I will not abandon myself
I know how to be here
in this gray place,
so familiar in its charm-less charm
I’ve learned how to be herein this dark space
and not be afraid,
I know how to be here, now.
I know when it shows up,
the best thing to do
is to take its coat,
offer it a seat,
I will not resist its embrace,
I will not run from its force,
I’ve been down that road before.
I will not abandon myself.
instead I will stay.
I will be.
I will know
that everything changes
and that the light
is defined by the dark.
This is the poem I scribble in my journal on a dark day. I am weighed down by the heaviness of what I easily recognize now as depression. All I want to do is sleep. When I’m not sleeping, I’m fantasizing about sleeping. I cancel meetings and lunches with girlfriends because I don’t want to talk to anyone or get dressed or brush my teeth. I want to crawl under a rock or a blanket and sleep ’til springtime.
Maybe it’s the change in seasons, maybe it’s hormonal, maybe it’s chemical, maybe it’s Mercury in retrograde, maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, maybe it doesn’t even matter. Melancholic and mopey, I have no ‘reasonable’ explanation for these feelings, they’re just here, hanging over me, blocking my view of the light. I cannot feel the light. I want to run. I want to hide.
But this time, I don’t. Because things are different now.
I’m trying something different these days. I am a scientist in my soul’s laboratory. I am experimenting with a new idea. This time, I will stay with these feelings.
I have spent so much of my life running from my negative emotions, hiding, numbing from anything that felt bad, completely convinced that feeling bad was BAD, and that bad feelings were to be avoided. I had a hundred ways to avoid a bad feeling. Anything to leave that bad feeling. On some days, I’d try all hundred.
“Cheer up!” my well-meaning friends might say, while I waffle in this mud puddle of murky emotions, splashing around, getting some of my muck in their eyes. Yes, they mean well, yet I know (finally) that ‘cheering up’ is not what I need- that’s how I got myself into the habitual behaviors and shadow comforts that I have spent years weaning myself from in the first place.
Instead, I have vowed to not abandon myself.
To not turn my back on this dark feeling in me. To just sit with my emotion, that is my challenge, to just be with this ache, this hollow feeling, that is my sole job today and it’s taking more energy than I anticipated.
It’s so much easier (and familiar!) to hide, to run, to numb, to bail. Instead, this time, I acknowledge the yuckiness. This time, I don’t turn away from it, but simply hold it like a colicky baby. I rock it back and forth and whisper soothing words. There, there. You’re okay, baby. I’m here…
Richard Moss in his work “The Mandala of Being” talks about the difference between being in your feelings, and your feelings being in you. We so often buy into the illusion that our feelings can actually engulf us, swallow us, that we can lose ourselves in them. Moss gently urges readers instead to be a safe place for their feelings, to create spaciousness around the feeling, no matter how dark and ugly the feeling might be, and I am now driven by the challenge of discovering what a life lived this way will look like. I am experimenting, all right.
I will not abandon myself.
What I also know is this: When I create a safe space for my feelings, it turns out these feelings are not as terrible or ugly or awful or deadly as I imagined them. They’re more hungry-baby than scary-monster. All they want is to be acknowledged, to be felt, to be held. They will not destroy me, or engulf me, because they are just feelings, they are mine, I hold them inside of me, and lo and behold, I am finally a safe place for my feelings.
Just the other day, I heard a woman on the radio talking about her inner work, the way that she had learned to accept all of her feelings with love and compassion, after a lifetime of rejecting her ‘bad’ emotions. Mmm… I could relate. Just a little. At the end of the show, she was asked to share her motto, and I loved her answer so much I’ve now adopted it as my own. (I don’t think personal mottos are copyrighted. If so, my bad.)
If I would have heard this woman ten years ago, five years ago, last year even, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it- it would have been just beyond my understanding, like hearing a foreign language, as I was still so passionately dedicated to avoiding and rejecting my own ‘bad’ feelings. (But because we receive exactly what we need, what we are ready for, exactly when we are ready for it, I didn’t hear it ten or five years ago, I heard it the other day.)
She said: “All feelings are welcome here.” And I thought, for the first time in my life, yes. Yes, they are.
Excerpted from my book, Truth or Dare Living: Wild Adventures for Your Sacred, Sexy Soul. Now through the holidays, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite chapters from the book, available on Amazon.com, while I revive and reignite my creative fire with some much needed rest. Enjoy!