“ When he looked into her dark eyes, and saw that her lips were poised between a laugh and silence, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke--- the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love.
- Paulo Coelho- The Alchemist
Long time no talk.
I’ve been lost in the shadowlands.
And this is what I learned:
I came back to the states at the end of July. The “plan” was to tie up loose ends: pack, run errands, and prepare for another leap. The plan was going to take me back on a plane to Northern Ireland, my person, and on to Queen’s University.
Smart readers will have surmised by now that things did not go according to “the plan”.
I landed on state soil with my dream and my plan tightly clutched in my hand. Did you know that when you cling too tightly to something, it might crumble apart?
With fear, I clutched the future with a vice grip; and then life happened.
Part X swung open the doors of my mind and fear made himself at home.
“ It was as if the world had fallen silent because the boy’s soul had”
- The Alchemist
Stutz is a documentary by Jonah Hill about his therapist on Netflix. He made the film to highlight his therapist, Phil Stutz, and explain the “tools” that Phil offers to his patients. It’s a small bundle of mind-bending therapy presented with the utmost authenticity and vulnerability.
GO WATCH IT.
It will give you terminology for your own toolbox and add a few more to the pile.
Perhaps the best tool I learned from the documentary is Part X.
What is Part X?
Part X is the villain of our own personal story; we meet Part X any time we are confronted with adversity. It is the invisible force that blocks your growth. It is the whisper in your ears that things will not work out.
Stutz reminds us that as humans, we are certain of only three things in this life; there will be pain, there will be uncertainty, and there will be constant work. That is the hill we have been given to climb.
Part X is our Sisyphus boulder on that climb.
It is the monster that lives under our bed that whispers fear into the darkness of our mind.
The invisible force that murmurs:
“You are not good enough.”
“You are not worthy.”
Each of us has our own personal Part X to star as the villain in the story we are living.
This fall, Part X and I created a battlefield of my mind, and I was plunged into the shadowlands.
There were deep wounds that needed to heal.
So, my “big plan” went out the window.
And I alchemized shadows.
When trauma and/or abuse happens to us as children, our body learns that the world is a dangerous place. The body and mind repeat their conditioned response in the face of fear, and we spend our lives freezing, fighting, fawning, or flighting.
That is all we know, so that is all we do.
My freeze and fawn response created in childhood, became a lifelong game of chase, and I was always it. I was burning the candle at both ends as I hunted and searched for what degree, what job, what success, what partner, or what limited bank number I could achieve until:
The flame went out,
and I was cast into darkness.
My freeze response broke. I broke.
In a way, my whole brain broke.
When my freeze response gave out, I began to experience my mental health symptoms that had always been lurking in the corners.
Depression was the original symptom that swept me off my feet. My body and mind, after years of running, switched off. There was no energy; it was like drowning and not having the will to swim, even to save yourself.
Then came the anxiety,
and the panic attacks.
I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Depression in 2017.
Between the two, I didn’t care about anything and yet somehow still cared about absolutely everything.
It became difficult to do simple things.
Go on a walk.
See my friends.
Hang out with roommates.
Clean the house.
Take a shower.
Get out of bed.
It all became impossible.
The people pleaser in me hates to admit this, but it showed. During this long seven-year period I have struggled with multiple work situations. I have failed friends, family, and roommates.
I have hurt others.
That is hard to admit.
But I’ve also learned the importance of accountability in this process.
One’s intentions may be pure of heart; but when a human hurts another human, even unintentionally, it is important to hold oneself accountable.
However, we are NOT meant to shroud ourselves in shame and guilt. Once we see our accountability, we can assess if action needs to be taken. We figure that out and go for it. But we ALSO gently tell ourselves:
“I am a human trying to live in a hard human world. I made a mistake and that is okay. It is okay to make mistakes”
We forgive ourselves, and then we choose to let go.
My mental and personal journey have cost far more than a pound of flesh. It has been a long road of mistakes. So, for those I harmed, even unintentionally in the past years,
I am sorry. I wish nothing but love for you and I am sorry if I hurt you during this evolution.
“The shadow is not the enemy. Being in sync with shadow brings wholeness”
In this long journey, I have found my shadow self. She is the underbelly of me in this world. She is the parts of myself I try hardest to hide from others.
We all have a shadow and finding yours is simple.
Close your eyes.
Imagine the parts of yourself you’d like to keep hidden from the world
Picture him or her.
Give them a face. Give them an age. Find a clear picture of who your shadow is.
What is she scared of? How does he feel?
Have them in your mind?
Wave hello to your Shadow Self.
We all have a shadow self. I’ll let you meet mine.
She is about seventeen. She has blonde hair and tired eyes. She believes that the approval or validation of others will subconsciously, keep her safe, and consciously, make her feel loved. She tries to be everything all at once; and she can hurt people in that place of madness. She is too scared to face her shortcomings because it would mean she has failed.
