Light and shadow intersect in deep healing.

In order for healing to occur, our good and evil, light and shadow must overlap. Embrace your darkness. See what wonders emerge.

Ancient shamans used to perform a balancing ritual, one in which light and dark meet. The light and dark must meet to integrate otherwise we run the risk of the dark erupting and manifesting in depression, anger, misadventure. Repressing our shadow blocks us from living authentically. It isn’t something to be afraid of exploring.

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Sitting in a Melbourne pub on a Tuesday afternoon in March I idly sifted through the photos on my iPad and found a screen shot of a comment I had left on a friend’s Facebook post in 2014. I don’t remember the post but it must have held some meaning for me to take a shot of my comment and save it all this time. I wrote:

I wonder how often we are open to allowing others to see our darkness, so they can forgive us and love us. I know I make it difficult for people to love me because I hide my darkness from them for fear of … for fear of everything. Being abandoned, being vulnerable, having to explain myself, defend myself. Blah, blah, blah (Yes, I wrote blah, blah, blah).
On the other hand, why is it I am aware of the darkness in others, and when I soften to it I am more willing to accept them for who they are and embrace them more?

Someone responded to my comment saying, “when we are being authentic and vulnerable we are exposing that shame, that fear, that guilt or whatever it is for us that keeps us small or limited/ frightened. People who love and know you, won’t hold it against you, they will love you more.”

It was odd to read this and reflect. I’ve not been afraid to be vulnerable in sharing deep thoughts and feelings. People have commented on my writing and applauded my vulnerability. However, the one person I felt I should have been able to truly show my darkness too, didn’t embrace me more but rather walked away.

Sitting in that Melbourne bar, on my second glass of red wine, I realised it was not my darkness he was afraid of but my light. He also acknowledged he had dimmed my light and was letting me go because of it. Yes, he did actually say that and while I’m not entirely convinced he is that sensitive or attuned, it is nice to hold onto, even though I’d rather villainise him. What I realise now is there was no understanding in him. No amount of explanation could help him meet me, see me, know me, understand me. He was unable to hold me in my darkness, or my light, to accept or comprehend me simply because he had never interrogated or opened to his own darkness. But rather stuffed it down, denied it and avoided it. You can’t hold someone else in their darkness if you don’t acknowledge your own. It would be something too foreign, too frightening.

Now, when I meet people I articulate my darkness. It’s hard to show it but I talk about it, warn people, make them aware so they have a chance to run early and so they know what to expect but most of all to save myself the bother of muddling through it and being disappointed later.

The people who really know me, who really love me, do in fact love me even more once they’ve seen it, felt it, held me through it. These champions of mine; my son, my sister, my friends; see the whole of me and keep on supporting me. Funny my life partner, was not one of them. I knew the moment I accepted his desperate, and now I realise manipulative plea because he’s done the same to another, to support him that I was doomed to a life less than I wanted. I saw it all in that moment and yet was too afraid to say no, such was his need.

I made an observation to a friend that I seem to have a habit of collecting broken birds. People who need healing come to me. I’ve never chosen a partner, they’ve chosen me and as I reflect, they all needed healing. I no longer want to heal people who drain me, who turn around and smite me, hurt me as a consequence. Recently, a man asked how my dating life was going. I mentioned it wasn’t really going and something along the lines of seeming to attract men who were afraid to be alone regardless of a glaring mismatch, that many needed validation, or something along those lines. He made the observation that I attract broken pigeons because I am an empath. How astute. He too had been doing the same, until our meeting.

I have meandered away from where I began, and, in my wandering, I now know that it’s unlikely anyone who needs to be healed will be a worthy witness to my dark side. I am not afraid of my darkness, I can love others despite theirs. I can love someone who is willing to show their darkness and not play small, not limit themselves or our relationship by keeping things sanitary and falsely even keeled. I know too that I require a man who will not run from mine. Who will hold fast. Who will embrace me and help me weather the storm. Who I can be truly vulnerable with and who will ride out the rolling, roiling ocean of feminine emotion while remaining steadfastly in his masculine.

