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.