During my late twenties, I went through a crown phase. Simple ink drawings of a tall narrow figure in a shapeless gown, balancing on tiny feet with an enormous crown perched on her head. There were paintings along the same theme. But one, in particular, was a pale version of myself sitting cross-legged, with a disproportionately large crown balancing above a disheveled face, wisps of hair falling across sunken cheeks. The crown had gold leaf rubbed into a darkened underlayer giving it a weathered look. Scribed across the top in charcoal was a lyric from a ghostly Dead Can Dance song, reading “She wears honesty like a crown on her head.” Though I was anything but honest with myself and my life at that time. If anything, I was crowned in shame.

I was a half-unconscious queen. My fairytale had been trampled on, crushed into dust and swept away, leaving me feeling like a hollow and faded version of myself. Except for the crown. Some part of me knew I deserved more than the story I was living.

During this time, I had a detailed plan for my grave sketched into my journal. Not because I was suicidal— I had a determined will to survive, but the vision was for my future death that would take place deep into my nineties. I wanted to be cremated and scattered into the ocean except for a handful of remains planted into a copper crown-shaped planter. A rose bush would grow from my ashes, preferably an Austin English rose the color of apricots. And the crown would patina over time, growing more and more exquisite— encasing me in its beauty and strength. I mused on this burial plan for over a decade, finding comfort in the idea that one day I would be held in symbolic magnificence and finally rest in peace.

As I reflect on that time in my life, I am sensing more clarity my place in the world. I no longer need a symbolic crown to give the illusion of personal strength and worthiness. My strength isn’t an adornment that I wear but a sense of wholeness and wisdom that I embody—emerging as truth-telling, honest connection, and healing. It is evident in my deepening creases and graying hair. It lives in my desire to empower others to open and connect through inner healing.  I no longer need to imagine my death to feel a sense of peace, beauty or presence. They are experienced daily in my sense of belonging, in my community circle, in my own backyard. I don’t need a fairytale to inform how to live and love. I only need to trust in the intuitive knowing of my open heart.

I am feeling the culmination of struggle and growth, coming into the wholeness of who I am. I am a healer, a sensitive warrior, a truth-teller, an ancient soul in young skin. My armor is courage and I am crowned by love. I am a fully conscious queen savoring this sacred life.