Joy is such an incredible feeling. It’s like warm butterflies in my chest and unshed happy tears behind my eyes. It brings a smile to my heart that makes its way to my face. I walk by the Bay and that smile radiates out to everyone I pass and almost always, they smile back, giving me even more joy.
I’ve been struggling with my shadow for a while now and its been hard. You see, people would ask me what was wrong, and I couldn’t explain what I was feeling, so I would talk about my past or my issues to try and identify what was causing so much pain and distress. Sometimes people thought maybe I needed therapy. More?! No, I’ve done a lot of work on myself and I’m a very different person than I once was. However, there was something I just couldn’t put words to and it was sapping all the joy out of me. I began to question my value. I obviously wasn’t doing enough! If I could just get the right project going or get really into a daily routine of meditation and reading and writing and exercise and eating properly and expanding my businesses… you get my point?! Then and only then would I feel complete, like I was of value, that I was doing my work and making a difference in the world.
Many people have offered help and comfort, advice and butt-kicking, support and even a little impatience. YES. It’s been two months and I was still struggling! Sorry, not sorry. One friend said to me, and I’m paraphrasing, “Stop trying to do ten things well. Focus on three and get really good at them.” I saw the value of what she said but I didn’t know how to let go of the expectations I put on myself.
I began to try to listen to the messages I was giving myself and at first, I found it difficult to hear the difference between good thoughts that were self-correcting and the ones that weren’t helping me. Let’s be honest, they were killing me! I’m stupid, I’m lazy, I don’t try hard enough, I never finish anything. There’s more but I don’t want to continue the litany because it’s a slippery slope. I can still get caught up in the spiral downward too easily and beating myself up is a habit that’s ingrained, to the point that I don’t even realize I’m doing it until its too late, and I suddenly find myself wallowing in depression. And once I’m there, it becomes a battle with myself to do what will help me get back out. Can you believe that?! I would refuse to help myself: to listen, to read, or to reach out for what could help. That’s how deep into it I have gone.
So anyway, I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and have realized that the expectations and negative self-talk are not my energy. They are merely the signals being sent as reminders that I’m actually just fine being me. I just wasn’t listening! When I began to listen to what I was saying to myself, some repeated over and over since childhood, I could see how it was making me feel – about everything!
And here’s what I learned. I’m pretty awesome just as I am! I do good for others, I love my work, and I feel better when I take care of my body in a loving way. I have aspects of myself that are not my best Self, but that’s okay. That’s the shadow side I’ve spent years and too much energy trying to hide for fear of judgement and rejection. You know what? Everybody has a shadow self! And you can’t find balance of you don’t love all of yourself. Those aspects will fight for recognition and acceptance to the point of driving you mad! Only the Shadow knows. Acceptance of all parts of ourselves is the work, and the work is life. And if you don’t commit to the work, you will never love yourself enough to relax and love life. Whew! This Dark Night of the Soul was a tough one. But I’ve learned so much and so much has changed, seemingly in an instant. And guess what? I’ve found my joy again! And for this I can say, thanks be to the Creator.
PS: Ironically, after writing this I opened Vanessa’s book, heart is where the home is to a random page, and this is what I read: Finding Peace & Joy May we all find inner peace, joy, happiness, and love. May we all seek to find understanding, compassion, and empathy for others and ourselves. Our purpose here isn’t to live in fear and angst, but to live a life that fills our hearts and satisfies our souls. Life isn’t meant to be complex. When we take it too seriously, we miss out on the gifts and opportunities we’ve given. Find time for solace and serenity. Admire the beauty and wonder of the world. Peace and joy is within your reach.