Out with lanterns, looking for myself. Day 1 of sobriety. (A joint message from a few of my selves)

(I started writing this message in the shadows and ended it in the light. It felt dishonest to erase any part of it. If it seems disjointed, it is because … it is. And … I am the linchpin within this at the same time – it is all ME.)

In the tunnel …

I heard this phrase twice last week and I don’t believe in accidents.

I have lived for so long in my shadows and learned so much from the anxious fluttering of my heart and the bitter taste anguish leaves on my tongue, that many times I forget there is also light, laughter and joy in my life. I have grown afraid of the latter as if when I indulge in them I take my eye off of the darkness and give it power to consume me. As if when I look towards the light, as in a game of mother may I, my darkness sneaks a step closer to engulfing me.

Today I am writing from the shadows, missing my light. Somehow I stumbled back inside a tunnel and I don’t seem to find my way out. And yet, I can tell it is the questions spinning in my mind like a revolving door that don’t let me out. What is darkness here to tell me? What am I doing wrong? What if I cannot be the person I want to be? What if this time I cannot find my way out? What if …..? What if …. ? What if …?

Image from Kate’s Bookshelf


Inbetween …

The other day someone told me she admired me because I was a strong woman. The more I hear that, the more I understand that I must talk about the tunnels I surf so often in my life so that whoever feels they cannot do strength will understand they probably already are. Because strength never feels like a movie, you don’t ever hear glorious music in your head, you don’t see laurels falling upon your head or the strike of a golden buzzer. More often than not, strength is the way others define your putting one foot in front of another, slowly, blindly, feeling the ground underneath your sole to make sure it is there still, holding you, with your heart in your throat, forgetting to breathe, with your voice shaking and your limbs trembling. Most times what looks like a lion on the outside is in fact a kitten barely pushing storms inside to step out of the comfort of her corner or hiding place. On the inisde, strength truly feels like “simply” showing up and putting one foot in front of another. Strengh nevertheless … .


Found the lantern …

Each time I am engulfed by darkness, at some point, I find the lantern that will guide me to another part of myself. And after almost five decades of doing life as me, I understood a few things to be true, whether I like them or not.

My truth lies mostly in my shadows and there is a portal to that which feels like a dark house of horrors that lives in my brain. It scares me each time, regardless of how many times I have been there and there is no avoiding it, if I want to find another lantern. Brene Brown cautions us about armoring our hearts, that we cannot do that selectively – if we armor the bad, the good goes away as well. It is the same for a life where we choose to live meaningfully – we cannot escape the tunnels and the storms, the only way out is through.

At the end of each tunnel I find a lantern when I get to the point where I can ask myself “what is this here to teach me?” There are tough battels to fight in this darkness before I get there. Much like that lake Harry Potter must row on and not let himself be pulled in the water by shadows and voices crying out of desperation, so must I resist all fake recipes for help and false ways out that my brain points to in the house of horrors, eager to escape the anguish, even at the expense of missing the lesson. Fortunately, even in the scariest of times, that faint voice in me that never lies, whispers: hang in there you’ll get to the lantern. And the lantern usually appears quite close to the ending of the tunnel. By that time, my patience and power of selection have been seriously tried. I have to kiss many frogs before I get to the princess.

I never pick up the wrong lantern. The teachings I receive when the storm in me subsides are never random. There are things I have stumbled upon at various points in my lifetime and they made no sense, they looked like frogs. And one day, they were the princesses. Their time had come.


Today’s lantern …

Life is brutal and beautiful (brutiful). This May, on Mental Health Awareness month, the universe decided to gift me another lantern and so it threw me into yet another tunnel. For the past month I have navigated scary waters, though some quite familiar. I have asked question upon question that paralized me to even utter and almost fell prey to the frogs of thought within my shadows. My medicine, my doctors, my loves, all there, shouting words of love and encouragement from outside of the tunnel, helped me finally get to the lantern.

The latest tunnel led me to possibly my third tatoo: Not what if. What is.

As I embark on a new adventure in my life soon and as I age, it seems it has come time to work on the hardest piece of homework I have ever received. I got this on day zero of my deciding to descipher myself but I had always pushed it to the “extra work” section. Its time has come now, no way around it.

It is clear to me that I am not able to daydream safely (just as an alcoholic cannot drink safely; not even a sip). It has become obvious that my mind, the most sensitive and the strongest part of me cannot engage in projection or reminiscing without going down spirals of doom. The work ahead of me and which I am starting today will, as any recovery, undoubtedly take me up and down. My sobriety looks like living in the present and letting go of stories I make up about the past and expectations about the future. Whether positive or negative, they are both too close to a mental hell for me and I cannot afford to indulge in even a sip.

Today is my first day of sobriety. I am Catalina and I am a what-if-aholic. Day 1 of recovery. What IS. Not what IF.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

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