"To heal our wounds, we first need the courage to face them." -- Paolo Coelho
I've never been afraid to face my demons in life, no matter what form they chose to take. Even as a child, any time that I have ever been afraid my first natural reaction was always to fight... just turn around and face it, put my fists up and get ready to do battle.
Things didn't change much as I grew older... the resolution to never let fear get the better of me, no matter what the situation, has always been rigidly there, sometimes not even consciously. I have started walking without knowing where I was going, armed with nothing more than the certainty that I couldn't stay where I was. I was always buoyed by the fact that at least I had the courage to try.
But even with that courage and conviction -- that has carried me through what sometimes felt like unsurmountable challenges in this life -- I have been terrified to post this. Why? Fear of judgement, of vulnerability, of over-exposure. Exposing your weaknesses only allows people to hurt you, and hurt you they will... for most people it's much easier to take your frustrations out on someone else rather than to face your own failings.
I also, for some strange reason, usually found myself bereft of clarity and the right words when it came to describing what was going on inside my head. It seemed clear IN my head, but attempts at writing it, or saying it, came out like blubbering gibberish. So after a while I give up trying. I have numerous unfinished journals -- with more blank pages inside than written ones -- to stand as testimony to that.
But God sent an angel. Out of the blue I received a message of encouragement, and a link to a site that "I think you should read," and there they were... the words that said exactly what I felt. There was comfort in that... the realization that someone had "been there and done that," that someone UNDERSTANDS. It gave me the courage to write, and now to share.
I have been engaged in a battle with myself for a very long time... all of my life, to be honest... and the battle has been learning to love my own self. I am always striving to be a better person, but it took me a long time to realize that I first needed to love the person that I am in the present moment, before I could ever hope to be anybody better. To look in a mirror and feel genuinely able to say "I like you, I'm proud of you, and I'm proud to BE you." It's believing that I DESERVE to be loved just as I am. Without that, everything other effort is in vain, for I will never think myself good enough to deserve better.
It's a debilitating thing, not being able to love yourself. You keep searching for love in all the wrong places and from all the wrong people, and basing your self-worth on them, and all the while there are people who genuinely love you -- all of you, so much so that you wish you could see yourself through THEIR eyes -- and yet you are incapable of receiving their love.
THAT has been my personal war... the bane of my existence, and the biggest obstacle in my path. I kept trying and failing for years to find "unconditional love," getting mentally, emotionally and spiritually hammered along the way, until I finally learned that where I needed to look was within... that it was, in fact, the place I had to find it first, in order to be able to find it anywhere else. But even that realization turned out to be only the start of the journey... seems I also now have to learn how to actually find it, that love for self, and put it into practice... but at least I'm on my way.
I am not a quitter, and neither am I a coward. I am also not a victim. I get hurt, and I might fall, but I never stay down. My best revenge has always been to come out better for it. That is how I have always judged my wins and losses in this game of Life... not by the absence of challenges but by how I used them to strengthen and grow and move on to new accomplishments. I never let what I couldn't do stop me from doing what I could do. I trusted my gut, my instinct and my intuition.
And yet, despite all of that, the ability to love my own self has remained outside of my reach.
I wish somebody would have told me a long time ago, whenever I asked what was wrong with me, that my problem is that I don't KNOW how to give or receive unconditional love. I still feel that I need to do everything perfectly in order to earn love, because that's what I learned early on in life and that's what I continued to manifest. And it puts way too much pressure on both me and the people who try to love me.
But you can only blame circumstances up to a point... after that you need to decide who and what you want to be. Nobody else is responsible for, or can affect, the way I feel but me. I am the one who needs to love my own self enough to say "I deserve better than this" to the people and situations that make me feel unhappy or less than good about myself. And until I learn to do what seems to come so easily and naturally to others -- which is to put my own feelings first -- I will ALWAYS be in this position.
My friends have tried many times to get me let go of my screwed up notion that if your family can't love and accept you as you really are then you must be unlovable. I know that they get frustrated at seeing me persist with a dogged, senseless determination that somehow I can do better and that will make everything be all right.