I’ve been talking a lot about the masculine and feminine lately, it’s a theme that keeps coming up for me. Years ago, two very intuitive and spiritual men said they could see me running women’s circles about the divine feminine, female energy and goddess energy. I laughed. It was so far outside my comfort zone, interest and lifestyle it just didn’t seem possible. Once I became more interested in spirituality it seemed possible just not probable. At the time I so often defaulted to my masculine that I had no sense of my feminine. I actually ran from it. In order to survive in my work I had to project toughness, though I believe I was, and was often complemented for being, caring and empathetic. In my primary relationship I had to fight to be heard and seen. I also had to protect myself so often that the feminine was very deeply buried. But here she is emerging. Sometimes as Kali energy, sometimes as Venus energy. People notice. I see people notice it. This is new for me. I have been fortunate to have a wonderful man come into my life who has allowed me to explore the feminine. I have seen too how characteristics and behaviours in other men, not fully in their masculine, throw me out of it. And still I digress from my initial musings on dark and light. But perhaps I may still be on track; for while I am now revealing and feeling more into and enjoying the soft feminine, it is the revealing of the dark feminine that I haven’t explored before and that’s where the path takes me.

I wonder, will I bond with a partner who will be open to my darkness as well as my light, so he might love the whole of me? Will I partner with a man without the fear of abandonment, with whom I can be vulnerable, without having to explain myself or defend myself, a man who will hold me not only in my light but also when the tempest rises thus allowing my heart to remain open and unobstructed? Will I unite with an ally who appreciates being seen and supported in their light and dark? A dream I trust can be a reality. I welcome such a gift.

Love isn’t safe; its beauty is in the unpredictable, the rise and fall, the light and dark. To make it safe only makes it temporary. Know who you are. Know what you want. Be vulnerable. Express yourself and tell your partner what you need. Learn what they need. Be conscious. Talk to the people you love. Commit consciously and meet, truly meet them. This and more.

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Being alone is like wandering in a murky twilight. It’s also the best way to heal.

The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. 

―Osho

I wrote recently of wanting to explore the wild woman within. For some, that was a strange and unfamiliar term.  Simply put, it’s about defining, redefining and getting clear on what matters most to me, who I am as an individual, as a woman. What I didn’t mention in that previous post was that part of the impetus for this exploration has been the startling realisation that humans are so conditioned to be partnered, that many, having experienced a relationship break up,  don’t allow themselves time heal before seeking a new replacement partner. They ignore their emotions, bottle things up and expect a new partner to step in and replace the previous one.  Then there are those who can’t leave a relationship without seeking a soft landing and lining up the next person before leaving their current partner. The ramifications of these behaviours, without healing and without time out before forming a new relationship, means that we end up bleeding all over someone who hasn’t hurt us. It might not happen immediately, but it will happen.

I’ve been surprised by the number of people I have met who are afraid to be alone.  Two men,  both had 19-year marriages that ended, each re-partnered very quickly with another woman. One, had a child with his new partner. Which he said was an unfortunate mistake as he already had four children and she a child of her own.  I say unfortunate, not because he does not love his child, but he knew, and it proved to be true, that sadly this relationship was not destined to last. The other man had been with his new partner for several months and had recently broken up.  He was so heartbroken over this relationship that he was selling his house to move away from the memories of their time together.  He so desperately missed the little things; reading newspapers together on a Sunday, cooking meals together, calling someone at the end of the day, that he was actively searching for another partner to fill the empty spaces.

I too initially missed those same things: weekend breakfasts on the deck,  making my beloved a cup of tea, sharing the highlights and low points of a day. I have since come to the realisation that being alone after a long (22 years) relationship has ended is a good opportunity find out who I am as an individual, outside the confines of a partnership. I have realised too that many behaviours happen in a context and once the context is removed so are the behaviours.  This ’empty’ and undefined space was initially alarming to me but gradually I came to see it for the liberating opportunity it is and became excited to explore, with a clean slate, how I might interact and react in situations now.

