Yes, I feel fear. I also feel sadness, anger, confusion, grief, and uncertainty.
I am human, after all. These “shadowy” sides of life are normal and healthy and nothing to be ashamed of. And, just like the more “desired” feelings of joy, contentment, excitement, glee, and happiness, they are simply a part of the story of ME. The story of us, of humans, and all things with souls.
From a young age, my inner life has had long bouts of living in these shadowy sides due to both external and internal circumstances.
I have so many teachers to thank for giving me the perspective and wisdom of continuing forward when the tunnel is dark and neither the windows nor the doors are illuminated, and the path forward is nowhere to be found. Victor Frankl, Kahlil Gibran, John O’Donohue, Harriette Shelton Dover, David Whyte, Martin Prechtel, Herman Hesse, George Harrison, Sharon Blackie, Rashani Rea, Thomas Merton, Frida Kahlo, and countless others: all poets, writers, musicians, storytellers, philosophers, and folks who have taken the time to reflect on the inner struggles of life that we all endure.
Whether we lose a baby, mourn a beloved sibling, struggle with disease and illness, are brutally tortured, wrongfully accused, persecuted for our beliefs, feel alone and misunderstood, lose the path of meaning in our life, or find ourselves broke and broken with no future, struggle and suffering is very real for all of us, and there is no allowable competition that makes it right for any one of us to claim the greater heartache. Struggle is something that unites all humans on earth and sees no barriers in wealth, culture, location, political affiliation, skin tone, or religion. Struggle is the great unifier.
These teachers have all taught me that I am strong, resilient, and capable of diving into the grief of my struggles and growing through them, letting them guide me forward to a path of greater meaning and peace in my own life. A place of humility, empathy, gratitude.
Taking this bird’s eye view has and will continue to help me see forward with my own struggles–past, present, and future–and gives me a sense of trust, peace, and appreciation for all the experiences in my life that have formed me to who I am. I remind myself daily of this balance of life: the shadow and the light, and how each is required in order to make the other one possible. Or as Thich Nhat Hanh would say, “no mud, no lotus.”
Attitude is everything, I am finding. With the recent understanding of neural plasticity shaping the human experience and reaction to every thought, it’s all about retraining the brain to take different paths. Too often most of us are on autopilot, taking the thought and action that spirals us down to the deep dark hole yet again; a place that is so important and healing to visit on occasion (especially in the midst of devastation and grief, and in processing our traumas), but exhausting to live in constantly.
I have been reflecting much on my pregnancies, my life, and my attitude in moving forward.
It is so easy to go down that dark path, to believe everything will fail, everything will shatter and be ruined and bring devastation. That pathway is well-trodden in my mind. It is much harder work to build a new trail, where I can still see that old pathway through breaks in the trees, but also walk a route that is new, full of wonder and hope and strength.
These days, I hold so much fear for the future of our ecosystem of planet earth. I honestly don’t know if my children will be able to physically thrive on this planet for a lifetime. I think about what I want to teach them, what is the most important message in moving forward in such an uncertain world, and besides the obvious of how to physically survive and treat the earth with reverence and respect, the thing that is going to really get each of us through is our mental and emotional resiliency. Even if the world is burning up around me, I want to be the one who sits in wonder of the mystery of it all, who smiles at a bird flying by, who laughs at a peculiar worm dancing in the rain. Attitude will be the thing to sustain or break us, in the end.