I am Darkness, I am Light

Everything is born out of darkness. The planets, in their infinite intrigue, the sun in all its brilliant splendor, the moon graciously illuminated by the sun, the tiniest plants that emerge through a million granules of dirt. And, us. Humans, created inside another human, curled up, eyes shut tight, surrounded by- darkness. Upon birth, we are welcomed by light. The same light that continues to nourish us until we close our eyes and once more welcome darkness before we transition onward.

I’ve come to believe that if we didn’t experience darkness, fall into it, feel it seep into our core, we wouldn’t transform or progress. We would never see our faults…to ourselves, to others. We’d be condemned to a life of complacency and self-righteousness.

On the flip side, remaining in the darkness for too long can be unhealthy, and downright dangerous. Let me share with you some very personal stories of my darkness. The darkness I became trapped in, and the darkness that helped me break through to blinding white light. These are two poignant times of my life where I can think back to and remember the lessons learned.

The blackest darkness came during a period of time I was dealing with my family with another unconventional relationship with an older man. Back then, I was no where near who I am today, so I didn’t know how to communicate in an effective manner, to take responsibility or to get help. Honestly, I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing. During that period, I became stuck. After lying to my parents about being at college during a spring break when I really wasn’t, my parents were enraged and upset. So was I. They told me that they didn’t want me to come home for the summer, which was only two months from that spring break. Initially, I thought, okay they’re really mad, but they’ll come around and we’ll have a good, long, hard, rational talk. Well, we did have that. They did say that I could come home (with all kinds of stipulations…that I was willing to accept since I was so desperate to come home). I was thrilled. A little upset over said stipulations, but I didn’t care. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be with my parents. It was true turmoil leading up to this point in trying to apologize and negotiate. So, after I began feeling better, my parents and I had another talk, and when we did…they shifted their viewpoint and changed their mind: they no longer wanted me to come home. They were adamant about not letting me. I had no where else that I wanted to go. Places to go- probably. Places I really wanted to go- none, not even to my ex’s. Devastation and pure rage hit. I had one of the biggest breakdowns ever in that apartment on the fourth floor. Screaming, crying, hyperventilating, throwing books…etc. This went on for quite some time, all the while my roommate and her boyfriend at the time were over. Embarrassed, I explained what happened and why I was a wreck. There wasn’t much they could do. Days passed, and I calmed down, but the inner torture and turmoil did not. The situation was so extreme and difficult that my older, distant boyfriend at the time was helpless. At this point in my life I was barely open about my liking older guys. There probably was only a short list of three friends that knew. Of course, I was terrified of judgement back then. Point is- I had trouble reaching out to them. The friends I did couldn’t help me. Depression spiraled, and like any desperate, depressed soul, I contemplated suicide. I wrote a letter (not a letter that I was going to do it), but a letter that I was considering it, because the situation got so bad, to my parents. They were going to be the first to know. My senses came about and I realized after writing out the letter, that I couldn’t possibly go through with it, even though I felt strongly left alone. I tucked the letter away and didn’t talk about it. Soon after I chose to see a counselor, (which didn’t help in the slightest). So, on I remained in my utter darkness. Alone. Afraid. So afraid. Desperate. Sad. Lost. Completely lost.

Long story short- I remained in this until one day, my parents finally changed their mind again and said that I could come home. I did, and that summer was certainly a difficult one for numerous reasons. That darkness was not the good kind. I would like to say I’ve never experienced a darkness  like that after, but sadly there were other episodes.

Now! Here’s a story about how I was able to identify my darkness and get out of it. About a year ago, as I was sitting with Dave at the kitchen table, I was in a facebook messaging argument with my mom. When I was finished, I was so flustered I bawled. Dave immediately was concerned and thought of a solution. That solution: the Landmark Forum. After attending a personal intro, (begrudgingly I might add), I attended what were the most intense three days of my life. Within a windowless room with a peppy woman as a leader, myself and about 100 other dubious souls sat, listened, participated and ultimately transformed. Not everyone did, and in the beginning I didn’t think that I would either. I could go into immense detail about the weekend, but I’ll save that for another post! This long story short was that, during that time I realized that a lot of the darkness that I was encountering was within me! All of it. Every drop. I literally “didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Then, I discovered what was hidden, and felt that I had to take action. That action was calling up my mom on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon in May, on a park bench in the middle of Philly. It was tough. I recall sitting there, heart ready to bust through and fly across the park, nervously fidgeting, telling Dave that I couldn’t do it over and over and over, until- beep. Riiiing, riiiing. “Hello?”

