It is amazing what can happen in a month.
At the end of March, I moved to a new home, started a new job and embarked on a new chapter in my life. I saw these moves as really positive … and a way to start cultivating better habits. Out with the old, in with the new, right?
What I didn’t take into account was how much the change would actually have on my emotional state. Though the new place was bigger and in a better neighborhood, though my new job is exactly like something I would’ve killed to have been in for the past few years, all this change was draining on my heart. My routine was different, my patterns all off. Most of this was for my good. But even though I might know that on a head level, it didn’t stop my heart from silently panicking and getting overwhelmed. I forget that change … even good change … is really hard for me to handle.
Recently all this change came to a head while I was on a trip in Mexico. I had one of those ‘dark nights of the soul’. Are you familiar? Maybe you’ve had them too. It was, of course, spurred on by alcohol. But every fearful, anxious thought I’ve been trying to squash with talk of positivity and how great and promising this new chapter in my life would be, finally came rushing to the surface. And it brought me to my knees in anguish and tears and a feeling of utter hopelessness.
Memories of my ex, guilt over every loss that was my fault, deep feelings of loneliness and unworthiness, fears that every new good thing will also be taken because so much has, heart ache over unrequited love. A deep pervasive sadness in my soul that seemed too unbearable to overcome. A weight in my chest so heavy it was hard to breathe.
When these dark nights happen (and they don’t happen all that often), they are quite terrifying. I know it’s an emotional response. I know it’s likely sheer emotional exhaustion. It’s temporary. I know this truth on a deep level and yet when I’m in the middle of it it feels as if there is a wall between my heart and this truth. And all there is is swirling darkness and an abyss so deep I can’t fathom ever being able to climb out. And nothing I can do or say seems to soothe me. My only choice is to survive it.
And I did.
When I’ve had these dark nights in the past, usually I do my best to rebound quickly. I get up the next morning and I’m super upbeat and start journaling and trying to manifest positivity in my life. I sit there and try to figure out what specific thing triggered this deep darkness so I can avoid it in the future. I try to get a game plan to never feel that way again.
This time it wasn’t like that. The next few days it felt like my heart was raw and sore from all of the trauma of that night. I was weak. I felt scared to feel anything, to think anything, for fear I might end up in that dark place again. The hopelessness still lingered, though it wasn’t as intense.
It’s hard … when you can’t feel things or are too afraid to. My job right now is exactly the job I’ve wanted for a very long time. It’s in the heart of downtown and it’s creative and it’s for a company I would’ve died to work for years ago. More than that, it feels right. It fits. But during the days leading up to my dark night and the days after, it was as if I couldn’t even feel happy about it. Mentally I knew I was but my heart was too scared to really embrace it, too numb. Too fearful to attach.
Then something happened. I don’t know what specifically but I woke up … not happier, but more at peace. Content.
At work, things seemed a little more … exciting. The day seemed brighter. I went for a walk downtown, had lunch by myself, sat on a bench in the sun and listened to a saxophone player on one corner and a trumpet player a block away. I am ok. This is the life I have always wanted and it’s here … for now. And that is ok. That is wonderful.
Normally the moment I feel even slightly happy, I try to amplify it and then grasp it with everything in me and hold on tightly, thinking that this is the way you hold on to true joy and happiness. By holding as tight as you can to the things that are bringing you joy in that moment.
But this time .. this time, I just let myself feel the peace. Feel the sun. In that moment. Singularly. There was still this light feeling of hopelessness but it was mixed with hopefulness too.
Is this what acceptance is? I hope so. I think this is what being present is. Feeling the goodness and enjoying it for what it is, knowing that tomorrow might bring news of something darker. But knowing that both the dark and the light have their place. And struggling against the dark only seems to make the bad things worse. And holding so desperately to the good seems to keep me in extremes.
I’m good right now. Today.
Will I be good tomorrow? I hope so. But if I am not, I know I will be ok. I will survive. And I will be grateful for whatever comes my way, regardless of the good and bad.
This deep peace stayed with me all last week. It is with me now. Doesn’t mean I won’t still feel anxiousness or stress or even depression. But maybe, just maybe, I won’t let it throw me into the pit. Maybe I can stay present and sit still with the uncomfortable and the painful. Maybe I can find a way to even be grateful for it. Grateful for loneliness and emptiness. Grateful for the fullness and love. Grateful for the meanness I have felt at times, the bitterness, the resentment, even the hurt. Grateful that my heart is full and deep and is capable of so many layered emotions.
I’m good today. And that is all that matters in this moment.
“You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay.”
– Cheryl Strayed