Transformation + Death

By Nkechi Deanna Njaka

Where there is death, there is transformation. I have felt this most profoundly in my relationships. I've had three significant relationships in my life where I was in love. The first one was a bestfriendship that ended the moment I fell in love. The second was a seven year relationship that ended the moment I realized I couldn't trust him. The third relationship was everything I manifested and it ended the moment it got real.

In each scenario, I experienced death and then transformation. Sometimes my awareness of said transformation occurred way after the fact, sometimes even years later! But invariably, when we are without and are suffering, the only thing we can ask ourselves is what did we learn? And whether it is obvious or not, there is transformation waiting on the other side of that question.

Bestfriendship. The kind where we did everything together, had the same thoughts and feelings about major things, felt the same way about everything important. Innocent daytime hangouts and rides home turned into forbidden late night hang outs with kisses that felt like mistakes. Then something happened where it didn’t feel like friendship anymore-- it felt like so much more. And by exploring that “so much more,” there was risk-- one worth taking until it meant a conversation about “us.” That was the moment when it was over. Confrontation. This particular confrontation was met with avoidance. An avoidance that lasted forever-- death. And I was forced to learn the hard way that this particular type of bestfriendship was the enmeshment kind. And by losing this friend, I was losing part of my identity. I transformed from someone who found their identity in another to someone who fiercely just needed to be herself, who ever that was.

“Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” 
― Rumi

When love appeared again in another form three years later, it was a different story. I was independent, autonomous even. So fiercely myself and about my specific plans that I moved to another country and wouldn’t let him join me. We lead separate lives so there was no room for enmeshment. We were, so clearly, two different people. He had his autonomy and I had mine. I thought: “This is what will make this relationship successful.” Seven years later, I lost. Another death. I discovered autonomy could mean two different things for two different people. This death, unlike the first death, was not a loss of identity. I learned the hard lesson that my “autonomy” was pretentious and that I wasn’t really in a relationship. I was far more concerned about the death of certain plans I had for my future than I was of losing the relationship. There was death of ego and birth of unwanted humility. 

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
― Rumi

I spent the next three years shaking the sorrow of that loss from my heart—it was an equation I couldn’t figure out or solve for a very long time. I just knew that I didn’t want to be in a relationship like that ever again-- one that could leave me completely undone. I fortunately found a way to be whole, but without the pretenses of being ‘fiercely independent.’ And I learned to separate my self-esteem from my relationship status.

I spent three years building my life, establishing myself in a new city, building my current business and replacing everything to build a home. I spent three years working on myself, choosing to powerfully own my life and be responsible for what happens. And let’s not forget, those three years were also spent dating (unsuccessfully). There were times that I honestly did not believe that I would ever come out of the dark—that I would always feel ruined. But right when the space cleared, the third love arrived. 

The third love I lost was the most recent. So recent that I still have some of his things in my apartment. This relationship was totally different than the first two. We fell in love so fast that we were literally floating. This sort of love was powerful; I wasn’t enmeshed nor was I pretending to be too independent.  We spent every day together because we wanted to. It was clear that what we felt was something gigantic. And sometimes we are not ready for gigantic love. This death was the most difficult to understand and yielded the most awakening transformation. The result of this love was the power of manifestation and the power of knowing that I can love authentically and I can dream authentically. I’m aware that it may not end up the way I imagine, but it doesn’t make anything invalid. 

Rumi says that our task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all the barriers within ourselves that we have built against love. For me it was the false sense of identity and attachment to a desired outcome. I had spent so much of my life organizing my behavior to predict certain results and to avoid other results. But through these series of relationships and their respective deaths, I have transformed to be just someone who loves herself, loves love and will welcome it when it arrives. And that love stands alone. It’s not attached to an identity or a specific outcome of a desired future. That sort of love is transformational. 

PHOTO: CHELSEA ROWE

PHOTO: CHELSEA ROWE

Nkechi Njaka is the founder of NDN Integrated Lifestyle Studio where she curates lifestyle and wellness content for brands and individuals. She is a woman of color, deeply concerned about personal and global well-being. She holistically approaches her wellness with mindfulness, movement, nutrition and style. She attended Scripps College in Claremont, CA where she majored in neuroscience and dance and went on to complete an MSc. in Neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh. She attended the Institute of Integrated Nutrition and holds a certification in Holistic Health and Nutritional Counseling. When not involved in NDN projects, you can find Nkechi teaching Mindful Movement or Mindful Style classes + workshops, taking a yoga or modern dance class or choreographing independent work. She creates, curates, coaches and collaborates in San Francisco, California. Read Nkechi's article on growth through meditation in our first issue.