Confronting the Naked Self in the Mirror
“Each day, we’re given many opportunities to open up or shut down. The most precious opportunity presents itself when we come to a place where we think we can’t handle whatever is happening. It’s too much. It’s gone too far. We feel bad about ourselves. There’s no way we can manipulate the situation and come out looking good. No matter how hard we try, it just won’t work. Basically, life has nailed us.”
Now, that sounds familiar, too familiar. In the past I was prone to shutting down. I would hide in my own darkness avoiding as much as humanly possible while still trying to do the basics of work and home – neither done all that well when I now look back at it. I fought the depressions, denied them and suffered more than I needed to suffer. Since then, I’ve learned a few things about myself and depression. I never understood that falling down on one’s face is a wonderful opportunity to rise up again a little wiser, an opportunity to learn more about myself and others.
Yes, I still fall down, fall into depressions. But now, I am able to slowly and mindfully pick myself back up asking myself questions about my body, about my relationships, about my behaviours – questions that I know are waiting to be asked so that I can learn from these descents into darkness. This hasn’t been an easy thing to learn, for like most people, I saw depression as a failure, as a pathology, as something to be conquered – or as was more often the case – something to fear.
“Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape – all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”
I fled into running as a teenager. I returned to running long distances again in midlife until my body said it had had enough of being abused by my addiction. I fled into cyberspace and anonymity that disguised the truths that were exposed every time I looked into the mirror. I fled into intellectual activity, into an embrace of Jungian psychology. It worked for a while. Then it didn’t work, especially when what I learned there only echoed what Pema Chodron had said. And then, I decided to stop running away and be present. I was too tired to run anymore.