**Warning: adult language ahead.**
Consciousness starts to seep in around the edges of my being.
Where before there was nothing but perfect nonexistence, there is now the faint beginnings of awareness. Although my eyes are still shut, I become aware of light. Not a bright, harsh light strong enough to pierce through the skin and subcutaneous tissue that form my eyelids, but a light that serves as a distraction nonetheless.
A light that mars the once complete and perfect stillness and darkness of my unconsciousness.
I become aware of the colours of my eyelids—the soft red, pink and orange tones—as though I can almost make out the individual veins that act as highways for my blood to travel back to my heart. I groan, I roll, I clamp my eyes shut and squeeze as hard as I can willing myself back to sleep, but nothing works.
I am awake. I am awake and something feels wrong. Or rather nothing feels right.
Days like this can happen for no apparent reason. You go to sleep and everything feels right with the world. You feel good, strong, powerful even. You like your friends, your family, your partner; perhaps your career is going well, you’re hatching plans; you’re happy with your body and in general things seems to be going if not wholly well, then at least satisfactory.
And then one day, for no apparent reason, you wake up and life feels bleak. Your plans and aspirations seem foolish and out of reach. What was even the point in hatching those plans in the first place? Will you ever achieve anything? Fear and doubt move in. Anxiety kicks in—a tightness in the chest, and a feeling of impending doom from the stomach.
I know what I have to do to get out of these moods. Yoga, exercise, running, mediation: these are all things that instantly lighten and uplift my senses. But some days, doing these things seem impossible, and on other days, these things fail to have the magic abracadabra moment that I’ve come to expect.
What do I do then? When my limbs won’t obey my body and my head won’t obey my heart?
Today I had this feeling. I drove to a quiet road and sat in the car struggling to convince myself to get out into the air, to feel the atmosphere, the wind, something real and refreshing on my skin. Instead I opened my notebook and began to write, What Do You Want?
My answers began at the materialistic, tangible end of the spectrum, but quickly dropped off into wants that were hard to define, let alone quantify their attainment. A solid foundation from which to grow, freedom, community, love, happiness, abundance, security, stability, warmth. To feel a part rather than apart. I then noticed that all of the tangible wants in my life grew from the intangible desires leading me to four questions:
If I achieved the tangible wants, would this satisfy my intangible desires? (No.)
If my intangible desires are met, do the tangible wants matter? (No.)
Am I able to create myself as part of a community, surrounded by love, happiness, abundance, security, stability and warmth? (Yes.)
Who defines when I am part of a community, surrounded by love, happiness, abundance, security, stability and warmth? (Me.)
I began to realize that the onus for my happiness was on me. I turned over a page of my notebook and continued to mark the paper in unmercifully deliberate black ink, Who Am I?
And I drew a blank.
I began to read back through my journal, past poems, scribbles of pain, parts of me I had forgotten. Some pages I lingered on allowing myself to feel the emotion energetically carved into the lines; other parts I rushed through hurriedly, scared to immerse myself too deeply into the darkness that lay there. As I turned each page, the energy dripped from my fingertips, slow, viscous, like treacle.
I was tempted to begin writing, “I am love. I am light. I am community, happiness, abundance, security, stability, warmth,” in an attempt to distance myself from the sadness and pain that lay in those pages. But that would be a lie. I am love, I am light, I am community, happiness, abundance, security, stability, warmth, but I am also rage, anger, depression, malevolence and pain. I am childlike exploration, joy and inquisitiveness, and I am also a powerful darkness.
I am my good days and I am my bad days. Inspiration and inertia. Love and light and a fucking shit storm.
Embracing our darkness doesn’t mean we have to dwell there permanently. No one wants to live inside a shit storm. In order to let go of that which doesn’t serve us, we have to accept our darkness as much as our light; we can’t let go of pain without allowing ourselves to feel it.
The ferocity of rage is like a fire in a wire rubbish bin. There are a few scrunched balls of paper in the bin, maybe some kindling. The fire is dangerous, but for the moment manageable. If we turn our full attention to the fire, we can decide how to put it out, however if we keep the fire in our peripheral vision, refusing to accept or acknowledge it, we risk the fire spreading and engulfing our entire home. The more we resist and reject our darkness, the bigger it grows. Our anger and rage will literally and metaphorically burn us up.
And so today, I made a decision to embrace darkness (my old friend) as much as I strive to embrace and move towards light. It is only by knowing where we came from that we can move forward. It is only by looking at the darkness of the night sky that we can begin to see the stars.
Author: Hannah Hilali
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron