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Out of Hiding

My darkness is proof that others’ transgressions do not define me and the person I am and who I am becoming.

Charcoal drawing by Nicole Javorsky

Dearest Doodle Soupsters,

What’s more important — today or tomorrow? Yesterday?

Now or ten years from now? Ten years from now or the next century? What about thousands of years from now or this one moment right here, you reading this post?

These questions are pretty impossible to answer, aren’t they? Or, maybe you have a strong opinion one way or the other. Truth is I have no clue if there can even be one true answer.

Regardless, I think I believe that all the yesterdays and tomorrows matter just as much as the present moment. Yet, right here, right now, this is when I exist.

I exist now.

And no, I won’t gear 100% of my choices toward what I believe is most beneficial for the future and the truth is I can’t know what that would be anyway. And no, I won’t gear 100% of my choices toward what feels most pleasurable or even joyful in the present moment either. And no, I won’t gear 100% of my choices toward what I feel would best honor my past, and that is a complicated thing to define too.

Instead, I try my best to walk the middle path. To balance what matters to me instead of forcing myself to choose.

What feels good in the present moment matters. What choices feel scary or uncomfortable in the present moment that I also know move me toward and along the path ahead — that matters too. I don’t need to ignore one or the other. I simply need to pay attention to both.

The truth is that when people joke about revenge, “What would you do if X Y Z happened"?” That’s not a hypothetical for me because lots of X Y and Zs have happened in my life. Yet, revenge? It’s not what I choose.

I can feel angry about what happened to me and understand that I choose what kind of person I want to be. And I choose art. I choose music. I choose teaching. I choose love. I choose therapy. I choose healing. I choose treating my husband with love, care, and respect. I choose caring about my friends. I choose looking up at the sky and feeling a sense of awe. I choose believing in magic. I choose sharing what I’ve got to give, even when I feel scared, betrayed, full of boundless grief, even when I want to shut out the world.

And I choose honoring my pain. I choose crying. I choose sharing my story with people I trust. I choose vulnerability. I choose my humanity. I choose honoring my need for quiet time to myself. I choose allowing myself to feel scared and doing what scares me anyway. I choose my soul. I choose integrity. I choose the middle path. I choose setting and upholding boundaries with the people who abused me and inflicted these wounds. I choose saying “I’m sorry” when I mean it. I choose standing up for myself when my boundaries are being violated. I choose honesty.

“Taking the high road” doesn’t have to mean forgiving the people who wronged us. It doesn’t have to mean letting others speak for us. It doesn’t have to mean letting others continue to steamroll and manipulate us. It doesn’t have to mean rushing ourselves along the path of healing, especially since healing is a process that cannot be rushed. It doesn’t have to mean denying our internal emotional experiences.

“Taking the high road” can simply mean finding our own path through life. It can mean choosing what kind of people we want to be and how we want to spend our precious time on Earth.

“Taking the high road” can mean setting boundaries with people who seek to pull us down under with them because they are afraid to change, to face themselves and their regrets, their mistakes, their transgressions, their neglected desires and dreams. It can mean understanding that we cannot truly make others’ choices for them. It can mean respecting others’ autonomy and feeling our anger, grief, etc. about what is outside of our control.

It can mean seeking connection and support with people who’ve met themselves in that deep place too, people who want to respect our autonomy, people who’ve chosen to gain the skills to be able to give love and support, people who are trying to learn, to grow, to embrace their humanity, to allow themselves to simply be fallible while still being able to take accountability and hold others accountable too, to be a little bit better than who they were yesterday.

No one is perfect. That much is true. Yet, there is a difference between people who are trying their best and people who are more focused on trying not to get caught, more attuned to the cover-up than the goal of acting with care and integrity in the first place. There are people who care about how their actions affect others. There are people who care more about how their actions are perceived by others. People can change — I believe that. Yet, in order to change, a person must choose to change …

I thought I had forgiven one of my abusers. I thought that by empathizing with her story, I could make peace with my own. Instead, the scared little girl I was, still inside of me, curled up into a ball and shook and shook until I dared to look and make space for her pain, her fear, her lived reality — my pain, my fear, my lived reality.

The truth is that I chose to be who I am. I chose to love this existence, even though I’ve been saddled with so much grief and pain. Because I look at the sky and I know there is something good here. Because I watch the waves roll in and out and I know there is something good here.

Because I gaze into his eyes and I know there is something good here. Because painting brings relief. Because singing reminds me how free I can be.

Because even when it seems everything is all wrong and mixed up, there are times I can even do a silly dance and for a moment, laugh. For a moment, I know how boundless possibility extends in many directions, dark and light and everything in-between and outside the lines too.

I’ve felt like a hypocrite, an outcast, an alien, a ball of no-good — all because I have pain that the people who were supposed to love and care for me didn't want to see, all I because I blamed myself for others’ transgressions. It was never innocent. I want to believe it was but the cruel reality is I already know that my caregivers chose to look the other way because they chose what kind of people they wanted to be.

Little choices add up and ripple out. Little choices matter. Little choices influence what you’ll do when the stakes are higher.

My darkness is beautiful. My darkness is the proof that others’ transgressions do not define me and the person I am and who I am becoming. My darkness is the reality, that life isn’t always kind. It often isn’t. Yet, the harsh truths about this existence aren’t all that’s here.

I survived. I kept going because despite all of the cracks in my bleeding heart, I still believed in something. I chose that. I doubted my belief and nonetheless, I found a way to keep returning to my belief.

And we can all choose to believe in something good. Even when the darkness feels like all we can see.

There is something inside of each of us that already knows how to glow and light the way. It can be extremely difficult to find it if it’s been lost and forgotten, yet I know that anything that is lost can be found again. That light is never gone, even when it isn’t visible.

I have to believe that. And somehow, I sense that if more of us choose to believe that, we will create something good. It won’t take away all the horror and pain and destruction. Yet, it can create something that can feel like everything to somebody, even for just a moment.

That might not sound like much. But what more is there? What more is there than something that can feel like everything for some moment in time?

This is “Ghosts of time tapestry no. 4” … I collaged several of my charcoal drawings and connected them with more drawing in charcoal. There’s something vital and expressive in the raw edges, the visibility of perforations. The pieces once brought together become a new artwork all together yet aspects of the pieces remain intact.

You can almost view the pieces on their own, almost. There’s something important to me about using charcoal — its darkness, rawness, the fact that it is residue from heating wood, the fact that it is vulnerable to the passage of time yet bold strokes cannot be truly erased. Charcoal is at once vulnerable to time and surprisingly resilient.

I think I needed to make this series, Ghost of Time. I needed this series maybe even for a while. It’s me saying directly with all the poignant rawness that darkness, pain, the aching wounds are worthy of expression too, that I don’t need to dress up my sadness with glimmer and vibrant color in order to share it, in order to say it out loud.

This is what pain looks like. This is the doom and gloom that really happened. The aching, burning, longing parts of my soul that had to freeze over for me to survive and keep going.

Now I thaw.

I thaw in swooping, swirling lines of charcoal. I thaw in allowing myself to be seen. I thaw in expressing my wounds. I thaw in making my own choices.

And in doing so, I allow myself to feel this, to move through this, to process it, to transform it … I don’t want to hide this darkness. I take another step into the light, allowing my wounds to breathe, to be kissed, to be seen, to provide validation for myself and others who know the ache I speak of.

Out of hiding,

Nicole Sylvia Javorsky


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