I’ll start by saying that I know everyone suffers. I’ll start by saying I don’t have it all that bad. I am grateful for conveniences that others might consider luxuries – that at some point in my life, have been out of reach. Yes, the right people and circumstances have shown up sooner or later. I am alive and I am grateful for all that. I know my platitudes. I attempt to shift my thinking, clear my chakras, burn off karma, lighten the load on my heart. That is the logical, metaphysical approach.
But the thing about darkness, it knows no logic. It does not follow rules. Everyone has a shadow side and sometimes it grows bigger than the rest of us. I’ve made snarky jokes with mine, stuffed it down with mantras and music and meditation. But sometimes, it grabs me by the ankle and drags me into the cave. Sometimes, it eats at my skin and makes me feel ugly and useless. It harangues me in the voices of people I went to school with and teachers who disliked me. It pushes me down repeatedly on the playground cement. Sometimes the stone is rolled in front of the cave and I sit there for days in darkness.
I used to be bulimic. I used to be a cutter. I used to do stupid things to destroy myself in little pieces. That was college. That was marriage. That was adolescence and young adulthood captive in the cave. That was 25 years ago.
I’ve grown up. Become a reliable person. A good parent. A conscientious employee. Got an MBA. Paid bills. Done upkeep on a vehicle. Rescued a baby raccoon and a dog. I don’t hurt myself anymore. Because people need me to do things. To care for them.
And yet – there are still days when I am swallowed by the darkness and in the cave. Days when I still do the needful, but neglect myself. I go to work because that is what you do. I feed the dog because that is what you do. I shower and put on deodorant because it needs done. I check in with my son because good moms do that. I make dinner for my boyfriend because he works long days.
Down deep I appreciate them. The people in my life.
But there are layers of darkness between me and the “down deep”. Because we are all utterly alone in our unique experience of this world.
So now what do I do when the darkness shows up?
This time of year I drive to a quiet place. A deserted parking lot is best. I turn off the car and I sit. Sometimes I ugly cry and question everything aloud. Sometimes I play a few songs. But mostly I let myself feel the cold. It’s like another person. There is a realness to it that pushes any illusion of this life away. Its bite, its clarity, its sharpness. Stillness. Chillblains. The Nordic rune Isa and its inert steadfastness. The blankness of fresh ice. The clean slate of mirrored surface calm. Layers of dark between the surface and the “deep down”.
When I get cold enough or clear enough, I turn the car on and head back home. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to turn that key. To leave the coolness of a place where my warmth and my heartbeat truly matter.
But the world is waiting for me back home.