When your Identity Shifts
I woke up and the walls were glowing like canvas under floodlight. Before I even opened my eyes, I knew— it had snowed that night.
In the swoop of a single day the whole landscape had changed. The hemlocks drooped as if dressed in heavy silks. Boulders slept under downy cloaks. The creek stood out as a long ink-line— a calligraphy stroke in a world of white. The Earth was quiet, changed, transformed.
It reminded me of just how natural it is to let your identity shift. When it’s time, it’s time.
The past few years here on Earth have felt like a training ground in letting the contours of who you were get a bit soft at the edges, blurred like the bower of a tree in new fallen snow.
Just like a snow day, when the normal routines and schedules of your life drop away, you are often left with a gloriously— and sometimes overwhelmingly— blank canvas. What, in the blank page of this new life, do you want to write?
In ancient China, the art of calligraphy was seen as a way of experiencing oneself, and existence itself, come into form. As David Hinton describes in his book Existence, calligraphy is an encounter with that original moment when “Presence emerges from Absence.”
Going through an identity shift in the late winter of a pandemic feels much the same. Out of a blank canvas, the snowy clearing, the absence of what was, we get the opportunity to let a new aspect of ourselves come into being. What part of your identity is shifting this winter?
I’m currently on the tip of quite a large identity shift. As I write, I’m patiently waiting for my first child to arrive. Due in mid-winter, this baby is a bit like the landscape covered in snow. I can see her contours, but her features, as well as the details of the life I’m about to lead, are hidden from me— benevolent, mysterious, waiting.
I remind myself, as I wait out these last few days before her arrival, that these kinds of identity shifts are the most natural thing in the world. It is the rhythm that defines our Earth.
Today, the mountains surrounding my home are gentle blue curves, grandmotherly in their soft worn pockets and folds. But once upon a time these hills were higher than the Himalayas, and just as formidable. Back then these peaks were jagged as ice, tipped with quartz and pierced with clouds. And in the future, these mountains will change again. Perhaps becoming the green-steeped cliffs beside the gray waves of the Atlantic.
Look at the landscape around you and I promise you’ll find the same story. The Earth isn’t afraid of change, she welcomes it. Because she knows that when our identity begins to shift, it signals a whole new geologic era in our lives. A time of soul forging.
So if you’ve been feeling your identity shift recently, embrace it. Do not be afraid. Let it come as soft and total as an overnight snow. Allow the canvas of your days to go blank, because this is when you can begin to see the shape of what comes next.
The calligraphy line of who you are becoming is currently in formation. So trust the tentative beginning, that perfect gesture of your self coming into being. Within the snow-covered landscape and the generous emptiness of winter’s light, there is the opportunity to become who you were always meant to be. To shift like the Earth and come into your destiny.
This will be my last missive for a while as I transition into maternity leave and quiet time in the new landscape of my life. Until then, I am sending you bright mornings, clear canvases, and so much light.