I believe in being gentle with myself. I believe in being gentle with my darkness.
I grew up full of anger and hate. I dug my rage into my toy chest, into closet walls, into my heart. Day after day, as soon as I woke up, I played the tapes about how much of a monster I was. I came to believe that god created me as a repository of evil so that others might be saved. I hated my step-father, school, church, just about everything, but more than anything, myself. My perception of people flattened into two-dimensions. When I saw someone I instantly rated their threat level, monitoring, staying alert on the egg-shell ground I navigated. When someone touched me with what felt like dry-ice hands, I instinctively recoiled. I reduced the rest of humanity to pain-givers of various ratings. Every day was a new death. Sleep became the time when demons swooped in to repair me just enough so that I could die another day. When I was eight, life was a tale of a thousand deaths. When I was a young adult, it elevated to a tale of ten thousand.
Some parts of me were lost during that time. I’m not clear even today if I will ever get them back. I suspect not. I have in various ways let go of much of the rage and the hate through emotional work, meditation, and other methods. But the rage and the hate had fused into my bone, infused into my blood. Though I no longer feel called to it, Life, who I was, seemed hopeless. I wanted a do-over. I nursed frustration at the destruction I had wrought against myself as a boy. I created new darkness to fill the void of what I let go. I grasped at the light of god, and of others, hoping to banish my dark, never succeeding. I was like a scarlet letter in a man’s body. I became so adept at hiding my darkness from others such that even I couldn’t see it.
All the paths I tried ended. I felt hopeless. I felt the allure of turning against myself once more. That impulse—like an addiction to a drug you don’t want to use yet still find yourself doing—remains. But a new way has opened—an unexpected path in the bramble. I have begun to be gentle with my darkness. Sometimes, it feels like forgiveness—other times like love. Sometimes, it’s not turning on the TV when I have an itch to do so or checking out to internet porn. Other times, it’s allowing space for a yoga class. It’s being quite and still long enough, if only for a few minutes, to be with myself, to not run away from the darkness. Over time, that darkness has softened. And so have I.
And this I believe—I am to the world what I am to myself—and I believe both must heed the call to gentleness.
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