thoughts in the dark, seven parts

Sometimes things are hard.

Not starving-in-Africa hard. Not sold-into-slavery hard. Not homeless-under-a-bridge hard. Not…

You get the idea. Just because it isn’t worse does not mean it’s not hard.

Sometimes I slap myself around a bit (mentally, emotionally) for even having the thoughts that things are hard for me – when they are the wrong kind of hard, when things really aren’t that bad, when so many have it so much worse – especially when so many have it so much worse.

But that slapping around doesn’t improve anyone’s lot in life, and it reduces my ability to respond to my own fears and anxieties with kindness and compassion. It also reduces my ability to be compassionate with others.

A while ago I committed to be kinder to myself when I feel vulnerable, to share that vulnerability, to be patient. I find that it’s making me a nicer person to be.

I’m not sure if it’s changing any of my relationships, or if other people perceive a difference. What I am sure of is that when it’s easier to be me, to be inside my own particular container of human condition, I feel more kindness.

It is less a specific, directed kindness to one person or another, and more a well of kindness deepening inside me.

Earlier this year, I took BrenĂ© Brown and Jen Lemen’s wholehearted courage course. What I learned and discovered during that time continues to grow, to ripple out into my life, to reveal itself.

I know this:

I am blessed to share my life with a man who, when I feel broken and vulnerable and unworthy, does not try to fix me.

He is blessed to share his life with a woman who, when he is afraid and stuck and losing his confidence, does not turn away or run.

We can sit with each other through our dark times, we can listen, we can talk or be silent, we can hold hands in the shadows.

And life brings shadows. They cannot be wished or pretended away. Comparing (as I did above) doesn’t help – pain doesn’t go away because someone else hurts more.

When we have the basics covered – food, water, clothing, shelter – I think most of our suffering comes from feeling unworthy, from feeling like we do not measure up.

Feeling not _____________ enough is insidious, and whatever you put in that blank – not good enough, not thin enough, not rich enough, not stable enough – whatever our demons are, it all comes down to not enough. That feeling of not enough gnaws at our hearts, at our minds, at our very souls. It cripples us, hobbling our ability to cope, to hear our own whispers.

How do we stop feeling broken and fearful? How do we recover feeling worthy? How do we feel enough?

These are questions we all wrestle with, more so I think in this, the darkest time of the year.

I have some ideas, some things that work for me. I understand that there may be no easy, simple solution to the complex issues of life. Or maybe there is.

Maybe it’s not as complicated as we make it.

Perhaps it is as simple as cultivating gratitude, as speaking our fears and vulnerability with someone safe, as knowing we are not alone, as taking a full breath of crisp winter air.

Will any of these things make us unafraid, make us whole? I don’t know. That may be too big a goal all at once.

If any of these things can help us feel like enough – even for a little while – then we may feel more kindness, we may feel worthy of the good in life, the shadows may lift for a little while.

I know the dark, I know it intimately. I’ve lived there. I’m no longer afraid of it.

Some might say I should be, but I’m not. It does not have the power to run my life. I’ve cultivated an orchard of gratitude and it is harvest time.

There is enough for everyone.

There is enough. You are enough.

11 Comments

    • Thank you, Joy. This piece just poured out of me – one of those writing through me moments. I’m glad it resonated. And thank you as always for your encouragement and your acknowledgement. It is good to be seen.

    • You and me both, honey. It’s really just the flip side of the same thing. You are exactly right, as you are, in this moment.

  • Beautiful post Jet, your images are well matched to your words! We’ve all been in this place, some more than others, but it’s such a common human condition. I think you are right, feeling grateful to ourselves for all the things that we DO accomplish, recognizing that our lives are full of love, and being kind to ourselves, goes a long way to helping us feel like it IS enough. Feeling content is what we all strive for, however it is also a delicate balance. Without the feeling of wanting more, we might never achieve, never grow. So it’s also OK to feel like it isn’t enough but rather than wallow in it and complain about it, we should set manageable goals to bring more of whatever we want/need into our lives. Identifying what the REAL need is though is key. I might want to be skinnier but the real need is that I should be healthier. I might want to be richer but the real need is to find meaningful work. It’s a never ending battle for balance between feeling content and striving to do better. I’m so glad that you have someone who can talk you through it! That helps tremendously to keep things in perspective. xo

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