She is so afraid to fail. She is afraid that if she doesn’t accomplish enough, she is not worthy of the love and pride she so desperately craves. She wants EVERYTHING and at the same time does not know what she wants.
She is scared. She can operate in victim mentality without knowing it. She will not use her heart because such vulnerability may expose her darkness and cause others to leave her. All her actions churn from fear and fear has a vice grip of her mind.
She is my Shadow.
Part X wants both of us to believe that we are unworthy, incapable, and unlovable.
But I know the truth now, and I found it within myself.
I looked my shadow in the eyes and realized she was just a scared child aching to be loved. So, I chose to love her.
I accepted myself, shadows and all.
And now I know who I am, or at least who I am becoming.
The real and authentic me.
Devoid of the conditioning of trauma, the opinions of others, and fear of the unknown.
Who am I when love alchemizes my fear?
Who am I when I am whole?
I am light.
I am love incarnate.
I am the Phoenix who soared from the ashes.
I am a human.
I am a mind, body, and soul.
I am a cycle breaker.
I am a transmuter of shadows.
I am me.
All of me.
In the shadowlands this fall, as plans fell apart and the future dimmed, I met my shadow.
And I chose to love her.
And that is when the story changed.
This fall, I realized I would not be moving to Belfast this year for school. I would not be going back to see my person, and there was not a perceivably clear path or plan. When it all came crashing down, Part X took control, my mind became a warzone, and my trauma habits found a new foothold.
Plans don’t work out sometimes.
Maybe they aren’t meant to?
Maybe as the author of our own story, their crumbling is us subconsciously choosing a direction?
Or maybe life is a game of ultimate chance, and these are the cards you are handed?
This fall, I found myself in the depths of darkness again. It is the place that scares me the most.
But fear did not win this time.
I chose to get up. I chose to put one foot in front of the other. I chose to take a shower. I chose to go on walks.
I chose to do the HARD things because I know that this life is for living, not just surviving.
By using the tools,
By doing yoga,
By going to work,
By loving my family,
By starting to show up for myself:
I alchemized shadows.
I was honest with my family.
I talked about my shadows and my inner fears with my parents.
Do you know the vulnerability it takes to say to your parents, “I think I am failing”?
Yet when fear came into the light, it became love. My family loves me. They have seen my shadow just as I have, and they helped both of us know we were loved. My parents accepted me as I am, and that kind of love can bring light to even the darkest of days.
“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them.”
I want so much out of this world. I’ve always felt the pulse of what’s next; what can I see, what can I do, what can I know? It’s a brilliant gift; it pushes me to new heights and facilitates my constant growth and expansion.
And like all great gifts, it has an underbelly.
While I am striving, I often forget to live.
I forget to see the small moments that make our life worth living.
Like the family of deer who only visit early in the morning.
Like Bumble and Millie yawning on their cat tree.
Like the two ravens outside my window who greet me each morning.
Like mom and dad laughing on the couch.
Like coffee and crosswords with him in the morning.
The small moments are the reason we keep going as humans. When you find yourself in the dark night of your soul, it is the small moments that you catch yourself living again. It is these moments that eventually give us the strength to move our mountains.
One moment of living at a time, I crawled my way out of the caverns of my mind.
One cup of tea with a friend,
One good moment at work,
One sunny morning,
And one cloudy morning at a time.
I know one day I will move mountains. The drive and desire for living still rages within me like an unquenched wildfire. The alchemist sees the entire desert within one grain of sand. I see this extraordinary life within one moment of living at a time.
So here I am, radically accepting this beautiful, painful, and meaningful life I have been given. Accepting that I will never know, and I will never have control.
But I will always find the good.
“…and he realized he had loved her before he even knew she existed. He knew that his love for her would enable him to discover every treasure in the world”
- The Alchemist
Last year, I thought the light had gone out for good. Until someone sparked a fire within me that reminded me who I am, why I am here, and what I am meant to do.
And that is to love.
I was called to this world to simply love.
He spoke the Universal Language to me, and it unlocked the song my soul has been waiting to sing. It is a song of love.
I love myself. I love my shortcomings and shadow self. I love him. I love this life I am living. I love my inner child. I love the curiosity that can get me into trouble. I love my family. I love my story. I love my strong body and all it endured. I love my complex mind that is still healing. I love my emotional heart and all the love she gives.
I love this life of mine.
I love its shadows.
I love its light.
The Universal Language has been the song of my soul since the moment I was born; healing has brought me back into tune, and I will sing this song for the rest of my days.
Somedays, it will only be a murmur in the wind.
Other moments it will be a wildfire of language.
But sing I shall.
Because love changed me.
Love healed me.
Love is me.
until next time,