A lump the size of Texas arose in my throat and I found myself unable to properly speak. “I can’t understand you!” My mother said as I started crying. Finally, the words came gushing out. I explained to her where I was, what I was doing and how it was helping me. Then I went on to apologize for the past. For all those times I lied and hurt her and my dad. In those brief moments, moments that I would carry for a lifetime, I became fully responsible for the old me. The old me who fought and lied and hurt her parents. I let it all out. There was silence for a time after. My mom didn’t know what to say. She eventually admitted that she was really hurt. But then went on to say that things couldn’t be different from the way they were. I didn’t get angry, but tried to tell her that yes, things could be completely different. Our relationship could be mended. I guess she couldn’t see what she couldn’t see. Time was up; I had to get going to make it back in time. After informing my mom of this, I told her I would most likely call again. I think she had tears at this point and said okay.

I said, “I love you.”

Silence.

“I love you.”

My mom hung up without those three words in return.

I lost it again. Hurriedly collecting my things through tears, we went back. I shared my story to the now less dubious 100 some strangers. It was liberating.

Ever since then, I have been a completely different person. The Landmark seminar I’m currently in is continually helping me see my darkness, to be in it, and to help me know and see that there is a way out. But I can’t know that way out unless I’m in the “sewage”. I get that! If you aren’t willing to see where you are stuck and struggling, either because you don’t want to, or because you’ve just adapted to the sewage, darkness, what have you, then you won’t be able to be open to or have a miracle.

Now, every dark spot I am willing to recognize. I know that I’m in it. I recognize and acknowledge what’s going on and right where I’m at. I know that I can get out. Some hard conversations might ensue…conversations with my parents about their harsh attitude about Dave. But those are the ones I need to have in order to show them the darkness, so that maybe we can get out of it together.

I’m not saying that Landmark is the solution for everyone. But I know that everyone can get out of their darkness and become the brightest beacon of light in their own way. Take the time to recognize where it comes from, how you got there, what you’re feeling/how it’s making you feel. Then analyze the possibilities of the situation- the possibilities where you could break out. Really look at all of them. Don’t just settle for the first one that comes to mind. Surprise yourself. If that means having a difficult conversation with someone, do it. Let go of fear. If that means seeing a counselor or doctor, do it. If that means looking into different self-help programs, books, or workshops, do it! In order to make the change you wish to see and live you have to take the first step. And I know that the first step is the hardest! Once you make it though, you can continue walking forward, positively into the direction of your dreams and desires.

It all starts with you and what’s deep inside!

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Feeling Far Away

I went out yesterday on a hike with Dave and I brought my meditation journal with me, thinking that I would have just found a calm place to sit by the river, meditate then write like I usually do. Rather, I became observant to my surroundings and then to my own feelings that I’ve been tossing around in my head lately. I was moved by my writing experience and thought I should share it. Here’s what I wrote/felt:

I’m in love with nature. Dave and I came to the “tubs” area today to meditate and hike. There’s many different to explore that wind along the river and limb up rocky, steep hills. The trails are made of soft fallen pine needles and leaves, long browned from seasons passed. Large tree roots create stairways and make for a tricky ascent or descent when travelling. Along most paths- mountain laurels adorn the hillsides. Small white flowers with a pinkish hue create a brightened landscape amongst all the greenery. The area is called “the tubs” because there are seven natural carved out areas of rock that resemble large tubs. These cut outs were created from the continuous water flow cascading down from the mountainside. Probably taking hundreds of years to erode, the rounded out caverns with smooth edges and deep pools are now a permanent part of the Earth. Just another awe-striking form in these endless forms most beautiful.

Currently, Dave and I are at the peak of a steep hill. We climbed the rocky path to find a quiet place. From here we can see another lush mountain in the distance. Closer, there are oak trees which are being vivaciously devoured by ruthless gypsy moth caterpillars. There’s a terrible invasion this year- when you look at most of the mountains, there are massive brown spots that spread out for miles. Soon, the creepy critters will turn to moths, but that won’t make next year any better. With literally thousands of them spawning, there’s sure to be another outbreak. Sitting here now, it sounds like rain water hitting the leaves. As fast as the hungry creatures eat, they are making it come out the other end.