I have read so many books, sought guidance from priests, pundits and everyone in between, tried to still my overactive mind long enough each day to meditate, embraced the principle of changing your thoughts in order to change your life, tried to focus on the good and the positive... I have tried everything I know to try. I got to the point where I wondered if it was possible to know what your problem is, know what you need to do, try everything you know how to accomplish it, even refuse to believe that you can't do it, and STILL fail to accomplish it
At the beginning of 2012, everything began to come crashing down around me... it was literally as though somebody just shot a missile straight through the foundations of my existence, and one by one they began to fall. The "dark side" that was always there but hidden from pubic view suddenly erupted, totally eviscerating all that was good and positive about me. Everything that I HATED about myself was suddenly all that was left... everything else was lying in a smoldering mess around me.
I became angry ALL the time... at myself, at everybody else, at life in general. Inanimate objects like remote controls that refused to work caused violent fits of anger. I cried for no logical reason, like tripping on a step. I could find no happiness or peace anywhere. A great big cloud of suffocating blackness had engulfed my life and I could find no way to get out from under it.
No matter where I turned, rejection and disappointment was all I could find. It came from every direction... not just from the ones I had come to expect it from, but even those whom I used to DEPEND on to be there when I needed a friend, a shoulder to cry on. I lost all confidence in myself completely, second guessing every decision I made, or unable to make any decisions at all. I could find no clarity, no strength, no direction, no satisfaction or fulfillment in anything or anywhere. I felt like a worthless, useless waste of space and breath. I started things and left them unfinished, I made wrong turns everywhere... it was a maelstrom of seemingly unrelated incidents but all somehow contriving to strip every piece of stability and support from my life.
Some times it felt like I had fallen into quicksand, sinking further and further with every desperate struggle to pull myself out. Other times it felt like I was standing outside of myself and watching me die slowly, incapable of doing anything about it. I swung like a crazy pendulum between fits of rage and manic depression, between moments of desperately wanting to give up and moments of angry determination that I was not letting my life end up this way.
I lost all clarity, focus and conviction. Where before I felt filled with purpose, now I just felt lost, rudderless, blowing in the wind... days, weeks, months were passing and I had nothing constructive or productive to show for the time.
I couldn't understand what was happening, or WHY it was happening. How did I get here? This weak, sniveling, fearful, broken mess is NOT me! Is it?
As always though, our angels guard us, even when we are too blinded to see them. In their human forms, they hold on tightly to us, and we live to see another day. And the Universe practices "tough love" for sure... only at the point when we are finally ready to let go of all of our limiting beliefs, the light begins to shine. And my angels, the very ones who had been holding fast to my hand all along, were there holding up the light to help me begin to find my way out of the darkness.
And, as with every night, the dawn eventually comes.
I finally began to find some clarity and understanding, and the guidance that I desperately needed.
Through the wisdom of others, I learned that there is actually a name for this place of utter darkness. It was written, all my misery has already been put into words so perfectly that it meant that someone else had been here! And not just been here but discovered it's purpose, and come out on the other side. It brought me comfort in no small measure. I had not, after all, finally descended into complete insanity.
This is what is known as the "Dark Night of the Soul":
In the dark night, all the unprocessed emotions, feelings, old traumas, karma and distorted beliefs that is stored in our chakras rises to the surface. Its purpose is for us to process through so that we can permanently release them, but we often don't recognize it as that and we struggle against it.
In the dark night, you walk alone.
You long for joy and fulfillment, try everything to find it, but nothing is working. Everything is going wrong and you have no idea why. You feel lost, confused, and profoundly alone. Your journey, which you were so sure was on the right path and heading towards the light, is now trudging through a ravaged, devastated, dark and alien land.
There are, mercifully, brief interludes of respite, where your agonizing mind and heart rest from their turbulence.
