January 13, 2014

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend. ~ Shavawn M. Berry



“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

~ Carl Gustav Jung

Yesterday I should have felt good—basking in sunlight and vitamin D. But I didn’t. Instead, I felt blue. Black and blue. Instead, I felt nothing but numb sadness, darkness, loss.

A week ago, I started a slow detox from coffee replete with a dull headache for most of the week. Plus, I’ve been binge-watching “Friday Night Lights,” which brought forth a veritable flood of tears, episode after episode.

I’ve been crying my eyes out over a fictional high school football coach and his family’s life.

Or have I?

These are tears over the energetic message that the show imparts. Family. First love. Loss. Death. Aging. Sickness. Friendship. Teamwork. Camaraderie. Divorce. Mistakes. Regret.


This week I dreamed I was with Carl Jung—the founder of depth psychology and dream work. We were talking as we climbed the stairs in a towering office building. He was in front of me as we scaled flight after flight of stairs, heading up to the roof.

Symbolically, it felt like a message from the universe that I am on my way up. That I have traveled into the worst sorts of darkness and now I am ready to head into something completely new.

And in the midst of all this, I can’t stop crying.


I stand over the kitchen sink washing organic fruits and vegetables, sobbing. I think about my first love and my most recent love. I think about my father—whose birthday is coming up this week. He’d be 87, if he was still alive. I think about high school, about that girl I was—the one with so many aspirations—the one who was both certain of the future and completely lost. I think about the first time I had sex (not good) and how bereft I felt after the fact. I think about all the things I wish someone had told me to help me navigate the world. I was so raw and so unprepared when I went out into the world at 18. I had no map. I just had a vague idea of what direction I wanted to go. And I had the notion that I could make a difference. That I had something inside that I needed to put out there.

But, for years, I got scared. And I didn’t do anything except hide my heart and hide my light.

And I ate. I ate to swallow my pain. I ate to control my feelings. Feelings that were overwhelming and sharp and seemed impossible to endure. I waited and I held my breath and I gained weight. I surrounded myself with flesh so I’d be safe. Safe from hurt. Safe from loss. Safe from anger and the disappointment that life seemed to so readily dish out.

But this week, I’ve started the process of letting this weight go. I am done being the fat girl, the one whose first love left her. I am done being the childless woman who couldn’t hook a man. I am done buying into society’s image of femininity—one that’s submissive and powerless and only has value if attached to a man. I am done feeling sorry for myself and treating my body with disrespect and abuse.

 My detox starts now.

I am going completely off of sugar, gluten, dairy, eggs, red meat, vinegar, fermented foods and even my beloved coffee.

My body—which I have neglected and punished and abused for years—is waking up. I can feel myself coming back to life. My very cells are releasing decades of pent up anger, sorrow and pain; it is time to let it go.

So, the tears are actually a balm.

The tears are meant to wash past slights and wrong turns and wounds, away. These tears are a gift. They are a sign of growth, healing. They are a sign that I am finally trusting my ability to handle my life, no matter what happens.

Suffering is a part of living. It is what stretches our capacity to love. It softens us. It beats our egos into submission and lets us become more than we thought we could be.

I am awake now and the wise “Carl Jung” part of me is taking the lead. We are traveling up the stairs together. I am calling all the orphaned or neglected or lost or unaccepted parts of myself, home. I am calling them back to me. I am mourning the years that I left them in the wilderness to fend for themselves while I was too scared to move.

But I am no longer too terrified to take action.

I feel the blood rushing through me—rivers of red and white cells—spreading oxygen to my muscles, helping me continue to climb. I feel my heartbeat and the damp air in my lungs. I am stretching my legs step-by-step by step. And as I imagine rounding the last corner, I reach the landing and push hard on a door.

Dizzy and relieved, I feel invisible hands wiping my tears away.

Stepping out onto the roof, I stop and take it all in: an endless expanse of dark sky, sprinkled with pinpricks of white light for as far as the eye can see.

 I am awake and even the darkness harbors light.


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Tergali Jan 16, 2014 5:23pm

A great article sometimes we just forget to

Look for love kind and courage in te most important place what is in our souls 😀 thank you for reminde me that!

QtrAcreGal Jan 16, 2014 4:38pm

On Sunday, January 26, 2014, I'll mark 26 years sober, abstinent from alcohol. When I began my alcoholism recovery, I was as determined as this writer, to practice 12 Step-described Abstinence " in all my affairs"; upon attempting, however, as I did, TO SIMULTANEOUSLY purge myself (as recommended, I noticed, by thinner, either anorexic or Bulimic members of the Overeating-associated fellowship) of caffeine, refined sugar, flour, MSG and other toxic substances, I actually ENDANGERED my body. I realize now, WITHOUT MEDICAL SUPERVISION, my INTENDED METAPHORICAL psychological purging occurred, but it PHYSIOLOGICALLY became an act of SELF-MUTILATION. The strain on my heart, disruption of sleep patterns, emotional roughness took it's toll; I was lucky I lived alone and was not working, with no loved one to witness or also be damaged.

Readers should be willing to be accountable to a party THEY CANNOT MANIPULATE for SIMILAR INTENTIONS and plans; We ultimately can ALWAYS rationalize our choices (& those of us with large vocabularies, do so EVEN MORE convincingly), but we CAN'T always catch when EXTREME MEASURES can COST, rather than BRING US more fully TO Life.

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Shavawn M. Berry

My work has appeared in or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, Rebelle Society, Vagina–The Zine, Journey of Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Poet Lore, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Westview—A Journal of Western Oklahoma, California Quarterly, North Atlantic Review, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, addictionsolutions.com, Living Buddhism, Synapse, and Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, to name a few. I attended the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where I received my Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, specializing in creative nonfiction and memoir. I teach writing full-time at Arizona State University where I recently completed a year as a Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellow for 2013. Contact me through Facebook or via my website.