The Darkness Within

Ghostly view of the bay

We all have a dark side. For some, it follows us around like a childhood ghost, just visible in the corner of our eyes. And then it’s knocking on the door, demanding to come in. Like we would ever want to welcome that dark guest into our lives.

But we do.

Your dark side goes through life gathering up anxieties and worries and stores them for those moments when you wake in the middle of the night and need something to be fearful about. And then you start the worrying game, worrying about things that matter but about which you can do nothing and worrying about things that don’t matter but seem so utterly overwhelming.

It helps to have a safe place to go. Not a physical place because you won’t always be able to go there. No, it needs to be a place inside your head where the child you once were can think about fireside stories, of cups of hot chocolate, and your faithful dog. The happy memories that create a warm glow, keeping you safe from the perils of the world.

We also need to know what triggers the darkness. Many of our fears and anxieties were laid down when we did not have words or sufficient thoughts to understand them. And then those terrors and dreads are there to drown our emotional state in blackness without the logic of any rational explanation.

In many ways, it is better that we acknowledge the existence of our dark side because denying its existence is like denying your enemy. Putting your head under the blanket in the middle of the night while the darkness grows stronger inside you.

So when darkness comes knocking on your door, ask what it has to say. Ask why you should let it in and what miseries it has brought as unwelcome gifts. What past regrets, what future anxieties does the dark side want to unwrap.

The truth of who you are is a bright light that shines from deep inside you. It is a light that creates happy memories and beautiful futures, like photo albums of human treasures. It is a light that fulfills your ambitions and denies the threats of failure that stop you from ever beginning. It is a light that can extinguish the suffocating darkness.

You need it to shine. And the world needs to see it. The light was there at the beginning and it needs to be there at the end.

The Risk of Living

Lightning StrikesWhat makes an 80 year old woman jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet? Maybe she wants to prove to herself that she’s finally a risk taker. Perhaps it’s for the thrill. Or just because she can.

Every day we take risks. Most of the time we don’t even think about it because the risk is so stacked in our favor that there’s hardly a risk at all. Like eating raw oysters. Or taking a taxi ride in New York City.

Then of course there is the opposite of risk. Comfort. Being so comfortable where we are that we never want to risk losing what we have. But without risk, life is very dull indeed.

Sometimes it helps to think in extremes. To wonder about your life if everything was to change overnight. What would you risk everything for? For your children’s lives? Certainly. To escape an inevitable death? Probably. To gain your freedom from an abusive relationship? Maybe. To leave behind a prosperous career to do something you love?

Risk and motivation are very closely linked. You can’t have one without the other. Most extreme motivation involves taking significant risks. And risks, after all, are assessments of probability. The probability that there is a greater prospect of a positive return over the risk of loss. Or not.

Sometimes others take the risk for us. Like a partner who leaves you. Or a boss who lets you go. But some of the greatest achievements come out of adversity.

Perhaps the greatest risk you can face is the risk of losing your life. Of course, in the end it’s not a risk at all. It’s a certainty. We all face the grim reaper in the final chapter. There is no risk we can take that will save us from mortality. All of our vain attempts at building comfort and security will mean nothing when that time inevitably comes.

In the end we will always wish we had done something more. How, if we could go back in time, we would reach out for what we could have even if it risked losing what we were holding onto.

The human spirit is driven by risk. There is no progress in life without it. And the greatest risk of all is not to live the incredible life you could really have.

And looking back over your life, knowing you were just too comfortable to do anything about it.

I Have Decided to be Someone Else

RenewalI love it when people say you should just be yourself. Personally, I think that limits your options.

I don’t know about you, but my “self” was developed a long time ago and I’m not sure if that person is who I want to be today. For instance, from my childhood, I inherited my deepest fears, my hopes and dreams; from my youth, I found first love, ambition, ridicule and disappointment; and from adulthood I discovered reality, deception and betrayal. All of these experiences, and more, have created who I am—anxious, conformist and unfulfilled.

I have therefore decided to be someone else.

