I Am Undone


diana trautwein - i am undone-3

In my therapy session this week (yes, I talk to a therapist every week and have done so for 25 years), the word that emerged was: undone.

Exactly right.

The entire session had felt like a chaotic purge of some sort, one story after another came tumbling out, seemingly unconnected. And yet, as she so often does, at the end of it all, my therapist said to me, “Diana, you are talking today about things that are undone, starting with yourself.”


She was so on target, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Over the course of my L O N G years of living, I have learned that it often takes this kind of unfettered babbling for the underlying truths of my life to emerge. Why? I think it’s because much of the time, we are hidden people, tucked away, even from ourselves. Turning the spigot of story-sharing to “on” loosens the fences we have built. This is especially true when we are feeling under siege, which has been my default mental setting for many months now. One hard thing after another keeps happening, over and over. And as I have struggled to make sense of it all, I retreat behind this huge, self-protective bunker.

Sometimes being hidden that way is a good and necessary thing. When life goes crazy, we need to marshal our resources and hunker down. Pulling in every excess emotion and lining them up in a safe place enables us to more forward, offer help, stand next to others who are fighting similar battles.

But in the long haul, remaining hidden becomes a liability, not an asset. We need to come out from behind the barricade and take a good, long look at everything that is happening—outside of us and inside of us. And for me, this week, that meant admitting that way too many things in my life are in a state of undone-ness.

There are at least two ways to define that word, seems to me. Undone in the sense of incomplete, and undone in the sense of unraveled. Both are true for me—and my guess is, for most people—at multiple points along this journey called life. There are projects to complete, relationships to tend, ideas to make real. And then, there are people in terrible trouble, decisions that cause chaos, and situations that appear hopeless.

Incomplete and unraveled, yea and amen. That is me right now.

Theologically, I readily own the word “incomplete”—salvation is a work in progress, always, always. I know that Jesus’ words from the cross—It is finished—mean that my sin and brokenness are healed and forgiven forever. But I also know those words are not ones I can use about my own journey toward transformation, at least not on this side of eternity. I live with a somewhat checkered sense of peace about that reality.

“Unraveled” is a tougher concept for me. Many years ago, I hit that word, head-on, in ministry and in life. I was five years into my job here in Santa Barbara, nearing 60 and absolutely exhausted, for a long list of reasons. I ended up taking an eight-month leave of absence, spending long mornings by my living room window reading my Celtic Daily Prayer book, journaling frantically, and gradually becoming stronger, physically and mentally. I did not have what was once quaintly called a “nervous breakdown,” but I did have a breakdown, an unraveling of life as I was then living it.

So you’d think I would recognize the signs, right?

Not so much.

There are undoubtedly physical reasons for the recurrence of these feelings now— the inexorable effects of aging, the side effects of medication, the slow but steady pace of healing from injury. But the exhaustion I, and so many others in my community, are experiencing is deeper than physical fatigue. We are emotionally spent, filled to the brim with sadness and anxiety, wondering where we’re going to land and when.

Our small group gathered in our home this week, and the entire time was spent sharing stories of our local disaster and the impact it has had on every single aspect of daily life. The entire time. We never got to our chapters in C.S. Lewis. And you know what? That is a good thing. Because I am more convinced than ever that the only way out is through, and the only way through is by telling stories. I am more convinced of this truth than at any point in my life. Yes, I am undone— incomplete and unraveled. But with the help of prayer, therapy and sharing stories everywhere I go, I am placing one foot in front of the other. I am making it, one day at a time.

And I am no longer hiding.

Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Diana Trautwein
  • And because you do not hide, this community profits from your hard-won wisdom.
    Know that you are in my prayers.

    • pastordt

      Thank you, Michele, for the kind words and for the prayers.

  • Margie Berry

    I don’t know how to describe it really, but your words situations completely resonate with me. I’ve been to a very dark place in my life brought about by the very genes in my body, inherited from a mother I barely knew and whose life (as I knew it) I did NOT want to emulate. And yet, here I am at age 62, the recipient of more manic episodes than I care to count

    • pastordt

      I am sorry for your struggle, Margie! I do not deal with either mania or depression, but I know people who do and it’s a challenging journey. Keep holding on! And in the midst of it all, know that God holds onto you. Grateful with you that now is a time of being on the other side, solidly in the light. I am aware of God’s presence, even in the midst of so much loss in my life and in the lives of so many around me. It’s just good for me to realize and remember that I do not have to have it ‘all together’ all the time — it’s okay to recognize that being undone is not a fatal condition, but a necessary one. Acknowledging our own pain and struggle is important work

  • Margie Bicknell

    Isn’t it interesting how problems and similar events return/repeat until we actually turn around and face them….talk and cry them through, and see how they turned our life around or pushed us forward. As my mother moves deeper into dementia, my love grows, my memories do too. The memories are the hardest to stand as the stories my sister and I recount have brought pain but cleansing, remembrance and resolve to be the best daughters we can be, while still acknowledging the emotional pain, and some physical, we endured. As we move on, we lean on each other, but I wonder, when we look through photo albums, where is that woman who is laughing in those pictures? Where did she go, when she retreated into her co-dependency, and didn’t protect us? Undone…..her life is undone, and the dementia will keep her from facing her memories, but my undone life will make the choice to love and forgive……in Christ, what other choice do I have, but to love.
    Thank you for this one, Diana.

    • pastordt

      Oh, yes, indeed. We are forced to look at things that are hard, that remind us of unpleasant truths, that call us to be our best, fullest, most honest selves. I am so sorry for the pain of your mom’s diagnosis, Margie, but very glad that you and your sister are connecting through it. Making the choice to love and forgive brings healing to YOU and ultimately, though you may not be able to see it this side of eternity, to your mom, too. Many, many blessings as you continue down this long and difficult road.

      • Margie Bicknell

        Thank you, Diana.

        • pastordt

          You’re welcome, my friend.

  • HisFireFly

    in every way
    and words are the doors
    we open, journeying
    to freedom

    thank you for these open doors, my friend!

    • pastordt

      You are welcome, dear Karin. I hope this anticipated move is a good one for you — I will admit to some trepidations on your behalf.

  • Michele said it just right: because you do not hide we benefit. Time and again your words speak right to my heart. Thank you for not hiding but climbing, even when it feels like you’re handing on by your fingernails. xx

    • pastordt

      Thank so much, Debby. I appreciate your kindness more than you know.

  • Tracy Nelson

    what a wonderful way to say it … “incomplete and unraveled” …. yes – me too – it’s only a place to start, and we get a new start, every morning as we take that first conscious breath…. and choose what to dwell on, and how to love. Thank you for your marvelous insight.

    • pastordt

      Thanks for your encouragement, Tracy. Thank God for those daily new beginnings!

  • Diana, I felt my breath catch a bit when I read this. Years ago I wrote a song called The Only Way Out is Through. It’s such a bittersweet truth sometimes. Still making my way through, yearning for the out, trying to stay present to the story unfolding. Thank you.

    • pastordt

      Oh, Hannah. I think your song sounds wonderful! This truth is indeed bittersweet – perfect word. Thank you for all these good words.