Is being hard on yourself worth it?
When you think you are doing the work but are actually running away from it, remember perfectionism is not helping your transformation.
As I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I fear no evil…
I’m an impostor. I ignore the shadow. I say I love darkness and drama and moody atmosphere and it is a big fat lie. I use them to escape seeing the real darkness. My own.
I overeat. I smoke. I drink. I watch the same TV series over and over again. I know it by heart. What I don’t know by heart is my own heart and its dark corners. I just know all the theory behind this: about how we are supposed to stand face to face with our shadow, watch it and learn, and then embrace it and love it and accept it so you can finally let it go and step into the light. And what do I do? Not what I preach… every advice we give to others we give to ourselves, this has never been more clear.
Truth is, I start out right. I do the work. I look in the mirror. Until it hurts. I stand with myself. I go through the pain. For a few weeks. Long enough to scratch the surface. Beginning is easy. The work you do initially, with all the enthusiasm of new beginnings, even if it is the 10th beginning of the same thing, is easy and fun. And then… I give up. Then it is no longer fun, it’s just work. No more enthusiasm, just work. No more novelty, just work. I am a collector of beginnings. I don’t like working hard. It’s boring, it lacks immediate gratification and it plain f—ing sucks.
So I try this exercise. I try doing nothing. And I don’t mean meditation, which I do daily anyway. Just eyes open, sitting and staring. I turn off my laptop. It’s nighttime. Silence. Complete silence except for a car engine murmuring softly outside. I start to wonder whether it’s an actual engine or just a spasm of my brain, frightened by the nothing. The silence is so loud. It’s blinding. It comes alive. I can literally hear it. I feel it as a presence. I stare at the white wall and the closet in front of me. I don’t consciously think of something, but there is definitely something lurking in the background. The cats come over. I see their tails bobbing past the edge of the bed. I turn on my laptop and write the paragraph that I just ended. And start again.
Laying on my bed. I’m restless. Eleven comes and sits on my lap. I’m restless in my immobility. I wait. I look at my feet. I bang my toenails together. The little piggy that went all the way home… there’s nothing. My belly starts making noises. Restless. I’m having my period. I look at my body. It seems huge in front my eyes. Long, wide, fat, bloated. Yellow fingernails from so much nail polish. Blue veins protruding. There’s nothing. Where is the darkness? Is nothing the darkness? Who am i? Cat leaves. I turn on the laptop and write this paragraph. And start again.
More nothing. Friday comes by and starts playing with my feet. I get into the game and play along. Then both cats come and start playing with each other. Soon they chase each other out of the room. I am bored beyond words and nothing comes out. I close my eyes and go into the unknown. Images immediately appear. Images of people and worlds I know nothing about: an ornate old door, a heavy necklace with precious stones, a puddle and dirty children, laughing and playing, a rainy day. I don’t know where these images come from or what they mean. I don’t recognize anything from them and still they go by just as other known memories. They don’t come up every time. But when they do I know I have gone beyond the beta level, because there is nothing else there. No anxiety, no fear, no joy, no pain, no happiness. There’s nothing but these images. Maybe another reality. Maybe another life. Maybe nothing I can understand right now.
At some point I just fall asleep.
A few days later: today I’m easier on myself. I re-read my text and although it is true, it’s also false. It’s just the truth of a few days ago. Today I don’t need to solve everything in one session. Or in one year. Or in one lifetime, either. Hopefully there are others. Today I’m ok with not knowing. Today, because I stop trying, I find out that being hard on myself is my deepest darkness…