Written With A Smile – Beyond Simply Surviving
I have to admit that I am feeling much better than I have in years. And when I say feeling better, I include the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of feeling. Why? That’s a good question. Someone recently asked me about my efforts at moving from the dark place that had been the centre of almost all of my efforts for the past number of years:
“But how long does this phase last, and when do you go back to finding hobbies, enjoying day to day life without having to put all your energy into healing?”
My answer is simply, it will take as long as it takes. And when the phase of darkness is put aside, there is no going back. So why do I now feel healed?
There is no simple answer, so I will take the time needed to give a more complete answer. I can’t give the full answer because, in the end, there is some parts of the answer that is beyond my knowledge, parts that are wrapped in mystery. Healing began the moment the darkness descended to engulf me in the 90’s. You can’t heal if you don’t know that you are grievously wounded. The wounds had been piling up below my conscious awareness. I was busy with life, with family, with career and had no time to consider why things weren’t going well within me.
With awareness that I was descending into darkness, a descent that was seen by others before it was seen by myself, I began fighting the darkness. The first attempt was all about increasing my presence in the outer world, getting even busier with more coaching, more professional activity, engagement with other therapists in a new domain called cyberspace, and entry into another degree program. Darkness laughed and its tendrils wrapped themselves tighter around my spirit and soul. So, I entered into therapy through my professional association. And in the process, more of the contents hidden in darkness began to show their faces properly scaring the shit out of me. I knew that this was serious and needed some serious attention, so I took myself off to another location and began a six-month long course of Jungian analysis. I knew that in depth psychology there would be answers found for my questions, and in the process, perhaps even healing.
Success, at least for the short term. I changed career paths and managed to finish the remaining years until retirement was possible. Economic survival for myself and my wife was my highest priority. I survived, but not all that well. The darkness wasn’t so easily defeated; and yes, the darkness was my number one enemy. Finally retirement arrived and I found myself at a loss of what to do, so I returned to teaching, teaching in China. Again, novelty and busyness kept enough of the darkness away so that I could enjoy the experience of Asia. But, beneath the surface and in the corners of my eyes, the truth of the unresolved conflict between my shadow and myself lurked, waiting.
About a year and a half ago, my mother died and I fell off a cliff into indescribable depths of darkness. I held on to sanity until I could get myself back to my home country from China so that I could once again enter into Jungian analysis, a process I knew that would lead me back into the light. While in analysis, I formalised my practice of meditation through Buddhism. Six months later, I was ready to return home and resume life in an almost normal lane. I gifted myself with a pilgrimage in France to help appease the demons that had yet to be banished. And then, when back home, the decision to return to Mexico for a retirement retreat from winter was booked. And this, was the turning point that made all the difference.
In Mexico, I explored more of my naturist tendencies. The warmth, the sunshine and a location that wasn’t threatening allowed me to open up. I began to be friends with myself and to take better care of my body. My weight dropped and I felt better physically. I continued all those things that had helped me get this far – Buddhist meditation and reading, Jungian psychology and writing, and self-analysis. I stopped fighting for the most part.
Now, back home in Canada, I have found it is possible to honour all of these contributing factors that have helped me heal. I can remain well even when life gets in the way of any or all of these factors that have held me together long enough for me to learn how to simply be me without criticism.
So to now answer the question posed above, I am already here, back from healing. This is my life. I am retired, I read, I hike, I write, I take photographs, I visit and play with my grandchildren. I share what I can with my children. And I cherish my wife who has been beside me through all of these years on the path to wellness. I am wiser and healthier, and perhaps even holier than I have ever been. I am wise enough to finally know that I will never have all the answers. What I don’t know (and it is beyond measurement) will simply exist as mystery for me. I am healthier and have learned to eat better, sleep better and move better to make this state of health last as long as my allotted years. And I have learned that I don’t have to be a saint, to be perfect anymore. I can be ordinary with all manner of idiosyncratic behaviours and mannerisms. I cherish the skills I have and the gifts that I have been given and try my best to share these with others without asking what’s in it for me or mine. It doesn’t get any better than this.
And yes, I am human, still fall flat on my face, still make mistakes and still have fears of darkness and demons. But that is okay. Today I can smile and mean it.