The cool air seduced us to turn off the AC and enjoy the fresh breeze as we drove through the South Valley this morning. That’s when it struck me. That smell unique to New Mexico that signals the end of summer. Roasting green chile. It’s a scent that stops Burqueños in our tracks and compels an audible, “MMMMM.” A smell that grounds us and reminds us of our place in the world. It’s that smell that reminds me that change is coming. As we enter the season of Fall, I find myself craving the permission and space to transform. There are layers and variations of past versions of me that perhaps I am still holding on to, not quite ready to admit that it is time to let the leaves turn golden and begin to fall.

In my closet still sits my medium format camera, from my days in college when I shot film and spent hours in the darkroom listening to Acid Bath and developing images. My closet also holds band tees, blazers and football jerseys that don’t fit and probably will never be worn again. All relics of past variations of my identity, true at the time, but now, nostalgic at best. I will be the first to admit, I’m resistant to letting go and welcoming in change. A few years ago I drove a convertible Mustang and loved everything that came with that identity. When I was pregnant, my belly started pressing into the steering wheel, and one practical friend asked, “What are you going to do with the car when baby comes?” I joked, “I’ll just put the top down to get the car seat in and out.” Knowing she had a point. I had to release this piece of my life, of my identity to step into my new role. I wasn’t ready. It took the car breaking down beyond repair to get me into a sensible vehicle with four doors.

Life does that sometimes though. If you’re not ready to change it will force you into it. Our external situations can create shifts for us, or we can become proactive, releasing those layers, possessions, beliefs or thought patterns, that no longer align with who we are becoming. Sometimes it takes an external death to realize that we need to have a death of our old selves.

Grandma’s passing has shaken my identity far more than I expected. So much of what I came to know of my role in this world came from me being able to care for her, to nurture, nourish and take care of our family. I feel like I truly learned how to cook in her hot kitchen. I learned so much from her, and at the end of her life, was able to thank her for teaching me so much in such a short time. I told her that she didn’t need to work hard any more, I could take it from here. Now that she is gone, I know that I can and that I am ready to step into that role. There are pieces of me though that I want to hold on to, just as there are pieces of her that I find myself feeling possessive of. I want to continue to take care of her house, the home that she worked so hard for; I find myself creating reasons to still be there, cleaning the kitchen, watering the plants, taking care. I am attached to her kitchenware, pots and pans that I washed by hand after preparing meals for her and my son. I wonder though, is my nostalgia making me want to hold on only to those positive associations. Surely I don’t feel possessive about her bedside toilet, where I supported her, held her and gave her space to release. So why is it that we feel compelled to hold on to certain aspects or items? What is it about the growth process that keeps us back, longing for ways we used to be.

Do we need to give ourselves permission to let go? Perhaps. Maybe it is a need to acknowledge the work that was done, the efforts made that enabled us to get to this point. A recognition of both the good and bad that shaped us into this current variation. There’s a bit of gratitude that has to be shared. Is it fear that keeps us from changing? Are we afraid that if we let those past layers go then we acknowledge and admit that we can never go back? We are forced into the new.

When flowers bloom, we are delight in their new growth. Then, do we mourn the loss of those delicate white petals to make way for peppers? Not likely, I know I celebrate the new bud of growth without giving much thought to what came before. Perhaps we can take this as a reminder from nature. Let’s rejoice in the new and what is coming. Give ourselves this time to shed our layers con cariño. Let’s trust that the fruit of our past labors will bear beautifully. When it comes time to harvest and transform those fruit into a delicious meal, we can do so with gratitude of both the hard work and beautiful flowers that came before. Let’s move forward without fear. Thank our past selves for blooming brightly and release into the unknown of what’s next.

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