“Everybody gets lost somehow; it’s where we were meant to start” Zachary Britt Last month marked the fifth anniversary of The Renegade Press, as well as the first anniversary of a friend taking his own life. I had originally planned on creating two separate entries to celebrate my achievement and commiserate the loss of […]
The power of surrender and of trust.
“Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”
– Alan Watts
I left my home to deal with myself. I was hurting, in pain, because I was fighting internally. I was heart broken, but I could not let go of the aching. I was suffering. I thought the hardship was mutual. I believed he was going through the same torment; wishing for the same solution. I accepted what I had to endure.
Once he told me that his choice to commit was careless and I was not considered, I let go. I understood his agenda, acknowledged the negativity it was causing (Eckhart Tolle’s trusting of pain is noteworthy) and I carefully considered the power of my potential decisions. Love left me, then and there. I said goodbye. I was rid of this inner conflict and subsequently, light poured in. I could now grant myself the love I deserve, within me. I wanted to take care of myself and recover my authenticity. I rid myself of the pain by making a simple choice of losing the battle. I no longer felt like broken glass. The relief, the lifting of so much heaviness, was huge.
I reclaimed my soul from the lost and found within a day. It was unbelievable. I was struggling for so long to take care of myself and not feel so unhappy. I tried so hard to break free. But my subconscious was trapped. And then… all of a sudden I am… free?!
Not only did I walk with more confidence; I strutted with a strength I have never known. Daily life was not so difficult. I had been to that deep bottomless pit, laid there trapped for about a year, and survived. I was myself again. I levitated. I felt like I had come out of Hans Solo’s carbonite cast. I am so grateful to my facilitator, because he gave me the closure I needed to move on. I have never felt so whole. I reached a moment of higher consciousness.
As I was starting to unravel inner peace, the world decided to join me. I did not ask for it to. It just happened. This is why I have a deep faith. A few weeks ago, I was rewarded for my years of diligence and courage. I was acknowledged by a powerful, impartial entity named Parsons School of Design. Once again, I was back in the game of being an entrepreneur and driving self-belief. All of a sudden, doubt was no longer an option: I was being rewarded, not rejected, for being myself. At a time when I needed to feel that.
I felt unbreakable, unstoppable. I was content. So I moved forward with everything I had. I danced like I never danced before. I talked to anyone I could. I hugged as many people I was able to. I honoured my learnings respectfully and with deep appreciation. I chose to relentlessly give out my legacy– my soul, not my ambition– to others in the present as did Annie Dillard, in the hope of bringing something into their lives. They did not need to know my name. I only wished to see them flourish. Because I knew what it was like to fall and scratch at the walls.
I was no longer detached and dying of alienation. I did not know I was inflicting this harm unto myself. As Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova says, “it’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator”. From now on, I chose to liberate myself by making simple choices and giving myself to others genuinely, without ego. I only acted with integrity. And once again, within a matter of days from my last moment of recognition, the world responded.
He appeared. An instant connection. He came into my life with his soft blue eyes and his sincerity. It hit me the moment we exchanged words. Unexpectedly. This feeling… this individual blew my mind. He is everything I have wanted. He is everything I have never had. He is divinity defined. I knew this from one tiny, unexpected moment that would usually pass me by. It stung. An exchange of words… was all that was needed.
Knowing myself so well, I knew what this meant, what this was (reflecting on Aristotle’s “relationships of shared virtue”). To ignore it would be to ignore truth. No matter how vulnerable. No matter what was ahead. And the universe gave him to me. More like, I gave him to me. God, that makes me smile with tears running down my face. This joy… joy not happiness. The absolute. The most precious gift. JOY. This exists people! Joy has presented itself because I rewarded myself first. I know I am worthy. This is no accident either: he is the culmination of my life’s work.
Within weeks, my destiny has been reformed. Naturally, rapidly, without force. I tried for so long to force it. But because I chose to no longer fight, and surrender instead, the purest emancipation has taken place. Acceptance is one thing; surrender is another, as author Mark Nepo states. I finally saw the situation for what it was, not how I wished it could be. Words of bitterness were no longer expressed. I was so bitter, so hurt, but I could not understand why. I did not see the elephant in the room; I was blinded. I was hurt by people not being what I wanted them to be as much as he wasn’t. I knew it was not personal… but I was so hurt.
Surrendering is the secret. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of knowing yourself, and differentiating between what you can control and what you can not. It is spiritual empowerment. Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements acted as my inner voice: act with purpose; make the right choices.
