I spend a lot of time here talking about gratitude, love, self-love, slowing down, and just good old-fashioned bliss. But, I want you to know that I’ve had deep dark nights of the soul as well. And like you, so many of my big life lessons came from those times. I’m not making the case for shiny happy people to rule the world. I am here to say that everything is an opportunity for learning and development. Everything.
As a matter of fact, prior to writing here for Perfect Avocado retreats, most of the time that I put pen to paper, I was pissed off. The gaps in most of my journal entries span months or years between the times when my rage drove me to write what I couldn’t express any other way that wasn’t an endless loop. On the page, I could finally get a place where my anger was complete and I could move on. Mostly.
Recently, listening to The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich I came to a passage that gripped me. The main protagonist had been part of a delegation to Congress and witnessed a demonstration where several Puerto Rican activists fired weapons in the Senate. She was shaken, but upon reflection, she realized that she too carried that kind of passion within her, that if she were alone with the Senator attempting to pass more legislation undermining Native Americans, if she were alone with him, he would be in danger.
This part of the story keeps coming back to me, although it is certainly not the thrust of the novel - I too have been consumed by such strong feelings. I have been so full of rage, I pushed a grown man up against a wall. Until that happened, I didn’t know I was capable of such a thing. I was lost to myself in that moment.
I actually don’t share that story with many people. But even fewer people know that there was a sneaking snake of delight in that rage-fest. For once, just once - I let loose, like something primeval rising from my gut that didn’t give a shit about anything but pure self-expression. And it scared me.
But I felt so alive.
Years ago, I shared a beer at a local watering hole with a friend, who’s house had burned down a few years prior. We were reminiscing about the loss of her home and the dissolution of my marriage and how while those losses represented the worst holes in our respective lives - we could admit, if only to each other, that we treasured something about that time. The depth of our feelings, and the sheer volume of feelings - my god. So much raw grief, rage, and surrender. Somehow, dealing with those losses made us feel incredibly and indelibly alive.
And that feeling of aliveness, consciousness, and viability also bent us towards realizing new facets of ourselves. How resilient we were. We found hidden resources. We were not alone. I’m 100% sure that anyone reading this can relate.
We were both lucky to have the support of family and friends in our hard times. I can well imagine that without that, it would just be too much. There would be an ultimate need to tamp down all that feeling if there was no one willing to hold your hand through the hell of the world slipping out from beneath your feet. I can well imagine an alternate ending to my situation that could’ve resulted in losing myself in unresolved drama and ultimately substance abuse without the kindness and care that the people in my life offered.
So, how to come to that feeling of aliveness, sans soul-crushing despair? I think it comes down to paying attention. Part of the feeling of aliveness in crisis comes from the fact that you develop a laser-like focus on what really matters. Oatmeal for dinner? Fine. Laundry? Doesn't matter. Being uncomfortably authentic? Hell yeah.
So, sweetheart, feel those feelings. All of ‘em. And pay attention to more than just the awfulness of being wronged, misunderstood, fired, betrayed, abandoned, rejected, or ignored. I think the difference in learning from crisis and getting addicted to drama is really in paying attention to what’s important. Therein lies transformation.