I am death.
Each of us has an archetype, an effect, an expression of ourselves that extends beyond any titles we received or framework another has given us. Michael Tertes calls these “presence superpowers”.
It’s taken me a very long time to find mine.
But, it is death. Or one of them is, at least.
I am the person who sees the old, outdated, no-longer-useful and creates space for and encourages it to die.
This can be on a personal level: relationships, habits, self-images.
It can also be on a systemic level: a business, or part of that business. A way of doing things. Something society needs to let go of to progress.
But let’s focus on the personal aspect.
Nowhere is this more potent and powerful than when spending time 1:1. And nowhere is that more powerful than when I am with women.
Which is why, not long ago, I blurted out to a friend:
“I kill women.”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
And how could she? It made me sound, well, like a killer.
But I didn’t mean it that way. I was just looking for myself. Expressing myself.
Trying to explain who the hell I was. What I did. Not a coach, a trainer, a teacher, a guide, a guru, a dom, healer, therapist, or counselor.
I’m a killer. First and foremost.
Why does anyone need a killer? Why would you hire one? Ask for one? For yourself? Isn’t suicide easy enough?
It’s about, transitions.
Things hang on.
- The last vestiges of root in the baby tooth.
- The memories that keep a relationship on life support long after it’s ‘terminate by’ date.
- The leaf that refuses to fall from the wintering tree.
Our whole society is preoccupied with not letting things end.
The longer a marriage, the better. (No matter how violent or abusive or dangerous or corrosive or stagnant or boring it was.) [“You were married 50 years? Wow!”]
“They grow up so fast!” (As if we’d keep them as children for their whole lives??)
In fact, we do keep people in childhood as long as we can. Most adults are still children.
When is someone an adult? At 18? 21? Some cultures have people who lead armies and have families by then. Joan of Arc was 15 when she went into battle.
We try and hold on to things. We try and freeze them. We preserve them. We try to keep people nominally ‘alive’, no matter the quality of life…through any means necessary.
It’s natural. It’s human. Change is difficult.
Wiser cultures set up processes and systems to support, enable, and embrace change. To enable letting go.
Ours doesn’t. It does the opposite. Sticking like a starfish to an exposed rock once the tide goes out.
And so people like me…the garbage collectors…the cleansers, the death-supporters, the releasers…both have to work overtime and justify our own existential anachronism in a society where many people have never seen someone die and many have never seen a body.
That’s too bad. Because once you see death, it helps you to not be quite as afraid of it.
We ignore it, shove it into the closet, and tell ourselves and our young “there’s nothing to see here!”
But death holds tremendous lessons. Both for those who, departing, have time to contemplate death, and those who remain.
But that’s not what we’re talking about here, really. Physical death.
I want to talk about ‘the death before you die’. And not ‘le petit Mort’ either. That’s another topic for another time.
I want to talk about identity death and transformation.
In other words, how is it necessary to embrace death on the path to becoming an even better version of ourselves?
My first big death was around 27. It was then I determined that the spiritual path I was on wasn’t serving me.
That’s the safe way of expressing it. In reality, it was more like: I am letting go of everything I believed from childhood.
That process rocked my system to the core.
It terrified me.
I let go of decades of solidity and freedom.
I no longer knew who “I was”.
I lost 99% of my “friends”.
My marriage was tossed into extreme turmoil.
The very ground under my feet seemed to fall away.
There was nothing and no one to rely upon anymore. No conceptual frame of reality to accept or identify with.
I felt alone, terrified, exhilarated, confident, worried, and lost in turns.
Emotions went around in circles in my belly. Anger. Fear. Joy. Sadness.
Letting go of one conceptual framework, however, gave me space to consider another.
Hell, I could consider dozens of new frameworks, if I wanted.
I could answer the question “who am I?” beyond the rote ‘I’m a child of God’ or “I’m Mormon!”
I could explore that question wherever I wanted with whomever I wanted.
There was a tremendous freedom in that.
But the uncertainty was debilitating.
I sat. Night after night. In my new tiny, cheap apartment. Wondering who I was now. Wondering even how to connect to other humans.
All of my connection thus far had happened in the context of religion. It was a golden cord that bound us together in [supposed] unity and purpose.
And it was gone.
What about…other people? Could I trust them? Could I speak to them? About what?
Are you getting a taste for how it feels to lose a massive piece of your identity?
What makes someone choose to ‘die’ like this?
Why leave behind the comfortable, the known, the solid?
Why take the chance?
The only reason I have ever known is that the discomfort of dissonance between our current identity and the truth and reality that is confronting us becomes too great.
In other words: pain.
From illness, from breakup, from financial setback even.
Once in a very great while from ambition and unfulfilled dreams.
But it is still always pain.
So, we decide to let go. We decide to change. We decide to die.
And all of the stages domino: anger, depression, bargaining…the whole lot.
And I have been transitioning through these stages for all sorts of lost identities: a husband, a spiritual leader, a patriotic American, a “smart guy”, a musician, a champion, and many more.
And still, death follows me and replaces one version of me with another at regular intervals. I am always curious to see my next version. Perhaps even one day my identification as death will end.
So, why do we need to die? Why choose death?
Because, generally, the next thing we want to build or the person we want to become needs space cleared away for it or us to be first.
We have to let go of the ledge we are on to reach the next.
And we must empty our cup before we can pour anything new into it.
Who am I?
And, if you know the answer already, the next you never can arrive.
I am death.
Or, if you prefer…
…an ego euthanasist.
I am death.
You must embrace me to move forward.
You must accept me to find healing.
You must welcome me to escape every enemy at last.
To overcome any obstacle.
To accomplish any dream.
Death must be honored.
Compost must be for the flower.
Decay before the Bloom.
I am death.