My turning away from depression. This has nothing to do with photography and EVERYTHING to do with my LOVE of you.
My undergrad years were the darkest of days for me; depression nearly consumed me. I turned inward and withered away, reinforcing this loneliness by isolating myself. I stopped eating in hopes of disappearing. My starvation was not a desire to die; causing ones death felt, bold, eventful and dramatic. I wanted a confusing version of that….I wanted peace; to fade away with out circumstance, with out notice.. I was afraid of living and I felt unworthy to take up space. One frigid January afternoon of my junior year, I lay under a blanket on our old brown couch in the home I shared with 10 other women. I tucked myself into the crease where the seat cushions met the back cushions. One of my roommates came home and entered the room, she unloaded and reloaded her backpack with out acknowledging me and then left. For a moment, I was thrilled! I thought that perhaps she had not noticed me because I had indeed disappeared. I was elated that I would not longer have to face life, that I vanished.
I kept on. Amazing what a fake smile can hide. But then you see, there is a certain kinda of darkness that lets you see the light. A specific darkness in life that launches you to be able to take in the stars because sometimes in the pure saddened black out, you see yourself and the potential light within you most clearly.
Then, things changed.
I said a prayer. One night I was walking back from a therapy group and I said a prayer that sounded like this, “Dear God, this fucking sucks. I am so broken, and sad, and defeated, and I don’t want to be this person. Please help me.”
I wanted to shift and I did. The answer came. You see what I learned that night in the support group is perspective. Those beautiful young woman were drowning in their issues because they were so internally unvalidated and misdirected. Each of them sat whispering their truths of how others had done them wrong, let them down, not shown up, hurt them. These are our honest and valid experiences. They are ALLLLL honest and real and felt and ingested. But they are not the summation of us. They are not the defining tag line under our lives. They don’t deserve that kind of power. Others actions towards, around, near, at, against us are THEIR actions. What we do with those actions is our choice…our perspective…
Siddhartha Gautama, while walking, was stopped by an angry young man. The man said many insulting things to him. Siddhartha turned, with great empathy, and said to the young man, “if you purchased a lovely gift for someone, but that person did not accept the gift, to whom does the gift then belong?” The odd question took the young man by surprise. “I guess the gift would still be mine because I was the one who bought it.” “Exactly so,” replied the Buddha. “Now, you have just cursed me and been angry with me. But if I do not accept your curses, if I do not get insulted and angry in return, these curses will fall back upon you—the same as the gift returning to its owner.”
I am free to define myself. I can change my perspective. I am unstuck.
There is an amazing youtube video about two people stuck on a escalator. The escalator breaks down while they are on it and it appears to them that they are stuck. And indeed they are, from their persecutive. Of course, we, the viewer is confused as to why they just don’t walk off the escalator. After all, the escalator is only a bunch of stairs. But to the couple that is stuck, this is a very real life emergency. They yell for help, are angry, sad, they pout, and go through the normal emotions of being broken by a life event.
I was on that “escalator” and I had accepted ALL the angry gifts bestowed on me…..what slowly began to unfold for me was the perspective that I was in charge of being alive and healthy all alone AND that it was going to be ok, that I could do it. Or as William Stafford writes, “I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.”
For so long I was sad. Sad because I felt unworthy because I carried the icky others had presented to me. I looked for validation from others. I wanted to be filled up, I wanted to be loved, I wanted to be valued, I wanted others to carry me. And when one one could do that, I was mad, sad, and I wanted to quit life. At some point I had to tell myself that no parents, partner or friend were going to be able to do that for me. I needed to walk off the escalator ON MY OWN. No one was coming to save me.
I love a good quote…in fact, I collect them. There are endless quotes about loving yourself, enjoying your own company, celebrating the you….they are over played verbiage with so much truth it is easy to dismiss them. You see, until you are truly comfortable in your own skin you will forever be empty, searching for things, people, moments to fill you up…and that leads to anxiety and fear…because we subconsciously know that filling externally is not possible. I use the example of junior high. Junior high is a shit show, everyone knows that. It is a mess foundationally because you have a bunch of humans trying to figure out who they are by looking for external validation from peers. That just won’t work. Defining ones self that way lends itself to pure drama and a lifetime subscription of issues.
I have, instead, currently chosen to model my friend navigating the way a three year old interacts. Have you seen a three year find friends? It looks like this….three year old walks up to stranger kid…”Hey do you want to play with me?” Stranger kid says no. No matter; three year old is unscathed. Three year old walks up to a another random kid, “Hey, do you want to play with me?” Random kid just walks away; no worries. Three year old meanders up to another kid, “Hey do you wanna play?”…..two kids sit down and play together. Gawd, I love a three year old because they don’t read into, over analyze, make meaning, project self-doubt….they just play with others have authentic tantrums and carry on. Their self-worth is not dependent on the validation of others. They are not trying to prove anything…they just are.
The magic moment that you learn to get off the escalator of stuckness and truly see yourself as strong, empowered and completely free from the definition of others….that, my friend, is when the journey in all its authentic glory begins. Truly begins. That path is long and winding and not an easy meandering, but you know what? As Ram Dass says..”We are all just walking each other home.” And I am so blessed to be walking with YOU!