The light is warm and inviting. During the day, there is sunlight that floods the room. At night it is warm and comfortable.
The room is filled with your favorite books, the right furniture, a kitchen, a soft bed, everything you need. It would be easy to spend all your days here — and indeed you have, comforted by the familiarity of the space.
Until one day, in tracing the lines of the walls, your fingers find a crack in the wall that reveals itself to be a door. You lean into it, and it opens into a hallway, elaborate and large. You don’t even stop to grab a flashlight.
There is artwork lining walls, a greenhouse flooded with sun, a ballroom with tall chandeliers. Beyond those, more rooms, some dark, some light, some empty, some filled with treasures.
And you realize that you’ve been living in this mansion all along, but only in one room.
That’s where I found myself this week, realizing that I had been living in one room of myself.
For the sake of metaphors, we’ll call it the Study. It’s where all the logical workings of business and finance and life have been happening for me. And while it has its own wonders, it’s become stifling and small. I’ve outgrown it.
The depth of who I am is much more daring and expansive. There are rooms I still have not discovered. But there is light and comfort, there is the seduction of candlelight and captivating scent of foreign flowers, there is darkness and wonder and mystery. There are hidden passageways and forgotten places waiting to be discovered. And even though I know it all, I am exploring and running the halls, laughing.
Where are you living?
I hold myself back all the time.
Sometimes, I’m holding myself back from myself, sometimes from my desires. Sometimes, I’m just holding myself back because I’m terrified of the power I could step into, or what I’ll find when I let go.
I think about letting go a lot. I’ve always been fascinated by Jean Grey from the X-Men comics. If I could be any superhero, it would be her, as troubled as she is by her power. Maybe I can’t move things with my mind, but something about having that expanse of power inside of us has always resonated with me.
We simply live within the walls built by society.
We are told that we should be these things and ought not do those things. We are regulated and indoctrinated with theories about wrong and right.
We are shamed into smallness.
Obviously, there are some things we cannot unleash. There is anger and rage and destruction that need to be directed in constructive ways.
But there’s always a darkness inside us. We may spend our lives running from it, or we many choose to contemplate it. What I’ve found is that the more I’ve sought to understand the darkness, the softer it becomes. It is not bad or evil. It does not make me, anymore than the light does.
So what are we made by?
Is it our DNA? Our stories? The routines we live our lives by? Our deepest desires? The impulses we give in to? What we unleash when we are angry, or create when in love?
I’m listening to it all. And I don’t know what that will bring, but I’m done holding back.
I’m witnessing the expanse of who I am, and I’m not containing it anymore simply because it may be judged.
For a week, I couldn’t sleep. Trying to fall asleep was a challenge: I was partly convinced I need to use the time to visualize the upcoming event I was attending, trying to see myself succeeding, but instead falling into a strange meditative state that wasn’t quite sleep. When sleep finally came, it was broken. I woke one night panicked that I had heard something. It wasn’t just one worst case scenario that mind was stuck on — it was all of them.
Then Friday came. On my drive from New Jersey to Pennsylvania, I could feel that uneasiness at the pit of my stomach start.
I was shooting in one of the biggest archery tournaments around, and it was my first time on the line at a competition since last January.
By most people’s measures, this would have been a bad idea. You don’t go into a competition so green, with hardly any regular weekly practice. But I was going to spend time with friends more than anything else.
There are many reasons I shoot: To discover who I am. To learn what I am capable of. To dig deeper into my psychology. To meet new people. To be with friends. To challenge myself. To flirt. To learn how to be in a moment deeply and fully.
Two weeks prior to the competition I had shot a 501 in a practice round. If I could shoot that on the line, I could have potentially been towards the top.
Instead, the exact opposite happened: I bombed.
It was the worst case scenario: 5 missed shots, problems with my form, and a terrible score. All of the target panic I thought I had worked through came flooding back. I literally had the worst day of shooting I could imagine.
And yet, it was exactly what I needed.
Sometimes, you have to live your worst fears to get over them, to realize you can survive them.
Once I realized I had pretty much hit bottom, all the pressure I had been putting on myself eased. I was able to make some really good shots. I wasn’t obsessed with scoring anymore; I was just shooting for myself and trying to execute beautiful shots. Even then, I could still feel a bit of the panic, but it began to die.
What I valued even more was that I could find myself in a terrible situation and not allow emotions to overtake me. I didn’t break. In fact, I had fun. I laughed with friends and encouraged others. I kept smiling. There was a resilience that I had never seen in myself before.
Maybe my score was a losing one, maybe I was even in last place, but it was a different type of win — one that I needed more than a high score.
And maybe that means that in the bigger picture of all that’s happening in the world right now, this reality may not be one we want but rather one we need to break through finally.