Fellow seekers recognize the signs but can do nothing but keep watch, they cannot carry you. In your state of non-understanding, their words of kindness and encouragement are valued but you are somehow incapable of responding well. Your heart is numb. You would do anything to get out of this state, but it is your ego keeping you in it and this insight is impossible for you to grasp while going through your long night.
Your sense of inadequacy and failure and not knowing what to do next becomes acute and constant.
You go through the activities of life with no motivation except expediency. You are profoundly aware of the suffering of humanity and the cruelty of one person to another. To the outside world, you seem to perform fairly well despite the emptiness growing inside... what else is there to do?
You begin to enter the dark night in earnest when you feel completely stranded. Alone, not wishing to be but unable even to express yourself to others, you enter midnight and the greatest intensity of the dark night.
Nobody, not even your dearest friends and loved ones, can give you peace. They do not understand, you think, how much you are suffering or how you cry out and pray deep into each midnight. You try their advice but it doesn't seem to touch the heart of the matter. You wonder if you have any right to their friendship at all. You think of leaving, but where would you go? What good would diversion be if you just have to come back to this anyway?
You look at your possessions. You eye your books and consider all the benefit you have gained from these extremely wise vessels of truth. Yet not one book, not one thought, penetrates deep enough to where your affliction abides. Nothing works. No material thing has been able to help you. Nothing, no one, in the outer world has enabled you to come out of this dark night. All actions you considered have been tried. There is nowhere to turn. There is nothing to be done. There is nothing to think, nothing to feel, nothing to do, nowhere to go. It seems you have to accept this defeat -- or, you can persist in struggling against it.
For awhile longer, you go about thinking, feeling, and doing other options that occur to you. But you realize, in the midnight of your soul, that you have tried every option you know of.
Helpless, as well as ever so alone, you abide in this condition. And you accept your predicament. You accept that there is really, except for a tearful prayer to a seemingly remote God and a remnant of a shredded faith, nothing else left. Nothing remains in this lonely helplessness, in this private agony. In desperation, you contemplate suicide, but your spirit will not allow that escape.
In the fullness of the dark night you don't know where you are spiritually. You feel alien to both God AND man... neither one is doing anything to ease or remove your agony.
Here you have finally come to the time of sovereign solitude. In this precious time, which has no apparent prospects of love or happiness, you clearly perceive that nothing in the outer world has proven adequate to heal your condition.
Then, it happens...
A holy presence comes into your room... sweetly, softly. You feel it filling you. Your heart, your still heart, is permeated with peace. This peace moves through your body, like a breeze across your arid mind and numb heart. Then the fire of joy begins to smolder.
Here, your ego drops away... your ignorant, arrogant, fearful sense of self falls away from you. You stand in light... transformed... a new being... a free being.
"Everybody has a dark side. Do you love me? Can you love mine?" -- Pink
So, maybe this place -- this dark and lonely place -- is exactly where I am meant to be right now, so that I can get to where I want to get... the place where I can finally, finally, love the person I am.
I am definitely not in that place of bliss and complete peace as yet. In fact, at times, I wake up in state of total panic, lonely and very afraid. But if there any truth in what has been written above, at least I now have understanding of why I am here. And that understanding brings comfort, and hope, and I pray with everything in me that it IS the truth, and that all of this has not been for naught.
It's been a difficult and painful process, and I await that place of peace, with expectation and more than a little impatience, but in the meantime I know I am already not the same person I was before.
I recognize that the person I am hurting the most by trying to be perfect is me. I am being disloyal to my own Self. I can't stand hating on my self anymore, and allowing others to continually use my weaknesses against me.
This time around, I am loving my faults as part of the whole perfectly imperfect me, and will be true to myself FIRST. More and more, the deciding factor in any decision I make is how it makes ME feel, especially when it comes to the people I spend time with.
I realize that I may lose even more people in my life now, but maybe I would really be happier with less anyway.
And I am ready now for love that I do believe with all my heart is out there somewhere, waiting for when I was ready to receive it. That special love that lets you know that no matter what you are never alone. The kind that lets you know that your feelings are now someone else's priority too... what a wonderful feeling that must be.