I first heard this amazing and profound Sondheim song when a friend introduced me to the record version of this musical with the incredible cast of Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg, among others.
The context of the song is the little deaths of self/hope/love in a relationship that doesn't really work, but it fits in so many other places in a life as well.
In the world of following your spiritual path and even psychology there is talk of needing to die to the ego, or the death of self along The Path. And in making changes in your life, inevitably some part has to die.
Growth is change, and the only constant in life if change. And as we learned in grade school science, energy cannot die, it can only change form. So change is what happens every day whether you notice it or not.
But the changes that require attention, changing habits, changing direction, moving to a new job or place, starting something new - all these initiations take at least a little death. And in this world the Time-Warner, most popular version of death is "fade to black, then static." It is terminal, and inaccurate. Yes, death is an ending, but it is also a beginning of something else.
I was privileged to be with my mother at the time of her death and the weeks leading up to it. Because of what I witnessed in that time, when the moment came, I know I was witnessing - in her words - her "birth into eternal life," and that she was "going home to God." This was no concept or mental construct - I had the visceral experience of seeing my mom be born into a new life even though what was physically in front of us was her death in this life. It was profound, and surprisingly joyous.
In the recovery world we often hear about needing to stop seeing certain people to get safe or give ourselves time to heal a bit. It is common knowledge that there may be a radical (root) shake up of one’s social life when your recovery starts. No matter what caliber of relationships you have, they are what you are used to and what is comfortable. Our relationships tell us who we are by mirroring us back to ourselves.
So when we strike out in a new, untried directions it is like a little death. Death to our old way of doing thing; death to the same old way of relating to others and the world but also death to the part of ourselves that “always did this,” or “this is just the way I am,” or “this is just the natural way I do that.” So everyday a little death.
The funny thing about this is that to do, see and keep things the same old ways takes as many decisions and choices every day as changing does, only we are in habit mode and so unconscious of the choices that keep things the same. The Universe has a truly remarkable sense of humor.
In the song she is singing of betrayal in her relationship with her husband, but it could apply just as easily to any relationship, including the most primary relationship of all – your relationship with yourself.
Today, will you spend the day making the choices that keep things the same because it is what you want or is it just habit and fear of the little deaths involved in evolving? Either way, when you are on your side (and not blaming anyone) and stay present for your choices, well, in time that can only bring you peace.