Aside from crawling critters, there’s blueberry bushes in front of me, and a bed of green/brown moss below. There’s occasional passerby’s and some distant traffic sounds, but other than that, it’s quiet. I feel it’s an escape- even from our normal life, which isn’t too busy, but we always seem to be going somewhere- doing something- always watching the clock. Today we’re doing that a bit as we have a small agenda. I’d rather sit and explore nature all day. It’s comforting. I think of my aunt Linda, and wonder if she’s feeling any peace yet from the loss of uncle Klaus. I wonder if she’s ever felt this peace. If there was ever a memory that she could fall back on in her time of grieving. It’s still strange to think that uncle Klaus is truly gone. Harder still is the ever-present change that has gripped me and the family. But, from my perspective, life drastically changed the day I moved out- almost one year ago.

From that day I knew that family relationships wouldn’t be the same, there would be no more happy get-togethers, no more travelling, or vacations. Not that I ever went on any grand vacation with my family, but still, the hopes of one are gone. Holidays have been tough, as they weren’t and won’t be the same again. Now, with a death and more looming illness with my aunt, I fear more change is yet to come. Perhaps it will all make me stronger- I feel I’ve already gained some strength. Perhaps the changes are positive- making way for new events, people and traditions. Maybe I have a fear they won’t last either, so I’m still hanging on to the memories of the past, when my family was closer, and times were more care-free.

Dave is good for me and he always will be. I am dedicated to him as he is for me. He’s helping me with the current family issues. There’s more to work on, but hopefully we’ll get through and it will be peaceful.

I am mindful. These are the moments I will cherish. I am free. I am happy.

Heaven is all around.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Along with my journal, I brought my guidance cards with me. They are cards that were created by a woman that I met at a recent holistic show. Her name is Denise Crawn, and her main occupation is travelling to Scotland for pilgrimages on an island called Iona. She recently created a book called “Walking Awake”, which is filled with beautiful pictures she took of faces that appeared in trees, flowers, etc. Each picture is accompanied by an inspirational quote that is very fitting. Alongside her book, she created cards with similar pictures, each one with a word on them like fear, happiness, sadness, etc….in a way, like tarot cards, but different in that they’re more for simple guidance rather than predicting/reading. So, I decided to pick three of them holding the intention in my mind of all the changes that have been going on in my life. I choose playful, surrender and grace. Super interesting because I thought they fit my current situation perfectly. I reflected that playful is what I feel I am, surrender is what I need to do, and grace is what I need in order to surrender, which would then bring me back to complete playfulness. Surrendering isn’t a negative in this aspect. Rather a positive where there’s thoughts and memories inside of me that I feel that I need to let fall free- memories of how things were with my family, of traditions, of holidays. Everything. Part of me asks why I should surrender? I’m young. My family is still alive. All of these things are totally possible and still should occur. Unfortunately, no matter how much I transform and push to have my parents shift, there’s just no getting through. Yet, I’m still hanging on to everything I had with them. It all still feels so close. So alive. For all my life my family was the closest to me. More than friends. More than anyone. Then suddenly they were gone when I chose to leave. Anyone would guess it’d be easy or just a matter of time before they let go of their anger and we would be back together. Of course they would, because most people would certainly do that. They wouldn’t hang on to the hatred, the pain of the past.

Now, I’m guessing that surrendering the memories and letting go will be the healthiest for me. There’s nothing easy about that. It’s not something I ever thought that I would have to choose. But, I fear that if I don’t I’ll become a slave to something that will never be. That would be my downfall. Instead of surrendering thoughts, I would want to surrender my life. There’s no point in living when you feel that life is playing you and there’s no way out.

I know I have to hang on. There’s a stand that I have to make. For myself, for Dave and for them. Fear is what I have because if I do make a stand, I may feel ecstatic about myself because it’s something I’ve never done before, but if I put all of this effort into making a stand in order for something to change, and nothing does, I will feel that it was a complete waste of time.

