I remember a young boy sobbing alone in his bed, studying the newly-formed welts on his arms and feeling the sting of bruised and broken skin on his back.
I remember the overwhelming wave of sadness and self-loathing that followed each and every sob, each and every time.
I remember the beginning of suicidal thoughts and the dawn of winter numbness.
I remember the end of that smiling, loving boy everyone once knew amidst the beginning of something else.
For me, consciousness began in the most unlikely places. It began in the throes of great personal hardship. It began in moments when I hated myself. It began in the cold, in the unforgiving deserted trails of personal concealment where everything gets turned upside down and the reality becomes nothing less than a nightmare.
There, in the valley of torment and in the house of despair, is where I found myself. It is there where the miracles began.
It took about 30 years, but after decades of shit storms and self-defeating behavior, I began to rediscover my own identity and my own sense of self. As my life progressed, the torrid lessons of my youth began to wither away and die as my illusion failed to meet up with the demands of my soul. I was born a caring, compassionate, loving mountain of a boy and I would become a caring, compassionate, loving mountain of man; it just took suffering, loss and a willingness to discover something else to get there.
Much like a sculptor who would use suffering as its hammer and its chisel, the Great Artist (or God, or the Universe, or whatever you’d like to call it) began working on me in ways I would not understand for decades.
Today, what I once saw as a horrible block of stone I now see as a wonderful work of marbled art. I am strong, resolute, and able to withstand most tests of time and humanity. I’ve learned, through experience, my personal story, my personal faith, and my personal source of strength. I’ve learned so many lessons in my life that I almost can’t remember them all. Still, when needed, those lessons spring to life, and give me a bit of light when the world presents nothing but darkness.
I share this with you for a reason; I don’t want or need sympathy, or pity, or sadness. Instead, stand with me, overjoyed that I was able to have these experiences. Then embrace, when you are able, your own periods of darkness as tremendous opportunities for unparalleled growth and discovery. Allow the experience, embrace it, and learn all you can.
Consciousness, for me, began the moment I realized suffering wasn’t something that happened to me, but something that happened for me. It was a chisel, and like a Great Artist it honed me into a wonderful work of art, a beautiful block of marble left strong, resolute, and wise by the strands of time and the remarkable inspiration that came from places I am so grateful I have been able to see.
Over the last two-plus years, I’ve seen my marriage end, my stable career become tumultuous and my life change so dramatically it is like I have awoken from a dream. I’ve lost more than most ever gain and I’ve thought things that few ever think.
Yet I’m here, stronger than I’ve ever been and more rooted in myself than I ever thought possible. I’ve discovered clarity, and a certainty in who I am that will never change. This period of time was like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, or rather a semicolon connecting two interdependent parts of my life. It was the twilight that ended the night and began a glorious day.
So I am grateful for each and every part of my life. I adore the suffering along with the happiness. I embrace the sadness with the joy, and I no longer fear adversity.
Mostly, though, I no longer fear being happy and I no longer feel anything other than love and acceptance for the beautiful being I am. I cannot hate my abuser since the abuse taught me things that allow me to help others; I cannot hate my abuser any more than I can hate those who love me unconditionally.
The question remains for each of us: Do we want to live conscious lives of awareness or not? Do we want to change suffering simply by changing how we see suffering?
The choice belongs to each of us, and I hope to offer my own unique perspective and experiences to the benefit of someone, anyone, who may be going through similar experiences and wondering “why?”
If you are suffering, embrace it. Love it.
And for Pete’s sake, learn to let it go when it’s time.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Avik Sarkar/Pixoto