Light: the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible.
I have to admit this definition sounds poetic and mystical, which fits my thoughts perfectly while writing this piece. Light in our lives makes life visible and positive, it stimulates hope and creativity. When I think of what is light in life, I’m filled with memories of uplifting people and events. Even quiet, peaceful moments represent light because that’s often when things become visible. During those times, new ideas crop up, gratitude for what and who is in my life lifts my soul. It’s intriguing to wonder how to never let this light go out.
Most people consider dark the opposite of light because it’s defined as the absence of light. I propose that as long as we have breath, light exists, even if we don’t see or feel it, so it’s never absent. If light is life, then the definition of dark doesn’t work in this conversation. What to call those times when hope and peace are missing? Shadow: a dark area produced by an object coming between rays of light and a surface.
Every morning I know what I want to work on that day. Since most things take longer than estimated, I don’t expect to get everything done. I keep a list (mostly writing items) so I can set priorities.
On days where writing is going smoothly, the words come (even if in rough draft) and the poem/story/essay/novel moves forward. Some days include getting together with colleagues, family, friends OR running errands OR a rare day of relaxation. If some part of that intention plays out, the days ends with me feeling good. Ah, there’s the Light.
What about when something comes between my list and getting work done? There are days where unexpected things happen and throw me off my plan: health/house/weather issues, family/friends situations OR something disturbing happens in the news, resulting in my energy being scattered/low/empty. The day ends and I am frustrated, sad, and angry. Shadow.
In the grip of shadow, I forget prior days of light; my body, mind, and spirit flounder. I’m going to share several things I use to help remind me that the light hasn’t totally gone. Most of these are gathered from reading advice from others, all are things I’ve turned to when feeling down.
remember days where things fall into place,
especially on days when things
just fall …
—Linda D. Addison
Embrace your feelings: telling myself to just get over negative emotions doesn’t work. If they were that easy to let go, there would be little need to do anything. I’ve found that trying to push negative feelings away might press them down for a while, but out of sight isn’t out of mind. They still eat away inside.
When I can accept and sit with my emotions, I can love the Linda that feels bad, tell myself that feeling bad doesn’t make me a bad person. Without judgement, I question the thoughts of negativity that arise.
If I feel frustrated that I will never be able to complete a task, is that true? If it’s something I’ve done before, then I can do it again in the future. If it’s something new, then the truth is that I need more skills or time to accomplish it. There is the possibility that I have set myself a goal that I can’t make headway with at this time.
Feelings are not the same as reality. They can inform me when something needs to be changed or accepted, but they don’t necessarily define who I am and the life I’m living. More than anything else they don’t last forever, because change is inevitable.
Accept that change happens: nothing stays the same. This isn’t easy because recognizable patterns bring comfort, change can be uncomfortable, but it is also inevitable.
For example, yesterday may have been a good day because I got up and did some of the work I planned. Today, I may have the same expectation (“a strong belief that something will happen”) and when it doesn’t happen for reasons that may or may not be obvious, judgement seeps in. I start looking for fault in myself and others. Blame isn’t productive or healthy.
Different day, different possibilities. Just as there are days that feel like shadow rules, there will be days when light flows. When I realize that a task I’m trying to accomplish isn’t happening, I stop pushing, take a deep breath, and look outside at the world around me.
I notice the sun shining, the breeze dancing in trees, and my home holding me safe. I feel gratitude for my life. If the weather is terrible and I don’t feel safe where I live, I can still be grateful for my breath. I know that as long as I am alive, there is the opportunity for change to bring a better future.
Once I stop trying to control the uncontrollable and allow myself even a little relief from feeling bad, I can decide to do something that’s relaxing (or at least distracting) like trimming bushes in the garden, reading a book, or watching a movie.
Choose Love over fear. I believe that everything I say, do, or think is either increasing positive (light), or feeding negative (shadow) in me and the world. This doesn’t mean that I always choose positive actions or feelings, but I intend to do so. When fear (shadow) rises in me, I accept the imperfect human that I am and turn back to love. This deciding to be kind to myself is another way of choosing love.
Words alone don’t always make this happen. As a writer there are times when I sit down to create a piece and nothing happens. I might feel so empty that it’s as if I’ll never find words to write again. So I’ll look at the list of poems I’ve written and remind myself: I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again, just not now.
Another thing I’ve been doing for years is looking in the mirror and saying “I love you”. Especially if I don’t feel great about myself at that moment. This mirror work was very hard to do when I first started. I actually had tears in my eyes in the beginning. Why? Because I was taught (like so many) to look at what I don’t like in myself, rather than loving the Linda that is here and now. The first few hundred times I did it, all I saw were my flaws. How could I love that imperfect person? I kept doing it, because that person in the mirror needed love. Who better to love her than me?
What is the lesson? To evolve towards the best version of myself, I take notice when an incident or person invokes a negative emotion. I ask myself what can I learn from this, so I can convert negative into positive. Is there something that I can change in myself or in the situation, like creating boundaries? It’s possible this is something that can’t be changed, then acceptance is the lesson.
It often takes time to understand why I feel hurt or angry in a situation. This is an ongoing process, supported over the years by doing counseling, talking to trusted friends, reading, and attending sessions with others who present ways to become more self-aware.
In science, the law of conservation of energy states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed—only converted from one form of energy to another. This means that even on days that end with little or nothing done, the light hasn’t gone out: shadow is blocking it. Tomorrow is another day, full of possibilities and Light is waiting in each breath.
Society teaches us to push hard to get work done, and if a goal isn’t accomplished in the time dictated, it is our fault. As thinking life forms, we can choose to change our minds and beliefs when they don’t serve our well-being.
Consider some of the things mentioned here. Search for other ways to find peace and gratitude when light is blocked, because Change rules, and shadow can’t last forever. As long as you have breath, your light will never go out.
kindness increases Love, decreases fear
practice being kind
to your Self first…
Linda D. Addison
Note: This piece is not referring to feeling depressed, anxiety attacks, etc. which are handled by seeking professional help (been there, done that).