Looking back on the fires that made me who I am today, I know now that the person who rose from the ashes of my most difficult times is far more interesting, joyful, brave, and honorable than the young woman who thought she knew what the world needed. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I’ve spent time in the abyss. I’ve traveled dark paths that wound into the midnight-black and charred depths of my soul. And out of that, every time, I’ve soared…eventually.

I’ve always identified with the phoenix, even in childhood. I am entranced by reinvention. By the whole process of burning down to ash, and rising up again renewed and reshaped – in essence, similar, but wholly different.

I read Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open this week. So many of the things she talked about resonated, gave me that “me, too!” feeling of confirmation. I’ve been through several “breaking open” experiences and done my fair share of reinvention. Usually, when I tell people about my life, they counter back with, “And you’re how old again?” I’m an overachiever, what can I say?

When I was first going through the process of deciding whether or not to get divorced, I had the visceral feeling that life was slowly being pared away from me. That I was being laid bare, and that once everything that needed to had fallen away, I might be able to look at myself and see what I wanted to pull from the ashes.

It sucked. It was hard and I cried and cried and cried. I filled pages of journals. I wavered and I despaired. And then, I let go.

At the time, what I’d thought I was letting go of was a marriage that didn’t and wouldn’t work, but what I was really letting go of was my whole self. Looking back now, I can see that my divorce wasn’t really the catalyst for the breaking open, but sort of a by-product. Every particle of my being had been railing against being confined in the “Carolyn-suit” that I’d created and maintained and wore every day, all day long. I could not live an ingenuine life for one more moment.

Today, I’m actually grateful to my ex-husband. I’m grateful that we agreed (whenever or however we do this before we come to the human playground) to be this for one another. I wish that I had been able to look at him during all the turmoil and really see who he was, and remember that he was not only the body standing before me, but the soul who dwelled in it. Maybe I wasn’t meant to, then. I see him now, and I remember who he is. And whether he knows it or not, I’ve gotten some of the greatest gifts from that time that anyone could ever ask for.

I pray that each one of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith – faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. (Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open)

I am more awake now, more aware. I still get caught in the everyday trials of being a human being, living a human life in a human world. I still get mad at Jeremy for leaving his socks in a ball when he tosses them in the hamper, and I still worry about whether we’ll have enough money to pay our bills. I still get annoyed by slow drivers and small inconveniences. Some days, it’s hard for me to let go of some of those things. Other days? They don’t even factor.

Today, I feel good about where I am, and who I’ve come to be. I am grateful for all of the trips into the abyss. How can I appreciate the blinding beauty of the light, unless I’ve dwelled in the darkest heart of the pit?

I am grateful that so much of what I’d built fell away, because I am standing here today, on the cusp of embracing my dreams and desires. Of finding out who I will be until the next conflagration burns away all the excess, and leaves me standing naked and whole and utterly, utterly changed.

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