It has taken me this journey to get here. I never thought I would say these words: I am in love with myself, with my life, with the world, with a soul mate; I am light; I attract light; I am defined only by my soul. I cannot thank myself enough for getting here. It is due to my actions, after all.
Only we can make these choices. I wish for nothing more, other than to share my experience, in the hope I may challenge someone’s train of thought and break self-doubt. Be honest with yourself. Confront your demons. Go through the pain, the solitude. It will only bring you joy, eventually. Trust me. It has taken me this long, this much, to get here. And the world responds: a new dream will form.
I always enjoy festivals in solitude, quite alone, with perhaps just a few dear ones in my room, and very quietly — for are not all my people either dead or far away? But what a joy it is to me then to remember how big with love is a certain human breast. For, after all, I am dependent upon the outside world — the hurly-burly in which we live. I do not add my laughter to its medley of voices, nor do I join its chorus of lies, — but it is as if the best in man could shut itself up, and only half of him sallied forth dreaming.
How fortunate you are, or, I should say, how beautiful, how good, how right! I mean that you bear your heart as a conscious possession, securely; whereas we are obliged every minute to conceal ours. You see everything so warmly, with such beautiful serenity, just like a reflection of yourself; and then with the same serenity you give unto each his due.
Stepping into Leo Tolstoy’s world.
Whenever a bemused Russian has asked me “why Russia?”, my eyes light up and I respond eagerly: “I have dreamed of visiting Russia in the Winter since I was a little girl because of the art, the history, the literature and the movements which intertwine them: Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Catherine the Great, the Trans-Siberian, Repin, Fabergé, Blok, the Winter Palace… you name it”. If I was to ever be exact with my response and narrow it down to one thing, it would be due to my great love for realism and the philosophies of my most beloved teacher, Leo Tolstoy. He, himself, beautifully encapsulates the intricacies of this nation’s identity.
Because of the actual beauty Tolstoy infused in his writing and teachings, I knew there was a deep beauty within Russia I was very curious about. A beauty hardly any Westerner bothers to explore. While living in Moscow the first time, I befriended a quiet, inquisitive man named Dmitriy. We shared similar values and a common intellect, so a bond easily formed. Dmitry’s family lives in Tula, the province where Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana estate is situated. Tolstoy called this place his “inaccessible literary stronghold” where he produced his most notable works from and his family lived there for generations. I was invited to stay at Dmitry’s family home and thus, this allowed me to visit Yasnaya Polyana. I, of course, happily accepted. For Dmitry’s generosity and the opportunity he provided me with, I am deeply humbled. This is something I will never forget.
Retreating to the grand estate of where Tolstoy was raised, I greatly respected and appreciated the magic and intimacy it possessed. With the snow laden ponds, the expanse of symbolic white-trunk birch trees, the authentic wooden huts, little children giggling as they pass you on horse and sleigh, the naked apple orchards and the serenity of nature. Being there felt sacred as well as completely and utterly surreal. Yasnaya Polyana has a soul and an energy you feel with every fibre of your being. To have immersed myself in the energy and awe of this place, of Tolstoy and the atmosphere, takes my breath away and fills me with adulation.
In the last few years of his life, Tolstoy dictated to his secretary, N.N. Gusev, he wanted to be buried at Yasnaya Polyana: “there should be no ceremonies while burying my body; a wooden coffin, and let anybody who will be willing to take it to the Old Zakaz forest, to the place of the little green stick, by the ravine. At least, there’s a reason for selecting that and no other place”. As Tolstoy said this, Gusev observed there were tears in his eyes. The mythology of the little green stick seems very fitting for a place like this. Deep in a soft, snow-filled forest at the end of winter, the enchanted tomb lies silently before a cascading, snow-capped ravine enclosed by an interstitial network of trees. Both romantically idyllic and elegiac, it resonates with the mesmeric poignancy of a nostalgic reminiscence or a lucid dream.
It was Tolstoy’s most beloved eldest brother, Nikolai, who narrated the story of the little green stick to him and his siblings as a child. When Nikolai was 12 years old, he once told his family he held a great secret that could make all men everlastingly happy. If it could be revealed, nobody would die any more, there would be no wars or illnesses and nothing untoward in the world. Everyone would love one another and become “Ant Brothers”. The catch was one needed to find a little green stick, buried on the edge of the ravine in Old Zakaz, as the secret to cure ills of man was inscribed.
