Sometimes I feel so overcome with discouragement. It is a great mountain I am learning to travel within to climb. Recently this happened because of a mistake I had made in my personal life.
This mistake had to do with the way I reacted negatively to someone I care about. I reacted in anger and caused emotional harm to a person that couldn’t be dearer to me.
I made the mistake, and my self-esteem plummeted.
I fell into an endless spiral downward. I felt angry. First at my circumstances (which include the loved ones around me). As if my problem was outside myself, and as if raging at all the outer chaos would soothe my now chaotic mind and soul. This revealed to me my first reaction was to the thought that “somehow if my circumstances were different I wouldn’t have made that mistake.” In short, I was blaming life, and other people for my own behavior.
Is it possible that if my outer circumstances were less difficult or chaotic I might not have made this mistake, by reacting in rage and anger? Sure.
However, is it also true that outer circumstances and other people will often throw me challenges, disappointments, and their own imperfections? Absolutely.
So the question is do I want to be the kind of person that has the inner strength and capacity to deal with these difficulties in a healthy way, in a way that harms myself and those around me less? Do I want to respond with confidence and trust in life, and my own ability to move through whatever arises? Of course.
So I have to stop blaming my external circumstances for my own behavior. I may feel tired, or frustrated or even full of rage, but that does not mean I have no choice in how I will respond and relate to these feelings.
I want to be the kind of person that can live in a place beyond reacting out of emotion. I want to inhabit a space where emotions are seen, acknowledged and felt in full, but I am not controlled or limited by them. I want to live in a mental space where I can see out beyond my rage, or sadness or fear. Getting there will take inner work.
Once I decided to take the responsibility for my mistake and not blame or make excuses- it was painful. I could see my behavior, my mistake so much more clearly. It was hard to look directly at it- but I had to. I felt ugly. Broken. And even questioned the value I bring to those around me, and if they were truly benefited by my presence or if they would, in fact, be better, lighter, happier in my absence. This is something I had never felt quite this clearly before – but I had felt the distant weight of my entire life.
This is when my self-esteem plummeted. I felt like I was doggy paddling through dark and murky water where some current was working hard against me. I felt exposed and vulnerable. It was a challenge just to get through the daily rituals of survival – getting dressed, eating, going to work. I began noticing and feeling the weight of all of my shortcomings, and imperfections- both in personality and physicality. Thoughts ranged from “I know better.” and “I should be passed this” to “how could my loved ones not be better without me?.”
I began to feel very insecure. Nervous. Heartbroken when I looked down and noticed my stomach, thighs, the hair growing where I wish it wouldn’t, EVERYTHING. I noticed my tendency to fret or clench my jaw in anger. My tendency to cling to and push away the people I love all at once. It was like all worry and fear living inside me rose up at once.
I fell down past the feeling of being in a little funk and past the feelings of sadness or a little down, and into a place where I could feel the presence of apathy, and deep depression hanging around my heart thickly like the humid and heavy heat of August in the south. I felt pulled between two opposing roads: giving-up or working in overdrive to “fix” everything.
But neither are really options for living. I could “give-up” which for me looks like going on autopilot, numbing out, and trying not to feel anything. Shutting down in any way possible…Not letting myself get invested in anything. I would be letting that spark within hide under the heavy slumber of apathy and fear closing myself off from my loved ones, and hurting them even more. At the end of this road lies bitterness, loneliness, and despair.
On the other side, I could try and self-improve. Exercise until all the pounds I hate disappear. Shave, wax, and remove all unwanted hair. Diet. Detox. Read all self-help books on insecurity, and anger-taking notes on and highlighting each word. Watch ted-talks, listen to podcasts, pin my workouts and self-esteem quotes. Anxiously grabbing for change through force. Here in this place of “fixing” myself I would be so self-absorbed and focused that I would miss all the beauty that is already here. Living life only to make improvements because I see myself as falling short or failing is closing myself off from the possibility of contentment (which is where peace lives). At the end of this road is also despair, and desperation for more life because this road is full of noise and distraction- and never-enoughness.
So neither road is really one I wished to travel. As I considered my options from within a voice whispers “stillness”. Here lies the inner ability to let it all be- stillness is that first stepping stone to acceptance. The place where the desire to be better and surrender meet to create the possibility to see my own self honestly and to hope. I sit down and meet myself in this difficult place of clear honest seeing, and reach out with inner love, and forgiveness. In this place, I am able to take joy in the opportunity to grow, and use the inner space of acceptance to become the person I wish to be.
In stillness, I allow this mistake, and all the feelings and the full experience that has come with it, to grow wings and become a great lesson, and light in my life. A beautiful moon in which I can bathe in, nurturing my soul until it blooms. A bloom which did not come from the easy place of pleasure, or perfection, but from the struggle and work of seeing myself clearly, sitting with and carrying the weight of my mistake long enough to feel its weight fully as my own responsibility, accept it, and only then place it on the ground. I breathe deeply and let the space between myself and the mistake grow. In that space, it transforms and becomes my moon by which I can see, where I can nakedly step forward, new and unfettered. A changed being. Letting go fully of what was.
We are not fixed in one space, or time, or personality. We, like all things, are always growing and changing with the tides of life. Each moment, experience and mistake is an opportunity by which to see life more clearly, and ourselves. We are invited over and over to let go of old habits, behaviors, and ways of being that no longer work for us. It takes work, and courage to face our ugly patterns but when we do so with love and compassion we are invited to inhabit our lives more joyfully, honestly and wholly. We can take each step forward open to hope, acceptance and love- we can offer these things to our-self, as we become the kind of person we wish to be. Hope that life always holds the possibility of beauty in every moment. Acceptance for all that is arising at this moment. Love, that ability and ineffable light within us all which makes life worth living.
Do not let your circumstances, limiting thoughts, imperfections or mistakes define or tie you down.
Walk with your ancient friends who are calling out to you from the mountain of your soul.