Beautiful Darkness

It was dark. Lonely. Quiet. Beautiful…

I remember the days of my darkest depression in law school fondly.  It sounds strange, I know.

There was no pretense. I was free.  I was shrouded in complete darkness.  I didn’t need to hide as I was protected under the cover of night.  Nothing mattered to me at all. I couldn’t be bothered to get up and get dressed.  I was probably barely even eating, although I really don’t remember.  I just remember the feelings.

I remember the darkness. It tried to overtake me — beckoned me ever further into its depths. I felt the darkness throughout my body. That weird metallic taste in my mouth. The nausea always churning in my stomach.  The headache if I stayed awake too long. The backache if I laid down all day.

Even more clearly I remember that feeling of being past broken. My heart cracked open. The whites were running free. The yolk soon to follow. Anything could bring me to tears.  To swallow those tears would have been to ingest poison.  I needed to liberate them. Unleashing them somehow set me free.

To do well in college and escape familial dysfunction I had made myself rigid.  I had become ashamed of my internal struggles and what I deemed emotional imbalance (i.e., a spectrum of feelings). I threw away all of my journals. ALL OF THEM.  I wanted to bury the evidence if I could.  I needed everything to be perfect. I was inflexible and in ways insufferable.  But I was superwoman. I could have it all. My roommates commented that they’d never seen anyone vacuum so often.  Long before joining a law firm I was scheduling and recording my activities down to 15 minute increments.  If it could be done, I was going to do it.

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me… So I just didn’t stop.” (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)  I didn’t want to feel anything.  I didn’t want to be distracted.  I couldn’t risk my emotion bringing me to ruin.  My feelings couldn’t be trusted. So I buried them.

Funny thing about a burial though. The thing doesn’t cease to exist. Ghosts of emotions past start rising up from the places where they’ve been buried in secret and they haunt your life. They will not be ignored for always.

I’ve been told that depression is the absence of feeling. The absence of tears. Something darker still.  If that’s true, maybe what I experienced was not depression at all, but rather grief. So many denials of self over time.  So many funerals for the innumerable times I chose to please the other at the expense of my values, my self-respect and my dignity.

Under the cover of darkness, lit by the moonlight, everything seemed more beautiful.  Even the parts that hurt, just to be reminded that they were there was magnificent. While walking down the street I stopped, leaned over and pressed my nose to a flower and was in rapture.

The gift of my depression was to give the hidden, muted parts a voice and to remove from me all power to turn away.

The darkness lit up the path that brought me back to life.

The Thoughtful Lawyer

Thoughtful. adj. 1. Absorbed in or involving thought. 2. Showing consideration for the needs of other people. 3. Showing careful consideration or attention.

“You think too much!” “Gosh, you’re always on. Do you ever turn off?”  “Have you tried relaxing?” Or my personal favorite while working through my umpteenth existential crisis for the year “I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”  First of all, yes it is.  To me.  Second of all, if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told one of those things, I could have paid for at least one credit at my exhorbitantly priced law school up front.

I accepted these lighthearted (ha!) comments as part of my life.  Something was clearly wrong with me.  But I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.  I was special and this was just part of the package — “Flaws and All“.  I was a tortured soul, but there was as much bliss as distress.  Teetering between darkness and light I was creating something that almost looked like balance.

In hindsight I definitely should have learned to relax earlier in life. My “thoughtfulness” turned into full blown anxiety.  When I started having anxiety attacks about how I would fail (at life!) if I didn’t have my anxiety to motivate me I should have known something was not right.  I forgot that I hadn’t been particularly anxious as a child — although kind of shy and very careful.  I had been motivated by a thirst for knowledge and a clear sense of my own potential.  Twenty-twenty.

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Musings of a Miser

Miserable. adj. 1. being in a pitiable state of distress or unhappiness. 2. wretchedly inadequate or meager. Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin miserabilis, wretched, pitiable, from miserari to pity, from miser.

I have had fantasies of swimming in a tower of money since I was very young.  You could say I’m a bit of a miser.

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

When I was four years old, I made my musical debut.  My preschool put on a concert and we were singing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” From what I’ve been told, everything was going fine and then we got to the “ooooooo” (at 0:56) and suddenly there was only one kid that you could hear above all: me! I was showing the kid with the lead how it ought to be done. smh. #facepalm Out of the mouth of babes.

 

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Impostor!

I have been haunted by this ghost of an overeager superego for years telling me that I am actually a failure.  Only in college did it start to become crippling.

I remember the first time it became a legitimate problem. I had failed to turn in an assignment on time in a journalism class — I don’t really remember the reason — and so I decided that I deserved to be found out for the lazy, loafing, good for nothing, failure that I truly was and that I should be punished. Since the paper was already late, I decided that I did not deserve the redemption of an extension of the deadline. I decided not to turn in the paper and to stop going to class. I decided that I deserved to fail.

And then I did.

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Finding My Way in Law

Photo by Chris Devaraj licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Chris Devaraj licensed under CC BY 2.0

Let me paint a picture for you.  There is a woman in a wheat field wearing a colorful dress that swings and flows about her as she spins with her arms stretched up to heaven.  When this woman walks into a room, it is like a breath of fresh air has arrived. She brings compassion, love, life, vibrancy and passion.

That is my suppressed ideal.  My imaginary self-concept.

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Guilt, Shame, Self-Compassion and Gratitude

“There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want, and after that to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second.” – Logan Pearsall Smith

Over the years, I have been very fortunate. I have won scholarships, gotten into prestigious schools and gotten great job offers. With all of this you might think that I’m super happy and joyful and always out celebrating.

Instead, I have spent (wasted??) countless hours of my life in my head agonizing over what to do next. Should I take a new opportunity? Should I celebrate my success? Should go to this law school or that? What about all of the people who don’t get this opportunity or who are stuck or didn’t even get in anywhere? I have been crippled with guilt. Or, at least I thought it was guilt.

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