Playing the game of the “Ant Brotherhood”, the five Tolstoy children settled under armchairs covered with shawls, sitting there and snuggling up together, tenderly discussing the necessities for happiness and how they would love others if they were to find the magic stick. When he was over seventy years of age, Tolstoy reminisced about the world which they created: “it was so very good, and I am grateful to God that I could play like that. We called it a game, though anything in the world is a game except that”. “The ideal of Ant Brothers clinging lovingly to one another, only not under two armchairs curtained by shawls, but of all the people of the world under the wide dome of heaven, has remained unaltered for me. As I then believed that there was a little green stick whereon was written something which would destroy all evil in men and give them great blessings, so I now believe that such truth exists among people and will be revealed to them and will give them what it promises.”
Leo Tolstoy’s grave seems simple: a mound on the edge of the ravine, neither tombstone nor cross. But this grave, as well as the peace and quiet of the old forest and the tranquility of the entire estate, can tell us a lot about Tolstoy and his understanding of life and death. His undying loyalty to the little green stick is a tribute to his entire character.
Freeing yourself of personal imprisonment through loving, trusting and relying on oneself.
Oscar Wilde proclaimed “it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person”.
It seems to be the standard to believe we require companionship to complete who we are, emphasising on the security it provides. It is also less unpleasant than the constant inner conflict we endure when alone. I have drawn the conclusion, you can never be truly fulfilled by companionship or yourself, until you embrace discovering oneself alone. As Alain de Botton once said, “the best guarantor of ending up in a good relationship is the capacity to be alone”.
Loneliness is not easy to endure and it never fully leaves you, making you restlessly long for connection, communal intimacy or escape. It is burdensome and suffering, where “one’s inner scream becomes deafening, deadening, severing any thread of connection to lives”, as Maria Popova puts it.
After a failed relationship, British Author Olivia Laing relocated to the USA and found herself at the mercy of daily, bone-deep loneliness that was all-consuming:
“Loneliness is difficult to confess; difficult too to categorise. Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person, as much a part of one’s being as laughing easily of having red hair. Then again, it can be transient, lapping in and out in reaction to external circumstance, like the loneliness that follows on the heels of a bereavement, break-up or change in social circles.”
“Mortality is lonely. Physical existence is lonely by its nature,stuck in a body that’s moving inexorably towards decay, shrinking, wastage and fracture.Then there’s the loneliness of bereavement, the loneliness of lost or damaged love, of missing one or many specific people, the loneliness of mourning.”
“Like depression, like melancholy or restlessness, it (loneliness) is subject too to pathologisation, to being considered a disease. It has been said emphatically that loneliness serves no purpose… Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t think any experience so much a part of our common shared lives can be entirely devoid of meaning, without a richness and a value of some kind.”
Experiencing such turmoil attached to loneliness is unproductive, which society has linked to failing at a fulfilling life. Yet the restlessness and anguish associated with being alone can trigger great creativity and presence, discovering what it is to be alive.
To break free of that personal imprisonment (thus bringing about societal change) through loving, trusting and relying on oneself, we are then able to achieve solitude instead which liberates the spirit: “loneliness might be taking you towards an otherwise unreachable experience of reality”. Simply put, solitude is reached when you accept “the fact that loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive”. Laing adds:
“I don’t believe the cure for loneliness is meeting someone, not necessarily. I think it is about two things: learning how to befriend yourself and understanding that many of the things that seem to afflict us as individuals are in fact a result of larger forces of stigma and exclusion, which can and should be resisted”.
“Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each other. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.”
It was Hemingway who introduced me to an honest life. And it is art which offers me depth and beauty simultaneously. My dreams fill me with hope. But you are the only one who harmonises my spirit, my heart, my conscience, with the softest poetry and deepest sincerity.
Even in suppression you selflessly hand me acceptance, empowerment and profound love. You are here.
Yet my mind and soul are elsewhere, chasing dreams; dreams which you light up for me. And maybe your mind and soul are elsewhere too. We are not to blame. There is nothing wrong with the intimate world between you and I. That world which encapsulates Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the philosophies of Alain Badiou, the smell of roses, the sound of waves arriving on the shore. Everything that is beautiful on this Earth. You are here.
I think of you. I think of my love for you even now and a torrent of awe overflows. I cannot escape the overwhelming rawness of emotion that exudes. I cannot escape. My heart still thanks me for having touched your hand, for having kissed your lips, for having looked into your eyes, for having adored your smile. Push aside the temporary pain and feel my hand in yours. You are with me, locked away, on my journey. You are here.
All around me I will find you: in the brushstrokes of a painting, during quiet reflection, in the dreams and writing which bring me solace. You smile at me and reach for my hand. I close my eyes and feel your touch. You are here.
See all women as mothers, serve them as your mother. When you see the entire world as the mother, the ego falls away.
– Neem Karoli Baba.
I need to talk to you. I was listening to India Arie’s Talk To Her and her lyrics touched me, deeply. You know I do not have many girl friends and I find it hard to communicate with them. Growing up with brothers, being more of a Daddy’s girl and feeling like women are black and white toward me- with many of them intimidated– I have not developed the necessary skills to deal with female relationships as easily and properly as I do with the other gender. We have gone through this ourselves, together and separately. I even had this issue last night when conversing with a Romanian girl. I know she is bright and open-minded. I just did not know what to say. Listening to this song today made me confront some hard truths: I am missing out on the power and beauty that makes women, women; I subconsciously value men more than women which needs to stop; and I have undermined your precious womanly value, therefore undermining my own.
There have been many times I have treated you so disrespectfully and allowed others to treat you without respect and gratitude. For that I am truly sorry… I am crying as I type and reflect. You are there for me, even through this. I wish you slapped me. I wish I snapped “watch your mouth!” to others when they disregarded you. Through the years, I have tried to teach you to demand respect because I have wanted so much for you to be the woman I see in you. So much I have been disappointed when I have not seen the changes and improvements I wished to see in you.
I ignored your accomplishments and resented your perceived failures, feeling like you were deserving of the ill treatment from others who were and are undeserving of your love and your light. Because I wanted you to stand up for yourself and be better. I did not accept you; I have not accepted you for a long time. You have been so honest with us about your baggage and your flaws, and I abused it. I have been so frustrated in my own life when I was home- not being honest with myself– that everything around me seemed to discourage and disable me from living how I wanted to and loving myself the way I needed to. I am so sorry Mum. It has never been your fault. You have never been a burden in my life. When I think of how strong and open I am, I owe it all to you and Dad.
The truth is, you are a strong, beautiful woman. You are whole and your imperfections have shown me so much beauty that I look for such depth in others. I have loved you, but in the wrong way, limited by my own agenda. I have defined you by the things you are not; and by roles because you have never defined yourself as otherwise. I have preached to you because I did not want to lose you and I wished for you to dump your baggage. But in doing so, I have neglected you as a person while we are here, together.
When I think of all the times I have seen you seeing less of yourself, I realise I have supported it. I was a bystander and I let you feel less than you are. I let you pity yourself, talk down to yourself, beat yourself up. Making a habit of talking about your health, your environment, your pursuit of purpose when people asked you how you were. Depending so much on relationships to feel any self-worth. One of the reasons why I left was because I wanted you to learn to depend on yourself. I am discovering though, I have not equipped you with the necessary tools. Embracing and loving you has become conditional and circumstantial.
I adore you. I really do not need you to change because you are already perfect. You are not me, I understand. Beyond your role as my Mother and as a Wife; beyond what I wish for you, I shine because I carry your light: a light only which you embody. Your laughter, your emotions, your stubborn nature, your compassion, your passion, your fire, your flaws. The times you get enthusiastic and optimistic once someone provides you an opportunity or changes your mindset. Your hugs and your Dr Phil moments. There is only one of you in this world, Coral Yvonne Bright. I want everyone to know your name. You are outstanding and remarkable. You do not need an education, a purpose or positive outcomes and opportunities to be outstanding. You just are and you give me something unique, as a woman. You have made me praise the subtle, beautiful qualities in women I tend to overlook.
Right now as I sit here, you are my sole inspiration. I will do what I can to change my role as a daughter, not trying to teach YOU to value yourself. But instead, to teach MYSELF to apply your value to everything I do and to make damn sure the world acknowledges. I will do my best to see you in every woman I meet and admire their qualities, their fragility and their teachings. I will etch you in my heart and show your beauty and my loving ode to you, through my sincere actions. You will travel with me and be my legacy, my muse, my archetype. You will no longer be behind me in the background; a precursor and after thought. I promise to talk about you with the love and admiration I feel wholeheartedly. You are and will always be my pride and my virtue.
Love your daughter, your vessel, Laura.
P.S. I am sorry this is in formal writing, not to your face and out for everyone to read. But I want to be honest and I want everyone to know you and what you give to me.