It’s the middle of the night here. Our windows are open to let in the cool mountain air, and the only sounds I can hear are the crickets chirping outside and the refrigerator humming behind me.
It’s been a full week of birthday revelry as my daughter turned seven just a few days ago, and I feel like perhaps it’s the first truly quiet moment I’ve offered myself in a string of days. Time to reflect, to ruminate, to deeply contemplate. Time to exhale and take it all in.
My heart has felt like it’s been split wide open lately. I’ve found myself verging on tears at the least little thing, (I’m looking at you, new Lion King, I mean, I ALREADY KNEW Mufasa was going to die, but damn), and I’ve been so acutely aware of that deep, cavernous space in my chest that houses my heart.
In this deeply human way.
It aches at the ups and downs of raising and witnessing another human. It aches at the turmoils and confusions of friendships and family. It aches at the tug and pull of a world seemingly set on insanity.
And yet somewhere in all that pain, there is this intense marbling of joy.
I say marbling because that is exactly what I’m being reminded lately that life is. It is this inextricably-bound amalgamation of both light and darkness.
Sadness and joy. Anger and laugher. Confusion and clarity.
And as much as I’ve tried at times to exterminate the darkness in the name of the light, I’m remembering that they’re both made of the same stuff. And you can’t have one without the other.
My Granma Helen was one of the first people who hinted as much to me. She transitioned several years back, but for many, many years we were dear friends and penpals. We would bare our souls in emails with one another, and when I first began meditating and doing readings and unabashedly sharing my joy, she wrote this to me:
“I must admit that sometimes I worry about the "backside" of your happiness and what it will do….But that is a negative and not what I want for You…..”
It was like this sneaky little haiku that both enraged and confounded me. I didn’t want her opinion. I didn’t need her to call me out or strike fear where none was living. And yet there it was. A question mark. A pondering. A little black dot in the middle of a bright white room.
Have you seen the kids movie Inside Out? Her remark felt like Sadness walked into the room and farted in the middle of Joy’s birthday party. And I was Joy, standing there holding my nose trying to keep the festivities rolling amid this putrid smell.
I know, I know. Fart metaphors.
And yet the further I’ve gotten from my reaction to her words, the more I’ve realized that a Sadness fart is an organic part of life too. Even though for YEARS I would have done absolutely anything to keep it at bay.
I think maybe we’ve all gotten caught in that same loop in one way or another. We’ve all at some point let ourselves believe that the goal was all light, that we were working towards some version of perfect that is really just bullshit.
And how could we not? With airbrushed photos on magazines and perfectly-staged lives on social media. With a world that makes us feel that natural isn’t beautiful and that honesty isn’t valued.
But the goal isn’t all light. Because it’s not even remotely possible.
Real life is the marbling. And the insanity stops when we throw up our hands and just let it fucking marble.
Marbling to me is the fun weekend with a great girlfriend that ends with a wrong turn and a terrifying drive on dirt roads up the side of a mountain (that’s a story for another day). It’s the natural childbirth that breaks your spirit and then rebuilds it with the tiny human in your arms. It’s the striving for more in your life and then surrendering into what is.
It’s the tide. Back and forth.
It’s a dance. Step by step.
It’s yelling in anger at the injustices at the border and then crying in joy that you have your own child in your arms.
I’ve realized that I don’t need my life to be perfect; I just need it to feel honest. And sometimes honest is gritty.
I’m done chasing the light. Instead, I’m exploring my heart. The dark spots. The surges of energy. The unexplored caverns. I’m giving myself a giant fucking break. I don’t need to be the skinniest or the smartest or the most successful. I don’t need to be the best meditator or the most amazing wife and mother. I just need to be embodied. And true. And fucking marbled in all my glory.
And I offer the same to you.
Where are you holding unreal expectations of yourself in your life? Where are you chasing light instead of exploring the rivers of darkness? Where are you putting yourself on a perpetual treadmill when you really just need to be still?
We are all both.
We are light, but we are also darkness.
And I welcome them both.
With all their lessons, all their depth.
But mostly with all their honesty.