Back to my friend who was selling his house. Having turned 50 a few months earlier his dream was to live for 6 weeks in New York, renting an apartment, frequenting cafes and generally just enjoying the vibe of that great big, fascinating metropolis.  When I asked when he was planning to go he claimed it was too late, the year was coming to an end.  It wasn’t even August. Then he said it would be winter soon and that wouldn’t be any good. I thought it would be fabulous, the icy streets of New York, skating in Central Park, surely this would be just as fun as a summer sojourn? Enquiring into this further it was revealed that he didn’t want to go alone and wanted a partner to go with.  Having travelled on my own I know there are times when you just want to share experiences with someone but putting a dream on hold because there is no one to go with and not wanting to be alone. Come on! That’s no good.

I encouraged him to make plans, take his leave and go.  No, no. He simply couldn’t be alone.  I shared all the incredible overseas adventures I had been on alone and how enriching it was. Seeing I was getting nowhere I suggested he go for three weeks on his own and then invite a friend or his daughters to come over and spend the following three weeks. No. He simply could not conceive of being alone.

Gobsmacked, I challenged this mindset further. I truly believe that we owe it to our next partners (if indeed there is to be another partner) to have spent time alone. To unravel the coils of relationship, to sever ties with old partners, to wrestle with the hurts, the disappointments, the annoyances and the habits formed. Surely, he could see how destructive moving into a new relationship would be when he was pining over a lost love? As it turns out, he wasn’t interested in growth or healing.  He wanted to fill a gaping space and fill it quickly.

I share theses stories, not to be unkind or judgemental. They provided me with an insight and a lesson for myself.  I do find it very sad however, that the drive to be attached is so strong that sense and reason seem to get lost.  Yet, I get it. We are designed to be coupled but I fear there are so many recently separated men and women who so desperately want to feel whole again that they jump into the next relationship, only to see it crumble too.  Or, worse still, destroy the person they partner with. I felt the ache, I felt the intense desire to be partnered, I felt the hollow emptiness not only of living alone but knowing no one would walk through the door again. The desire to share, to talk, to embrace and connect was strong.  I felt it. There was an urgency to it. It is a physical ache; a deep longing and it cries out to be sated. But the longer I allowed myself to feel that discomfort the more I realised how much I was healing. And the more I was healing the more I realised I needed to do this for myself otherwise I would repeat the same patterns, that old behaviours would continue and that I would accept the same behaviour in a new partner and nothing would change; simply a new face and an old story. I realised a great merit and freedom in being alone.  Sadly, so many fear it and actively avoid pain, close themselves off to the roiling emotions and stuff it all down.

Relationship breakups hurt. You suffer grief and loss, similar to a death. There’s regret and sadness, for me there was humiliation, embarrassment and a sense of failure, but the best thing to do is feel it all.  Feel the fear, the shame, the hurt, the anger, the need for revenge, the emptiness and the numbness.  Then gear up again for the anger and despair to come flooding back in. Because they creep back in when least expected.

We live in a world where we don’t like the unsanitary, the messy, the inconvenient.  We shy away from discomfort and do our best to soften any blows that come our way.  Let me tell you, this is one time you need to get down and dirty, feel the pain in every iteration. Cry, scream, howl at the moon. Punch. Scream some more if you have to. Flail about. Curl up unbathed and rock. You need to feel the pain, you need to grieve the loss, you need to move through it and emerge, shaken but finally upright with your face to the sun once more.

It’s not easy. It bloody hard.  It’s scary. It’s like wandering in a murky twilight without a torch, hoping to find your way.  Then, when you emerge, connect again with others.  In fact, it’s good to get out and talk with people. It’s good to spend time with others. For me, spending time with male and female friends, having coffee, dinner, going places has been delightful.  It is lovely to listen to someone and be truly present because I have no expectations of them.  I have rebuilt some confidence conversing with men from diverse backgrounds and enjoying their company. Do I want a serious relationship? Hell no.  It’s too early.  It’s time to explore the wonders of the world, my inner strengths and to get really clear on my boundaries, my values, my-self.

To be alone is to heal. We owe it ourselves and to the cultivation of genuine and authentic relationships to be alone. So, I settle in to learn the lessons of aloneness; to figure out what inspires me, to create new dreams and I am grateful for the opportunity.

“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it’s not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person–without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.”

Osho