But there is a catch: I want to break up with myself but I’m not sure if I have the courage to move on. It’s ironic how our deepest fears live with us forever but life kills our hopes and dreams.

The person I have given the most advice to in my life is myself. Clearly, it is now time that I start listening. So I am going to take it a step at a time. Firstly, I’m going to visualize the person I want to be. I admit that being two inches taller may be unachievable at this stage in my life but most other things are up for grabs. I am going to imagine every detail of what it would be like to be my ideal self. Then I am going to do something different every single day that takes me to where I want to be.

That’s it.

So if you don’t recognize me soon or think that I have really changed, then I’m on my way. And if you take my advice and do the same thing, then we can all be strangers together in our new world.

There may be no time like the present; but there can be no more exciting place to live in than a better future.

Change

115969627Real life is what happens while we console ourselves with hopes and dreams. It’s a bit like staring at a glossy holiday brochure, longing to be on that distant sandy beach. But never taking the trip.

Hopes and dreams without action have an outcome of despair. Loveless relationships, unfulfilled ambitions and soulless lives will eventually leave you only with the emptiness of hope.

To change your life for the better takes action. But most of us continue exactly as we are. For some of us, it’s a fear of change. For others, it’s a fear of losing what we have. And then there is the false belief that we are powerless to change anything. So we do the same things, day in day out, hoping that life will one day get better. But it never does.

If you’ve read the true stories I write, you will know that I grew up with the constant horror of insanity, addiction, poverty and abuse. Combined, they destroyed my childhood and left me as a teenager destitute of positive emotions, utterly incapable of participating normally in the grown-up world.

As a child, I could not take control of my life because others had control. But as I grew into an adult, control passed to me and with it came a burning ambition to have something better. And I realized that if you want things to change, you have to have an element of control. It is impossible to control everything in our lives but that is not the point. With even a small amount of control, you can achieve a positive change. So long as you act. Plans and ambitions can give you a great illusion of progress. Without action, they are dreams that never come true.

I am often asked how I achieved success in my life after growing up with such a dreadful childhood. Why didn’t I simply give up and blame others? My answer is simple: I knew that life could be better. And if you are in the lowest, darkest place, there are so many levels of beauty right above you. Beauty, waiting for you to reach out and touch it.

Actually, we should all live with hopes and dreams. But to fulfill your life, you need action and action means change and for change you need some level of control. The time to start is today. Every day you can change something that improves your life, maybe in a tiny way, maybe in a huge way. Even if you are in a terrible, hopeless place right now, small improvements every day will eventually lead to a transformation.

If we don’t change, we will forever be staring at the same holiday brochure, never making the journey. Waiting for our dreams to come true. But forever trapped in a dark cellar, terrified of what is hiding in the corner.

While right above our heads­ is the light of beauty.

You Are Not Alone

I didn’t know that life would be like this. I didn’t know that part of me would have to live in that dark cellar forever. And  then I was here, thinking and being the person that I am and wondering about everything. Life unfolds itself on you. For some, it is a warm blanket that keeps out the cold shrill wind of existence. For others, it is a devastating grief that works its way into everything that we hoped to be, destroying our ambitions and creating our deepest fears. And then we are here. Thinking, knowing and being.

I know, like you, that we can have more than this. We spent our teenage years dreaming about what we would become, about the things we would create and the person who would change the world. And then the real world started and we are here wondering what it is all about. And crying inside for something, knowing how it ends.

But every one of us has the will, the opportunity, the need to create the future. To no longer live in the past, terrified of something we cannot see that lives in the darkness of the cellar. We are able to change. Able to be something more than we are.

Start today. Don’t even think about it. Break out of the cellar that your mind has put you in and be something more, something that you planned to be, something that was meant to be. Don’t be the lyrics of the same sad song that plays over and over inside your head.

Life isn’t over. It isn’t the lyrics of a song. It’s just here and we are not just passing through. And we control it. If only we knew. That’s it. Start today. Climb out of the cellar. Climb out of the darkness.

And even if you are not afraid or do not live in the darkness, know this. There is no future without you.

And I will not let you be alone.

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