There’s no way to win. Either way, I’ll be torn. I’ll never have Dave and my parents because they are unwilling to change. If I would have my parents, I would have to have Dave separate, and that’s not fair. None of this is fair. They talk about their heart being shattered, well mine has been torn by them, but they can’t admit to it and take responsibility for the hurt they’ve caused me. I have a sneaking suspicion that my mom feels that somewhere she went wrong with me and that’s why she is the way she has been for so long. But, there’s nothing that she really did wrong, per say. There’s just some things that never worked for me and affected me negatively. Things that I didn’t realize until now. Now that I’m older, I have looked back on a lot of things and saw times where my parents weren’t there for me. They fought. They drank. Controlled me in a way. There’s a bunch. Yes, they raised me well and all of that, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t hurt. I don’t think that any parent and child relationship goes without both being damaged in some way by the other. Of course this isn’t done on purpose, but it definitely happens- just part of the cycle. Dave talked about how there were times that he knew he hurt one of his daughters when they were younger, and he felt terrible and apologized early on. He knew there was no way to go on with the relationship with that blockage in the way. I think that’s absolutely beautiful and takes a lot on the parent’s part. Not a parent myself, I don’t know from experience, but I can definitely imagine.

I know I can’t demand or expect an apology from my parents.I guess all I can do is do what I need to do; make that stand and hope for the best. Life is meant to be lived, not survived. I’m currently attending a Landmark seminar where the intention is to live passionately and play the game of life with purpose, grace and ease. I’ll save more details for another post, but for now I’ll just say that it’s helping in a way, but not, because there are just things like Landmark that can’t solve the kind of situation I’m in. I already told my parents about it, since there is a huge emphasis on sharing…so I shared and all my mom replied was, “you can go to all the seminars you want, but they’ll never help us.”

There’s so much I don’t understand, so much torment. So much I don’t know what to say or do.

There’s so much I’m learning as I struggle.

Killing Death

“You’ve given me the courage, you gave me confidence, to never be afraid of life, afraid of killing death.” -Circle II Circle

A song from one of my favorite and influential bands. This song in particular has meaning for me in a couple ways. One, meaning is related to my boyfriend, that I’ve had in mind for a while regarding my life, and the other meaning just came to me today. Recently, I got sad news that my uncle’s cancer, which he’s been fighting for months now, made its way to his brain and is slowly taking over. 😦 He was given about six months to live from what my aunt and mom told me. This is such a huge shock to the whole family. My uncle is someone who seems to be invincible; with his hard working ethics and family values at hand he appears as if nothing could ever go wrong. He was a carpenter for most of his life, then resigned to smaller jobs. Still, each one required a lot, and through it all, he gave his all. Since he was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago, he still worked everyday to make ends meet for himself and my aunt.

With this sad news have been said, I’ve been reflecting on life and what it means to really live. Obviously, life is indeed short. You never know when your time is going to be up. It’s so easy to get caught up in life that you forget it could end. I have sworn to live my life to the fullest for quite a while now, mostly though that took place and more action when I left home and was able to be with Dave fully. I felt my life open up in incredible ways and everyday felt like a blessing rather than a curse. Or, just a day that was going to go by without anything meaningful and or exciting happening. I’m alive now. Everyday, I see the beauty of life. I see it in myself, in Dave and in the place where I’m living.

This morning, I woke up to two deer outside the window. It was wonderful to see this kind of life up close. It’s that type of thing that people tend to take for granted. “Psh, deer? Why would I care about them? See ’em every day, so what?” My attitude is swayed to the extreme opposite of that. “Wow, look at these amazing, delicate but strong creatures coming so close to the house! I want to take in their beauty of life and observe them happily. I am thankful for the deer.” There’s more to life when you can appreciate even the natural world you’re living in. In general, since getting into Buddhism more, I’ve been able to look closer at nature and really appreciate, and connect with it. Having that attitude has helped me greatly and has made me happier-  leaves me with a feeling that life is worth living, that even when you think there’s nothing good left, there’s a small (or large) beauty always around if you look close enough.

In my daily actions, I try to understand more who I am, what I do and how I affect others. Especially with Dave. We have been working hard on our relationship; we have been getting to the core of each others’ soul to unveil our true selves so that we might know each other and love each other more deeply and fully. It’s such a beautiful thing. With this type of connection, I can feel the sacredness that lives inside of us, between us. These are feelings I have come to love and appreciate beyond anything I’ve ever appreciated before. I’ve been working to expand on them and feel fully alive in that sense.

In general, I want to do more with my life. There’s a need inside of me to be more active and accomplish more so that I can feel like I’ve made a difference and an impact, both within myself and others. Dave’s life is my greatest inspiration for my life. It has been for so many years now. Ever since I met him, and got to know him- his personality first, and then his work and passions, I felt that he was someone that was truly happy and that people like that are hard to find…I wanted to live life with such vibrancy. Years passed, we separated, but still, there he was in the back of my mind and when we reconnected and got into a relationship, I saw a crack in my life that was stuck in a rut…when I moved out, I realized that I really could, finally, learn to live and experience life the way he does- completely happy while seeing the sacred and magical in everything.

