"Unraveling is not a bad thing. It's not coming undone or losing control. It's letting go in the best possible way, untangling the knots that hold you back, unwrapping the gifts you've hidden for too long, unearthing the potential that's always been there, finally ditching the labels and should-haves, and letting yourself be what you were always meant to be."
This month's Self-Love Book Club read, This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, was chosen by Cole and it was my first introduction to the work of writer, blogger, and photographer, Susannah Conway.
The book tells the story of Susannah's life after the sudden life of her partner. It's her journey through overwhelming grief and the ongoing process of ongoing process of unravelling to heal past hurts and forge a deep, authentic relationship with herself.
At first I didn't connect with Susannah's words. I found myself judging her use of platitudes and I couldn't relate to the specific grief that she was describing.
But I came to realize that her words weren't naive. They're raw and poignantly honest.
As I got further into the book I found myself underlining long passages as I found insight after insight that applied to my own life. To show you what I mean, I thought I'd share the ones that resonated with me the most.
"Joseph Campbell said, 'Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.' I think we all need a sanctuary, a sacred place that reconnects us to ourselves when our supplies are drying up."
"I don't want anyone to tell me the answers, but like a spiritual magpie I gather the gems that catch my eye and assemble a way to exist in the world that feels meaningful now."
"What if we retell our stories, and in the retelling the new tale becomes the truth? The past is just the soil we grew up in, a blueprint we can redraft if we look at it from another perspective."
"We could spend a lifetime unraveling the knots of our childhood, but at some point you realize the knots are no longer yours. They belong to your parents, and their parents before them. The legacy is long and complicated, the damage passed on through generations, until one day someone finally stops and says: This story does not belong to me."
"We may carry the bruise till the end of our days, but while memories cannot be changed, the way we view them can. That is the one part of the story we control."
"Like matryoshka dolls, the children we once were live beneath the layers of selves we become over the years."
"This body is not all of me but it reflects me so well. I let the world see my confidence when I straighten my back and walk tall; I reveal the late-night loneliness in the expanding curves of my hips. My body is a map of my life, a guidebook to my desires, and every day I add to that story."
"For me, solitude is not an empty space, but a richly detailed tapestry of my interests, thoughts, and desires. When I am alone I am free to dance inside the textures of my dreams without the pull to be elsewhere, the constant nagging feeling that I should be doing something else. In my solitude I am free to be me; I don't feel lonely for I am in my own company, and most days I cannot think of better company to be in."
"If our cells are repaired while we sleep, then our heart is renewed in the quiet of the alone."
Each chapter closes with a reflection for unraveling an area of your own life and throughout she maintains the message that we always have a choice. We choose how we react to a situation. How we view the past, our bodies, our selves. What we value. The things we do each day. And how we create our life.
Reading This I Know is like a conversation with a close friend, who in telling you of her own journey through grief and towards self-love, and in doing so, offers insight into our own journeys.
It's a deeply personal memoir, but rich with wisdom on how to move through difficult times and to love our selves more deeply.
Photography by Susannah Conway.