Unbecoming

By Susan David

We live in a society that prizes the process of becoming. We celebrate those who know themselves and know their goals, and then succeed at becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be. How many times have you seen an athlete—still sweaty from the big game as confetti rains down from the rafters—tell a reporter that they’ve been working toward this trophy since childhood? How many actors have spoken of the dreams of their youth as they tearfully accept an Oscar? People who seize their destiny and bend the world to their will—they’re the ones who earn our utmost respect and admiration.

We all know that setting goals and becoming who we most want to be is an important part of human thriving. However, the ability to step outside of your ambitious (and sometimes rigid) plan for the future—the ability to unbecome—is just as crucial. To become is to be oriented toward a version of you that does not currently exist. Your thoughts and actions are guided by a desire to leave your current state and enter a new, better one, like the proverbial caterpillar who longs to be a butterfly. But reality is often more complicated than that—it’s not always a straight shot from point A to point B. The person you are and the identities you hold close are always in flux. Whether or not you get that promotion, buy that penthouse, or win that championship ring, your lifelong process of metamorphosis will continue, unabated.

To unbecome is to accept that the only constant is change—that all spaces are liminal spaces. We often experience confusion and unknowing, and yet, the in-between stages also hold beautiful opportunities for breathing, stillness and reflection. Unbecoming is the ability to be present in the current moment rather than view it as a mere pit stop on the way to some preferable end state. I love this poem by T.S. Eliot because it reminds me to sit with unbecoming:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,

For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

This poem is all about being able to be present in that space. Present with love. Present with stillness. Present with what is. Today I invite you to pause—to step away from your hopes for tomorrow and step into this now—and, at least for a moment, to unbecome.

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