I’m convinced everything happens for a reason. There’s no doubt that trouble befalls us only to teach us or bring us closer to another truth that’s not yet found. I will live. Breathe. Be close with those whose lives are further along. And I will share the wonder and joy that I perceive so that they may have a glimmer of hope in a darkening world.

Sorrow

Yet Another Dream

The dreams of my mother have been frequent again. I remember when I first moved out that they were and that made sense, because I was nervous and sad…I genuinely missed her and wanted to be back home in a way. The dreams faded as I became more comfortable living with Dave. Dave and I’s life together was the main focus at the time, along with school, and then, I didn’t have any dreams about him or about our situations. So, after a lull of a few months, my mother has been on my mind again. We rarely talk. As a matter of fact, the last time that we actually spoke in a normal, kinda fun way was my graduation weekend, which was almost three months ago. Since then, it’s been hard. We’ve discussed business things…and even there, she’s cold and doesn’t reach beyond whatever the business is that we’re discussing. (Lately it’s been my insurance with them…concerning the dentist and all). The other time that she recently wrote to me, was just to flip out and again, tell me that I’m wrong and that I’m not going to learn…(regarding posting something on facebook that was directed toward my aunt…it wasn’t malicious, but it definitely was a post that I wanted to use to get her attention at the time, because, she’s another one that I can’t seem to get through to). And yes, I’ll admit that publicly putting that kind of thing out there isn’t the smartest choice…it does typically reflect poorly on someone only for the fact that everyone else can see it and will ridicule, and judge, etc. But it was something that I felt justified to do, and I did, and it’s over.

Anyway…the point is, is that my mother will only speak to me if she feels she needs to rant at me for something I did “wrong” or if there’s some kind of business to take care of. In a way, I can understand her concerns…sometimes…but the way she comes across with those things is harsh, not helpful and just plain aggravating. I end up feeling angry instead of helped. Somewhere inside of her, I know she could have the capability of talking to me like a civil human being and nicely expressing her concerns, even if they are over something stupid I’ve done. That’s typically what I’d expect a good parent to do, no matter the age of their child. It’s happened before, believe it or not…and in those moments, I feel a true connection with her, and that makes me happy, thinking that everything is in balance.

I surely do digress.

The dream: I’m standing in the middle of my living room, my parents on one side, and my aunt and uncle on the other. We all seem to be talking normally, when suddenly, I begin to yell at my mom. I unleash the things inside me that I’ve never dared to say before. I say things along the lines of, “The way you brought me up, you were always harsh, and mean, and I know that you did do a good job, but it was still hard. …You’re always so cold and rash about everything…I know that there is something deep down inside of you that you are upset/angry over and  you regret it and that’s why you can’t do anything differently.” After I finished my rant, my mom fell silent, shrunk and pulled her head down. There was an awkward pause before my aunt and uncle changed the subject quickly saying that they had to get going, they hugged me and told me that I needed to come down soon to see the new molding in the bathroom.

I woke up feeling surprisingly and strangely satisfied. I felt that I had exposed something within my mom that she knew as well as I did was true. The way she lowered her head was like how a child does when he or she gets caught red-handed slathering finger paints all over the kitchen walls. Pure shame and maybe guilt…either way, that realization that they’ve done something to upset whoever and they know it. They don’t try to deny it.

In real life…I can bet my whole future of savings that if I were to confront/expose my mother like that, she would rapidly, as always, claim me to be the “effed up one” and say, “Are you out of your goddamned mind?” “You need a psychiatrist.” Not that I would flip out on her, in reality, I would love to just ask her, kindly, nicely, to get to the root of the issue- if there was anything in her past either from childhood or her first marriage that made her feel like she had to be so adamantly in control of her life and others. And what went wrong to cause the bitterness?

That’s the obstacle that I’ve been facing for many years now. I want it to end. I want to talk, but first, she needs to be able to talk with me…things are still to stirred up from me being with Dave…I don’t think it’s a good time. I’m concerned though that that time isn’t going to come.

I guess in the meantime, I will keep on living my life the way I want to…I can’t let her and my dreams of her get in my way and let me down. When the time is right, things will change. Everything in its own time…in its right time and place. Until then, the paradox of my mother will continue to live on.