I made a list this morning. Of all the things I wanted to achieve the next couple of years; road trips, travelling to see friends, writing books. But as I was writing this, a familiar feeling crept up on me like a smoke cloud. It was the discouraging, uncomfortable feeling I’d get every time I dared to dream. Dejected I put down my notebook and quelled my rising anxiety by telling myself that it’s ok, I’d forget about the list, I’d just focus on the now – on drinking coke, watch The Following ( great stuff btw), finish reading Geneen Roth’s phenomenal book ” Women Food and God”.
The suffocating cloud soon dissipated and I went to my familiar place where feelings go to die, and I’m safe.
I’d usually bury myself deeper in hopelessness and wallow in my self-sabotage, but not this time. This time I decided to follow the cloud to see what bonfire emitted it.
I sat with the pain and let it lead me down the path the smoke left in its wake, and before long I came across the bonfire, deep within me. The fire that fuelled my intuition, my creativity, my feelings, my soul, my existence. For many years no, it had sent me smoke signals in a bid to draw my attention to the state of my inner landscape, but I kept putting out the fire. The billowing smoke clouds made me an anomaly next to others; it’d sting people’s eyes. I had to water it down to fit in. But by putting out the fire, by ignoring my soul’s SOS signals, I effectively told myself ‘ You don’t belong here, you’re not welcome’. I didn’t want to be the person I truly was, and I couldn’t turn into something else.
I didn’t want to have to accept myself; I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to belong in a crowd. To lock up my feelings and uncomfortable thoughts and throw away the keys. So all my dreams and fantasies were of a happy ending where I had finally made it through the pain once and for all, and rejoined society once again; as if I had served a 25 year sentence, as if the pain was punishment and acceptance by others was reward.
But I see now that pain is simply a reminder that my fire is smoldering and that I’ve strayed off my path. I’ve decided to let go of what I think I want in order to be happy and whole, and instead become comfortable within myself, not having to run away from my home.
“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notions of us… “
— Joan Didion
“But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke (Letters to a Young Poet)