I am writing this while on the upswing, recovering from a challenging holiday season. The long and short of it is that: knowing truth is one thing; and how we act is entirely another.
The truth is, that anything we deem as "special" like "special days", or "special things" or even people, can become a challenge because we've placed our personal power into something completely outside of ourselves. The act of fracturing the power we have inside ourselves is what creates separation and fear.
I share this somewhat dark personal experience and re-discovery with you, not to gain your support, empathy or to pose as an achiever overcoming an obstacle. Instead, I share this with you so that you can potentially see a hint of yourself somewhere within it, to gain courage within yourself, and to be reminded that you are not alone in your work to live life well, with purpose, hope, peace and joy.
It had been several months since I'd faltered into such a dark place: of discontent, upset, and given ascent to false expectation. I had been managing the transition into autumn with SAD bulbs, vitamin D and a deeper commitment to adjusting my self-care to include more attention than I needed compared to prior months.
The regular weekly meeting group I facilitate had just collectively agreed to take a break for the holidays and reconvene in the new year; so there were no major commitments, but to myself and preparing for Christmas.
A searing emotional pain announced the wound made new again with the hiss of "...another 'stolen' season..." on loop from the dark corners of my tired mind. The untrue words were somehow resurrected from the forgotten "shitty first draft" of the young widowhood victim chapter of my internal memoir to mark the beginning of this depressive bout.
Over the course of a few short days, it manifested in the form of withdrawal, and an exhaustion that grew with each night of worsening insomnia. I binge watched an entire dark TV series on Netflix for over a week, straight. Oddly, while I was partially conscious from all of the year's mindfulness training, I felt compelled to watch all the same.
Of course, I could see the simplicity in the choice I had to make to grab the remote control; to stop it from playing or even just to get up and walk away. And, as simple as choices can be, it's our will--our intentional acts--that makes all the difference in how we experience life.
I cried, screamed, and wailed aloud in between the binging. A mask of self-loathing and guilt muzzled me from the shadowy void I'd backed into behind me as I shrank. I felt weak, easily addicted.
While I felt as though I'd lost my ability to direct my will to take a different action; I realized that, in my "awakened" state, I could still do the next-best conscious thing to use my seemingly limited energy.
My aim was clear. I would embrace this bout with my eyes wide open. I would grapple with this knowingly-temporary addiction, allowing it run its course--like an emotional fever that would eventually break. Knowing that I was ultimately safe, I could have the courage to wrestle with it, get close enough to see its face.
I would decidedly only allow it to steal my peace with a singular purpose as my goal: to observe the culprit's tricks, wants, and weaknesses simply to understand them.
The television series would eventually end and I'd have nothing left of it to watch. So, the faster I could get through it all, the faster it would all be over.
As no stranger to suffering, I understood that it was more than likely this endeavor was going to suck for a while--draining me, stealing time, energy and opportunities and undoubtedly inflict suffering as it raged. Armed with the faith in simply knowing that "I am and always will be okay", I was made ready.
With newfound clarity and commitment, I watched myself watching the show, as hours slipped by, filled with unanswered calls, texts and menial to-do list items from days before.
I breathed deeply, and with intention, into my belly, slowly and patiently gathering the energy to be still and pay attention as I sat there; sure to notice the feeling of my body's weight on the armchair; the physical tensions come and go; and the flooding sensations as they washed over and past as biochemicals coursed through my body as I watched the on-screen story unfold. I even observed the fictitious content that stirred emotions and thoughts within me.
As I neared closer to the end of the 5-season series, I could feel the paralysis fade and my conscious mind grow stronger; and I eventually laughed light-heartedly at watching my own reactions. None of this is real, and yet my body and brain react despite my knowing.
The haze began to lift. I could recognize a pattern. Flashes of decades' worth of memories came to the fore: binges on book series, tv shows, movies, food, shopping, gambling, sex, drinking, and especially work were clearly highlighted in my mind. These compulsive behaviors have all been fear-driven attempts to escape the scary "what-if's" and affront of would-be failures I hadn't even yet had the chances to attempt. It wasn't the thing, any of the vehicles' that had held power over me; it was a fear I used to call my own.
I was scared of change again. Scared of getting things wrong. Not trying enough. Not having enough. Not being enough. Not being seen, heard or felt. Not being special. This behavior was my ego's programmed way of trapping me; into keeping me small, inactive, incapacitated and apart from my life, apart from purpose, opportunity, and fulfillment: ultimately, in the dark.
I looked at the fear that had driven my personal hell for four decades straight in the face. There was a moment of chagrin to realize that the face was a marred version of my own. She held on tightly to the shield and armor of defiance, justification and pride.
I could see this particular apparition more clearly now: this one was my survivor guilt. She was savagely protecting the "specialness" of our marital love. The revelation stunned me for only a brief moment before I realized what I had to do.
I advanced, and embraced her. I cried with her. I held her close even as she resisted; and I told her the truth. She needn't fear. I accept her. I love her. I forgive her. And, that unconditional love has no dependencies. No "if-then" statements. With or without a body, we are connected and wholly inseparable in that which is true love. It cannot be divided, only multiplied. She needn't prove the truth nor protect it; because that is the unbreakable truth.
And just like that, I began to heal again.
I am truly grateful for being able to keep up both my courage and mindfulness practices because they are what have strengthened my heart and mind enough to get me through to where I am now.
I realize, and can admit without shame, that there is still darkness within me, as you surely have, too. Thankfully, I also know that it is not an entity unto itself.
It is simply a place that hides the parts of ourselves that go unloved and disowned, because of a false belief that some parts do not deserve love, acceptance and forgiveness that dissolves in the light of truth.
The rub is: Simple, is not always easy. And, personal triumphs are not always achieved on your own. Having a trusted community of support is key to pooling our resources, skills, and understanding.
"The light in you is too bright to fail." Corinne Zupko
Remember, ADJUST is about moving forward with purpose, learning gentle course correction for your life's journey.