I recently spent about six weeks entrenched in a darkness of my own making. Not entirely of my making, circumstances were key players, but my perception wrote the bulk of the script. As a seeker, a lover, an advocate of joy I was mortified to find myself desolate. It seemed I was trapped in an involuntary game of hide and seek with gratitude, sunlight, mindfulness, and presence. I was “it” and they had all found the most incredible hiding places. And I felt lost. I tell you this, not for your pity. I nearly drowned in my own and couldn’t bear another drop of it. I don’t even tell you for your sympathy, but rather maybe your empathy. I tell you so maybe you will trust me to talk to the part of you that sits in your own sadness sometimes. The part of you that sees a seemingly harmless cartoon of one person lighting up a room with his/her own spirit and weeps with guilt and shame.
Overwhelm, anxiety, and depression are like triplets who rent a flat in the corners of your mind. They can be nearly identical in appearance but behave very differently. They are extremely powerful on their own, and can seem unstoppable when they work together. When you visit them, you can become so entrenched in the game of figuring out who is who you don’t even realize how long you’ve stayed. You’re blind to how obsessed you’ve become with finding an answer. The door back to joy is never far, but it sometimes becomes difficult to see. Even if you try to open it, you often cannot seem to grasp the knob. Eventually the confusion of the game and the struggle to exit exhaust you so much you barely even want to try anymore.
But in time, if you give it time, if you allow yourself some grace, something happens. It’s not sudden, but it is spontaneous; a word, a gesture, a song or a psalm… something. Something touches you. It warms you. It holds you for just a moment, just long enough to give you the strength and hope to try one more time. And the knob moves. It may not turn all of the way at first. The door may not open for a while, but there is progress none the less. And that progress leads to another small success and these successes ripple until the door swings open, the air hits your lungs, the light warms your skin and you’re out. You’re breathing again. You’re free.
Here is what I have learned though, it’s not the word, gesture, or song that brought you to freedom. It was you. It was the you waiting inside for the space to stand up and be seen again. There is a beautiful quote by Parker Palmer that states, “Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. ” It goes on to describe how, when in his depression, all reason and intellect were useless. However inside of him, his soul quietly survives. When in hard places we often seek comfort, satisfaction, or validation from the exterior world. We cross personal boundaries. We compare our lives to others. We sit in constant criticism of our actions, our words, and our thoughts. Striving ever to do, to feel, to be better, we never feel like enough. We never have, give, love, say, see enough. In dark spaces, we never feel like we are enough, and nothing is enough for us.
These insecurities and expectations weigh on us like wet wool clothing. Our job here is not to be perfect. It is not to wear the labels or expectations given to us, or to create unrealistic ones for ourselves. Our job here is simply to be. Being is enough. And who would we be if we peeled off these layers, released ourselves of the need to be more? Shed the desire to be a specific, expected, perfectionist version of partner, parent, child, employee, or friend? What if we removed all of those heavy layers until we could stand as only ourselves? Free of all that weight. Without the layers of false perfection, we remain who we were before putting on our garbs. In shedding them, we reclaim our lightness. We can be comfortable. We can be free.
This version of ourselves, the authentic naked soul, is who we really are. It is who we are born to be, and everything else that we tell ourselves that we need to be is just weight. Our light is always there, always enough, always has the strength to walk away from the triplets and open the door to our freedom when the darkness seems too heavy. With some time and grace, you alone can turn the knob. And you will see the light again. The light that was within you all along. You are divine. You are beautiful. You, exactly as you are right now in this moment, are more than enough.
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