This is a very special edition of Chicken Doodle Soup. I'm including an excerpt from my book, Into the Light: Traveling between peace and pain. I've made the full book available to read for free by including a pdf on my website. If you'd like, you can go directly to reading the free e-book here.
Dear lovely Reader,
I’ve been traveling between the lightness of peace and the heaviness of gut-wrenching pain. I’ve been taking long walks full of joy and wonder. I’ve been falling to my knees, pleading for relief.
I’ve been wondering which is more real: the darkness or the light? The pain or the peacefulness?
But here’s the thing: I wouldn’t feel the clarity I do in this moment if I didn’t allow myself to feel my confusion and doubt, to co-exist with my questions. In one sense, I didn’t choose my trauma or my pain. In another sense, I chose to heal. I took leaps of faith because I understood this was the only way for me to get the chance to live fully and authentically as myself. It’s very hard to choose the unknown and I did, and I do.
Almost 6 years ago, I had my most serious attempt at ending my life. Shortly after, the person who had been sexually assaulting and abusing me at the time stopped. Just after that, I had a moment of clarity: I needed change. One of my coping mechanisms from repeated abuse was anorexia. I said to myself: I want to live, just not like this, and so I must find a way. Still I had no clue even how to imagine what another way would be like. The roots of anorexia went back even earlier to abuse during my childhood.
I am very aware of my joy, love, and awe of living. And every time I dip into doubt and darkness, I come back into the light with something stronger, deeper, meaningful, or beautiful. The abuse was horrific. And still, it is all the more hopeful to know that I have found a way to trust, to believe, and to love despite the way I’ve been treated in the past.
And I will keep traveling into the darkness, knowing that I will return to the light. There is so much for me to learn. The sun cannot rise if it never goes down. And without sundown, there would be no glorious sunset, no nights. I don’t fully understand this, but I do sense that the existence of what I love is tied to the existence of what I fear.
Honoring the darkness, I travel into the light . . .
I go off on a lot of tangents, but in a way, the tangents are the point, rather than besides it.
I’ve heard the phrase, about how life isn’t supposed to be about the destination. Catch phrases like that, the ones that people say to make you feel better, are their own kind of destination. For example, one of the few I actually liked and found meaningful at one time went like this: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” I still like the message of it. But by now, I’ve seen it typed out under one too many sunny social media photos and so the words don’t sound so profound anymore. They sound empty.
A lot of people say, “It gets better.” The truth I felt when I heard those words was, “I don’t really get what you’re saying, but it can’t be that bad.” Or, “One day, you’ll realize that you think way too much.” In other words, what I heard was, “Your pain isn’t the problem. It’s YOU.”
When I was struggling to keep myself alive as a teenager and then while I was entering adulthood, hearing these catch phrases would leave me with a greater sense of unease. I thought these conversations were supposed to make me feel better. And I thought that there was something wrong with me because they didn’t make me feel better at all.
What is the real difference between going off on a tangent and stating my actual case? What’s the difference between a destination and a pit-stop? I don’t know.
Okay, so I can try to make your head hurt. I can use logic. I can try to persuade. I can try to prove that what I have to say is true, important, etc. Sure, I can do that. I also could try to be more understandable. I could try to make myself feel more important, more worthy.
But, I don’t want to convince you of anything. I don’t want to feel more important because I’m important enough. I’m good enough. I’m enough. When I’ve gotten lost in the circus of trying to prove my worth, an emptiness inside troubled me and I felt more worthless to myself.
What is a singer? Somebody singing.
This isn’t about lowering standards, and this is not complacency.
It’s accurate. It’s effective, and true.
In all these quests for self-improvement and becoming our “best” selves, what truths do we become out of touch with? How does your “best” self treat all your other selves? Is that really my best self, then?
Disconnection and avoidance is distinct from healing and acceptance.
I’ve casted off my anger, my sadness, my pain, my confusion, my grief, my desire.
I told myself I was looking at the bright side. I told myself I just needed to be stronger. Really, I was scared. I had learned to shame myself instead of accept myself.
To create and share from my soul helps me unlearn shame and learn acceptance. I trust you to feel, to look, to read, to listen, to make space for what I share, if you choose. I appreciate anyone’s choice to give me their time and attention. At the same time, it’s okay if I’m not for everyone, or not right now. I don’t need more. Only this.
In this spirit, I give you my artifacts: the snippets I’ve written on and off, the bits and pieces of me reflecting in real time and coming to know my own story. Please do what you wish with them.
The National Suicide Hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-8255. It's free and confidential.