like this:
Woman decides to shed layers of domestication.
Experiments with all things sexual, relational, intimate.
Realizes she’s opened Pandora’s box and of course, can’t close it.
Wrestles with the confusion, curiosity, and responsibility that accompany deeper and broader awareness.
Enter the big, strong, sensitive, compassionate, handsome man, “The One,” who meets her in all the ways she never thought possible.
Quelling her questions and doubts about relationships, and intimacy.
And they ride into the sunset, happily ever after.
I was still waiting for a knight in shining armor to ride up on his white horse and rescue me from the dragons, demons, and evil step-mothers.
In that moment of realization, I saw the liquification happen in real-time, as tangibly as if I’d watched my arm disintegrate into a puddle. That fantasy dissolved and in the realm of intimacy and relationship I was left with formless goo, a river of tears and an imaginal cell or two.
And so I wait. At times patiently, at others full of agitating urgency. Held in my cocoon I wait for these imaginal cells to grow and take form.