A few thoughts on legacy

Brief discussion of death and loss is included in this blog

Last week 2 people I knew and deeply respected throughout different seasons of my life died.

Now, these folks weren’t active participants in my current life, but both of these deaths seemed quite sudden, untimely and unexpected.

The shock and waves of sadness for them, their families, their friends and their communities were palpable in my mind and in my body as the week closed out.

And it really got me thinking about legacy.

Before I opened my therapy practice I worked in hospice and palliative care. I had the privilege of supporting countless people as they approached and faced the end of their lives. Much of my time was spent sitting with these folks, bearing witness to their multifaceted pain and grief, helping to make meaning of their stories and the legacies they hoped to leave behind.

Legacy was such an important concept when I worked with folks faced with their mortality, having months, weeks or days or even hours left in their lives.

That being said, I also firmly believe that legacy work is powerful and important work for us all to consider and come back to as we need it.

Last week as I scrolled through Facebook there were countless posts, pictures and stories of the impact that both of the individuals who died had on this world, on micro levels and macro levels.

How each of them, in their own ways, made people feel seen, heard, respected, cared for. How they each impacted others through seemingly small, yet consistent, gestures of openness and acts of kindness.

How beauty radiated from them when they did things that they loved. And how what will be missed most about each of them is their presence and their connection to the people in their lives.

You know what wasn’t mentioned once?

Their bodies.

Their diets.

Their workout schedules.

Their alignment or misalignment with cultural standards of beauty.

So often we get caught in the daily grind of to-do’s, shoulds, and loudness of the world we live in and we lose sight of what’s truly important, who’s truly important and why.

We live in a culture obsessed with productivity, image, food, body and arbitrary health standards. 

Combine that with our personal body narratives, experiences and traumas and it can feel hard to find ways to wholeheartedly connect to anything and anyone else (especially ourselves).

Which is why the concept of legacy can be so supportive.

When you step back and take a look at your life, what do you want to remember most? 

Who do you want to remember most? 

How do you want to have taken care of your mind, body and your spirit?

What do you hope that people remember and share about you?

This is similar to values work. Getting quite and turning down the volume on cultural ‘shoulds’ and discovering what’s important to you and why.

Doing this type of work is healing because it helps differentiate your authentic voice from diet culture’s voice, your eating disorder/disordered eating voice, and the voices from your past that may have (intentionally or unintentionally) caused you harm.

It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever fall into disordered eating behaviors or body loathing again. #yourehuman

But what it does mean is that you have a why to exit the cycle when you're ready. You have something to grab onto and ground yourself in that is exponentially more meaningful than the illusion of food and body control, numbness and quest for 'beauty' and thinness.

You are a remarkable human.

Not because of your body size, your athleticism, your quest for perfection, your ability to withstand eating brownie sundaes (until you don’t) or even because you’re always putting yourself last.

You are a remarkable human because what you bring to your world simply can’t be replicated.

It's a hard concept to grasp, I know, but holding up your worth- your legacy- in your appearance is a road full of empty promises and heartache.

And, you deserve so much more than that.