The Poetic Emergence of Identity
Today is my birthday, but I’m calling it my Rebirth-day, because so much has happened in the last year that completely transformed who I thought I was and what I believed to be true. I became a nomad, shaved my head, wrote a memoir, lived in France as an artist for 2 months, became certified as a yogini and Ayurvedic health advisor, and… I changed my name.
Truth be told, the process of “rebirth” started almost seven years ago. You’ve likely heard me talk and/or read my writing about that moment. Soon, you’ll be able to watch the full-length documentary that my husband and I co-produced, Invisible Illness.
The moment of flying through the air, six feet off the ground, the trauma response of my brain not recording what was happening, and the subsequent inexplicable landing on my feet. That moment seemed to reset or reboot my system in a way that I would not fully understand until now, almost seven years later, and truly still don’t even fully understand.
But that moment of impact, when all the past seems to come together in a single frame and all the future seems vast and unknown… in that moment, there was a second life that was given, a second chance. When I landed on my own two feet in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, my body and brain frozen in place with the shock, I knew nothing of what had been or what would come to be.
I would find that even though this indescribable shift had happened, I would have to learn to walk into it, embrace it, surrender to the impact, literally and figuratively. Meeting my first healers almost two years later, would set me on the course to where I would meet myself and realize that who I had been, was no longer who I am now.
i don’t pay attention to the world ending.
it has ended for me
and began again in the morning.
― Nayyirah Waheed, Salt
That moment of impact led to many more moments of impact, with people, with places, with experiences, with artistry, with identity. Not unlike being thrown six feet in the air, many of those subsequent moments were not ones I would have asked for or desired, many were enough to knock me off my feet for weeks, days, even months. There was more asked of me as a woman, wife and mother than I thought I had within me to give. It has been a process of identities that I once proudly wore and claimed being shattered and stripped from me one by one. At times I was so depleted and grieved that I didn’t know how I would go on. More than once, it was questionable whether I would.
in our own ways we all break.
it is okay to hold your heart
outside of your body for days.
months. years. at a time. – heal
― Nayyirah Waheed, Salt
Still, there were also moments of unrestrained grace, unfettered kindness, unsolicited compassion, unspoken knowing and deep abiding friendship. They kept me alive one more day, in body and spirit.
When you reach those places, where time stands still, when the fog lifts, where meaning becomes clear, where identity utterly shifts, in those places, you meet yourself—the you that was meant to be walking this earth, that was gifted life so that you could and would take up space and not live life in hiding.
So when you realize that who you were is someone entirely different than the person you see in the mirror, then you want to find a way to remind yourself and communicate with others, the vast difference in the internal landscape of your mind, body and soul.
What better way than to explore the very name that defines you, yet was given by someone other than you. Someone who may not have had your best interest at heart.
i am mine.
before i am ever anyone else’s.
― Nayyirah Waheed, Nejma
The act of naming has always been a deeply resonant and spiritual practice in many cultures. The secrets and clues to who you are to become is held within your name. Sometimes your parent’s story, their joys and dreams, regrets and shame show up in your name. Whether you be mighty, gentle, beloved or scorned, ancient people believed that your name held power.
There are stories, poems and songs about people changing their names just before or after life-altering moments and encounters, often with a touch of the divine. Times, like mine, where everything about who you were ceases to be, and you walk into the wild unknown as someone new.
And so for me, that is the story. I have an evolving life, an emerging identity and a new name.
i knew you
i met you.
i’ve known you my whole life.
― Nayyirah Waheed
I am now…
Mystère is French for mystery – this great mystery I am living of a second-chance life after crashing into death and landing on my feet instead.
Mystère can be easily pronounced by combining two English words that I love… Mist+Air.
Poème is French for poem – I believe all our lives are a poem that we are writing with every breath we take.
If you’re reading this, you’re part of my unfolding life poetry… perhaps a part of the past, perhaps a part of the future, perhaps a bridge between the two. Whatever role you’ve played in this sacred journey, I am humbled and grateful for the part you’ve played in bringing this emerging me into being.
Here I am, experiencing rebirth and renewal, as another year springs to life, full of all the mystery and poetry that makes up every single second of our lives. May your life be full of the same magic, mystery, poetry and prose… every day an adventure, every meeting a divine appointment, every breath a gift.
Walk in beauty my beloved friends… I’ll be walking beside you.
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She Walks in Beauty
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!