‘It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.’ – Joseph Campbell
When you lean into the pain, try to work with it, shift it, change it, heal it, you’ll be told you’re ‘wallowing’ and ‘feeling sorry for yourself’. It’s those who ignore their pain, who numb themselves and minimise their wounds, they’re the tough ones, they’ll say. Then when they can no longer avoid the pain, it’ll be called ‘a breakdown’ and they’ll be put on government allowances, allocated a case worker, given medication and time out.
All the while you’re diving down into the dark, clearing the murky depths, using your own muscle and sinew to carve a path through the undergrowth and move ancient baggage, and you’re doing it in silence, alone. The only people around are those standing on the edges wondering what on earth you’re doing and telling you to stop.
They’ll tell you you’re being negative, stuck in the past, a pessimist. But what more of an optimist is there? To never let that little spark of hope go out, continuing to dig and excavate and sweat as you tunnel your way back to the light, plucking treasures from the dark corners and holding faith that the light at the end of the tunnel is there, even though it remains unseen.
They’ll tell you your life appears to be going well, so it can’t have been that bad. But it’s because of your strength, your determination, your courage, and your stamina that your life looks fine on the surface. Appearances do not reflect what’s underneath, the emptiness, the longing, the knowledge that something is missing.
They’ll want you to settle, to stop being fussy, to be grateful and make the most of what you have. So you might be disrespected occasionally, you might be deprived or overlooked or mistreated. You might feel without purpose, you may have mended into strange twisted shapes. That’s life, they’ll say, deal with it.
They mean well, this conglomeration of people who make up your ‘they’. If you would just climb out of the mud, come in out of the darkness, they would no longer have to worry about you. They want you to come into the warmth and sit where it’s comfortable.
If you do this, you become like the iceberg, with 10% or less of you visible above the surface, 10% of you that cannot possibly represent all the depth and magnitude and richness of your whole being. The 90% of you submerged below the surface, in the shadows, invisible, contains your heart and soul and reason for being.
There are ways of being in this world that allow you to bring those things to the surface. The transformational act that contains the blueprint for how to do this is a journey into the unknown. So few undertake it. There is no path, and the only lights in the darkness are those of fellow journey-walkers.
It is a pilgrimage into the depths of your soul. There are dragons here. It is not a place for the faint-hearted, or for those who do not wish to look beneath the surface of this life.
But out of the darkness comes knowledge. You will know who you are. You will claim all of yourself, including all of your woundedness and scars, all of your shame and sorrow, all your ‘not good enoughs’. And all your joy. You will gather them together and bring them home. There is no light without the dark, there is no happy without sad, no triumph without fear. You will have become whole, and your rite of passage will leave signposts for others.
Art courtesy of brookeshaden.com