Two posts ago, I wrote about being in a coma, of walking around in a haze, waiting to wake up. Or perhaps we’re not waiting for anything, but floating along, hoping just to get by without feeling much at all–neither anticipation or defeat, the depths or the highs.
I also spoke about needing protection while in this state, mostly from ourselves.
The haze we live in, most of the time, is safe in a way. But it’s a false-safety. In fact, the reality is that it’s quite dangerous because when we awaken, if even for a moment, all the waited-for sharpness and clarity hurls itself at us with wrecking speed.
Have you ever found yourself driving or doing a mindless task and all of a sudden, your perception changes? Trees look different, colors fill spaces more brilliantly, the clouds seem alive. At once, you’re aware of BEING. Usually we brush it off. Maybe it was too much caffeine. Or maybe the weight in the chest proved too powerful, and something dark, something terrible popped its head around a corner to gaze at you. Don’t look! Block it out! Turn up the radio. What were you planning for dinner, anyway?
And so the vividness of the moment recedes, along with its snakes and other dark, unmentionable creatures. And the day goes on. The self-imposed dissociation throws its seemingly protective cloak around your shoulder again. Your mind stays in middle-ground.
Artists, especially, are taught to “go there.” To stay with the moment. To peel back the skin from the bone and look into the eyes and skeleton of fear, aliveness, moments-of-being. Don’t turn back. Take a look. Face the unmentionable creatures head on and BE WITH the lost-ness of things.
I think that these moments bubble up masked as insecurities we may harbor, doubts, past-trauma or anxiety. Or sometimes they surface dancing in the dress of desire. Deep, hidden desire that we shuffle under the soles of our feet in order to forget. Either way, they find moments to break through the doors of our defenses and it’s our choice whether to slam the door on them or invite them in for a staring contest.
But, often, if we choose to invite them in, we forget the nature of the unmentionable creatures. We do not honor their purpose as teachers, as guides. Instead, we place them on pedestals, giving them privileges such as being-real or torturer. Often, we let our egos run wild and out the door to be replaced as the unmentionable creatures themselves. We are momentarily not our True Self–we are transformed into the creatures–we ARE our fears, our mistakes, our anxieties, our hidden desires.
Let me give you an example:
A couple of weeks ago, I felt an odd sense of calm. I stepped out my door each morning and, instead of feeling lost or found or any such extreme, I felt, well, nothing. Not joy, not excitement, pain, nothing, except an odd sort of dull-calm.
For a creative, this in itself is a kind of death. As though walking in a beautiful meadow, enjoying the sights, but noticing that the world is mute and quite still. Where was I to go? If I climbed a tree, I wouldn’t feel the breeze and if I fell, there would be no sound of crash, no pain of chipped bone or scratched knees. Everything was perfectly in its place–beautiful even!–but no depth or height could be found.
How does one dig up art in a land that’s one-dimensional?
And so I let myself be with the stillness. But something stirred. Something kept shaking its head and rustling its body inside me. I could feel hints of it in moments while driving my car to and from work. A sudden panic welled up but I shoved it back down moments later. Yes, the sky seemed ablaze and my breath quickened. I felt a weight which, in its heaviness was a relief after so much numbness but I feared it and shut my brain down. No, no. I thought, though unconsciously. No, no. I do not want to feel. I’d rather think about Taylor Swift’s new album, or other some such nonsense, of which our society provides billions of tractor-trailers worth.
However, sometimes, the brain refuses to go into automatic-mode and later that night, I came face-to-face with what had been stirring, trying to break through.
I’m not one to expand on reasons for old-wounds, traumas–their addiction-partners and other such coping mechanisms that tail along beside our hidden-dark, but for me, a certain addiction was recalled later that night as I sat in the bath. (The bath is a very strange time for me. Beginnings of poems will find their way into my head at this time, or some insight or, as I am discussing here, certain impulses–perhaps it is the nature of being vulnerable, trapped almost, in a water-filled stillness).
Again, the same moment broke through. My breath quickened. I didn’t have time to distract myself and my brain wasn’t hazing over into auto-pilot mode. This time, anxiety rushed in as though breaking my window and hurling its hands around my throat. I started to cry and shake. I was reading a book of poetry (talk about art triggering the reader/receiver!) and something about a poem or image caused a recessed synapse to fire in the back of my brain. My first thought was to act on the impulse of an old addiction to pain. Then the anger at the thought. The fear. All of the sudden, I was shaking so badly and in shock as the unmentionable creatures circled me, drooling, waiting to attack. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
But instead of running away from the moment, the fear, instead of, God forbid, I acted on the impulse, I chose to allow myself to sit WITH the fear, face the vivid opening-up-of-world without letting it swallow me, without forgetting my True Self. And, most importantly, without identifying myself AS the fear or thought—to have both reverence and honor for the pain behind the impulse and for myself as observer.
These are the moments we are truly alive. Moments that art seeks to dive into, explore, throw the rope over the edge of the cliff and scale its side, enjoying at once the whipping wind and calm, expansive sky.
To be kind to our pain, worry, doubt, fear, is also to honor it.
I stopped shaking and instead, began a dialogue with the doubt, fear, hurt that hid behind the mask of the impulse.
What are you trying to tell me, I asked.
That you have abandoned us, they said.
But you are free to be out in the hurt-forest, I said.
You have no need of us, they said.
That is not true, I said. You are my teachers.
But we are ugly and forbidden! You used to need us.
I needed you because I did not have any clue as to who I Really Am. Would you like to meet Who-I-Am-Becoming?
No! They cried. She will hate us.
She doesn’t hate you, I said. Because you have given her strength.
Yes. And do you want to know a secret, I said to my pain.
What? They said.
I am sometimes afraid of her, too, like you.
Why, they said.
Because, perhaps I won’t live up to Who-I-Am-Becoming. Maybe Who-I-Am-Becoming has died.
Yes! And if she has died, you need us! You need pain and fear!
I think the truth is, though, that I don’t need either you or Who-I-Am-Becoming. All I need is this moment. To bow to it.
With that, my pain and fear smiled, became small as daisy-chains and floated out the window.
Our hurt, our pain, is the dark side of the light’s dress. And without it, we wouldn’t see either the shimmer or the fabric. And without moments of wounds, without allowing them to surface, we truly stay dead-while-living. Our biggest fears and pain bring us to life, we just have to remember not to act-out, or bury, or feed them but instead, let them roam free in whatever forest they came from.
Chains do no good. Calling our names by their names do not good. Making them bigger than they are does no good.
Yes, to be alive is to create. But to indulge what wakes us could very well overtake us. And the addictions or other harmful masks they wear can lead us down an even more blind path.
Creatives often like to indulge in the dark, or stay too long in the light. But balance is needed.
However, when moments of pain or awakening surface, it’s best to not only honor them and respect them, but also to ask why they are trying to get your attention.
Remember this—when doubts or fears or old patterns try to pull you into their forest, it’s usually because you’re approaching the brink of a new foundation. Your Higher Self, the You You-Are-Becoming, is perhaps moving closer toward your path and maybe, just maybe, you’re one step closer to the next Dream, realized.
So step on, breathe, face it all with celebration—the dark and the light. Be with your Becoming-Lost.