If there’s one alchemical operation I struggle with most, it’s separation. I’m super good at allowing myself to go through the first two processes, though I didn’t get there naturally. I sometimes talk about the phase I went through about a decade ago of barely controlled meltdown where I mentally picked apart my whole existence until I couldn’t find any more dark corners to dig in. It wasn’t pretty, but calcination never is. And after that I did a lot of emotional dissolution, tons of crying, lots of letting things go and washing things away.
But it’s the part after that which is both key and hard. I think I’m not alone in wanting such processes to be all or nothing. Either everything dissolves and washes away and I start over from a blank slate or I want to hold onto everything and resist change. More the former than the latter, as years go by.
Yet that isn’t how it works. When we’ve given ourselves over to the cathartic first steps of change, we can’t just always start over. No lessons get learned that way. Picking through the debris left after the deluge forces us to acknowledge what is now gone and to revalue for ourselves what’s left. It’s the first step in which we have to confront the difference between who we have been and who we want to become.