Box of Darkness

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~ Mary Oliver

I’ve been reading the book “Wild”, the true story of Cheryl Strayed, who hiked 1000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. After watching the film, I was curious to see how the book compared.

So far, I’ve wept several times already and I’m only a third of the way through. There are passages where I feel like my heart is being squeezed because of the depth of empathy I feel for this woman. At first reading, one might easily think we have little in common. After the sudden death of her mother and the scattering of her family, she descends into a blur of meaningless sex and heroin that end up costing her marriage, a marriage she wasn’t even certain she wanted, despite the love she felt for her husband. She ends up on the PCT trail in a poorly thought out quest to regain the woman she once was.

In my own way, I have experienced extreme loss. In the year after my divorce and my complete descent into despair,I lost myself in a haze of alcohol. I was so desperate to fill the hole in my heart and to validate my own existence, I sought love in places where only my flesh was desired. I was frantic, simultaneously,  for both numbness and to feel anything other than the searing grief I felt almost constantly.

Slowly, the grief began to ease and I started to find my way back to a life that involved more than simply trying to survive my own emotions. There have been times over the years I’ve stumbled on my ascent, but I have steadily continued to move forward. Now the loss and grief I had to fight my way out of is still part of me, like a scar or an old injury that aches on emotionally rainy days, but it’s no longer active. It definitely flares from time to time, usually when I don’t protect my interaction and allow myself to be lulled into old traps.

If I’ve learned anything from my time in darkness, it’s I can survive. Just as Cheryl Strayed convinced herself to put one foot in front of another on the trail by convincing herself she was the toughest person in the world, so I’ve managed to continue climbing. I have survived darkness and I will continue to overcome any obstacle thrown at me. Yet I’ve reached a point where finally, I feel I can do more than simply overcome. This year, I plan to do far more than simply survive!

My resolutions for the new year:

  • Celebrate beauty
  • Seek out more joy every single day.
  • Strengthen my body
  • Accept things as they are, rather than wishing things were different
  • Believe that I deserve more and seek out the best for myself
  • Work on letting go of my fear of being a bad parent and focus on accepting my children for who they are and loving them unconditionally
  • Respect myself
  • Stand up for myself
  • Be compassionate with myself
  • Allow myself to feel my feelings without judgment, then let go of them
  • Stop wanting people in my life to be different. Longing for people to be who I’d like them to be, or treat me differently than they do, causes me tremendous anxiety and sadness. Recognize the truth of them, forgive them, release them from my life. As many times as it takes.

I wish everyone a joyous and beautiful new year, filled with love and magic!

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