This article is a culmination of 7 or so months of letting go, testing, and re-discovering who I am as an individual. It has been illuminating and freeing, though confusing at times, but it has led me to a place of contentment in my life. The path continues to unfold, but here's where I'm at so far.
Karina and I met at the precipice of a massive shift in my life. As I had just begun my healing process from losing my mother, changing everything about who I was (as described in my last article), Karina appeared in my life. Her influence guided and shaped how I evolved into a loving partner, competent business owner, and grounded man. We developed an identity as a couple and created a container in which we were compatible as individuals while sharing a home and growing a deep love for each other.
I was comfortable with who I grew to be. It worked. But then, as it was, Karina transitioned out of her body, and I was left here alone. A part of me died with her. My identity as Karina’s partner, her future husband, and the father of her future children left that night.
For a time, about six months, I resisted this personal death. I clung to the parts of me that I identified as part of us. So much of what I did and who I became was in line with this identity, which brought me a lot of comfort, knowing she would approve and be proud. Yet, there were some things that I knew would not have aligned with our lifestyle together, and this caused me to experience a lot of friction.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this was my diet. Karina was a dedicated vegan, and I, a vegetarian. This was part of our lifestyle; we didn’t eat animals and never budged.
Last fall, the universe sent me a series of influences leading me to incorporate meat back into my diet. Though I was given informed, caring, and patient people to help me experiment with meat again, I resisted so hard. Our diet was a lifestyle that Karina and I shared and cared very much about, and I knew this was something that she would not have approved of. The thought of making a shift felt like a part of us was dying.
After some time, I went for it and ate meat for the first time in over seven years. My body thanked me. Incorporating high-quality meat back into my diet made a huge difference for me. I felt so much better in my body; I felt satiated, healthy, and stronger than ever before. Ultimately, that is what Karina would have wanted for me, but I don’t think her human self would have been compatible with me as a meat eater, and that was hard for me to take at first.
I eventually came to terms with the understanding that Karina’s new role in my life is one of unconditional love. I realized that I need to rediscover who I am as Stephen the individual, not Stephen the partner of Karina. This shift opened the door to so many things.
I realized how many labels I had assigned to myself, little boxes that I created to make me feel safe in my decisions and the identity that I assumed. But those boxes were old, created by a different me, with help from an external her, and needed to be broken down in order for me to expand.
So I set out on a mission to do just that. I dropped everything I thought I was, let go of the judgments I held for different ideas and ways of life, and began testing. I found myself in a place where I could look at myself both as a single individual and in relation to another as I began to date, make new friendships, and open up to vulnerability again. The results have been, and continue to be, extraordinary.
Below is a culmination of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual discoveries that I’ve made so far over the last seven months of this process:
I discovered that my vulnerability is my strength. By sharing my story, I can help others as well as myself. Crying doesn’t make me any less of a man but more of one. I can take care of the people I care about, no matter what is going on in my life. Death is nothing to fear but to be held in reverence and embraced as a natural part of life.
I discovered what it means to be a man and how a balanced masculine energy can change my life and improve all of my interpersonal relationships. I uncovered so much nuance to my own sexuality, my relationship with my body, and how to attune with a partner. I learned how to communicate my wants and needs without shame. I realized that an ending to a romantic relationship could be the seed of a beautiful friendship.
I discovered that I have the power to help a lot of people, not only in what I do, but as who I am.
I discovered I am abundant, and the more time, money, and energy I invest in my well-being and connection with others, the more I stand to receive. I found professional success can be achieved without stress, and when I fail, it doesn’t define me as a failure.
I discovered the role of fun in my life, that being on a spiritual path does not disclude the occasional late night or let loose experience. I found that everything can be enjoyed in moderation, and I can participate when it feels right or exclude myself when it doesn't.
I discovered that I am attractive, physically and energetically, something I never identified with. The more I am my authentic self, the more I will attract the people who want to be with me. I don’t need to put on a mask to impress anyone. I am a great yoga teacher, not because of my deep knowledge or years of experience, but because of who I am when I show up to teach. I am a great business owner, not because I am overly brilliant, but because I care about the value we produce to our clients and the well-being of my employees.
I discovered that it is not wrong to appreciate any of these wonderful things that I discovered about myself. There is no shame in knowing my value. I found confidence in appreciating my greatness while understanding that I am no better or worse than anyone else; we are all interconnected extensions of Spirit, just doing our best on this rollercoaster of life.
These discoveries have changed my life and continue to unfold as I navigate new and different experiences. As I write my book, as I travel the world, as I connect with others, as I find new love, I will continue to evolve and expand, trip and fall, get back up, and continue my journey Onwards and Upwards.
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