* polarities *

December 19, 2010

“The brighter the light, the darker the shadow,” a therapist once said in response to my gushing about my new boyfriend John and how light and loving he was. I rolled my eyes. I hated that new-agey platitude. What a bunch of psycho-babble. And besides, what did he know? If he’d only met John, he’d understand…

Well, two and a half years later — after John’s shocking suicide, clearly I was wrong. The therapist was right. I understand this expression very well now.

In recent months, I’ve also come to understand how the opposite of that statement is just as true:

The darker the shadow, the brighter the light. The depths of our pain, anger, and sorrow are proportionate to the amounts of love, joy, and warmth we feel and are capable of. The light waiting for us on the other side of our grief and suffering.

I once saw a video at the Suicide Prevention Center in honor of survivors of suicide and the loved ones they’d loss. The smile on each survivor’s face glowed unlike any I’ve ever seen. Stronger, brighter than other people’s. I was struck by the light radiating from their eyes. Unusual. Staring a suicide in the face and living through one of the most incomprehensible kinds of death touches some of the deepest, darkest places in our soul. We live there for quite some time. But when we emerge, nothing is ever the same. Joy is richer, laughter is deeper, and life feels more abundant- so palpable you can squeeze it in your fist. This is what is inherent in the pain itself. A high on life unlike anything else; grounded, solid, and real. And trust me, given my life experiences, I’m the last person I’d ever expect to say this. I grew up in the shadows. John’s death killed me. Never in a million years would I have anticipated this.

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7 Responses to “* polarities *”

  1. Rianne said

    Sarah – Your writing is amazing; please, never stop. When I was 15 I had a boyfriend kill himself after only being with him for 2 weeks.. to this day, even though it was almost 3 years ago and chances are, I had nothing to do with it, it still feel badly about it. Not that long ago I’ve finally decided to go to college and major in psychology working towards a Ph.D and this definitely makes me want to work even harder. Thanks to you, I know that my dream can be achievable. The majority of my friends in college for psychology are doing it just for the heck of it, because it’s interesting, etc.. But you, you have an advantage. You’ve stepped into the shoes of whom you plan to help already by experiencing it yourself. To me, those that have experienced it are the ones that can help the best.

    • Thank you so much Rianne! I have no plans to stop writing and I love hearing how this blog has been helpful to you. I’m so happy you are studying psychology and feel deeply connected to it and are fulfilling a part of your life’s purpose. That’s amazing. I hope you continue to stay with it and let me know if there’s any way I can support you on your journey! Your dream is absolutely achievable!!!

      A few months after John passed – I met with a grief counselor and she told me that what I was going through in my grief process was my own personal “Phd in suicide” (on top of the phd I’m getting in school). She was completely right. And why else would i get a phd in suicide if not to help other people? And you too have an advantage (if we can call it that) of knowing a facet of real human suffering. Your future clients will feel that.

      I’m so sorry for your loss. You poor thing. That must have been so confusing for you. I know you know this… and the realization of this will have to come from within you…but I can pretty much guarantee that your boyfriend’s suicide had nothing to do with you. The seeds for his passing were planted long before you were together. It’s natural for us to feel badly about death, esp. suicide, and I hope in time you come to this realization and feel peace about it.
      much love to you.

  2. Iva said

    Your post really made me think. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not a native speaker, but I’ve never heard that saying before. Is it fairly common?

    Well regardless, it makes lots of sense to me too… I think in a way, it is inevitable for people like John, you, me, etc to carry that deep gloom around with us. People who are passionate tend to go both ways – passion in both love and death, if you know what I mean. I was never one to drift in the middle of things, I’m more of the incredible highs and frightening lows type. To make matters worse, I’m attracted to other such people too…

    The question that comes to my mind is – can this ever be a healthy way of life? I’ve somewhat given up on ever being “normal”, that is to say ordinary… I’m an artist, for better or worse. While I do try to keep my self-destructive tendencies in check, what worries me is that I thrive on these highs and lows, they are what makes my life worth living. The in between and the blah gray areas are what kills my will to go on… as strange as that sounds. And the older I get the more I realize that life isn’t just passion, travel and poetry, I should really adjust. Or find other things to feel strongly about that I could have daily access to. Or something. Hmmm…

    I miss you Sarah! xoxo

    • Hi Iva! Thanks for your comments. Well to start with – “the brighter the light the darker the shadow” is a common expression in certain psychology and new-agey circles out here in California. It’s based on Jung’s concept of the Shadow – the darker aspects of life – and the more negative emotions that most people usually suppress or deny. So the expression is common out here but not necessarily in the general public.

      I know what you mean about swinging back and forth between the different polarities of light and dark. I think with time, practice, maturity, intention, and experience it is possible to integrate the two – the lows and highs, darkness and light in a way that embodies them both at the same time. It’s not a blah grey in the middle -more like a dark toned fuschia. If that makes sense. And you have access to both polarities at any given moment but you are not at the mercy of either one. You choose what you experience. It’s a balance.

      I talk about the polarities and the shadow and light here in this post to offer hope to those who feel they spend most of their time in darkness or grief. The depths of our darkness is a reflection of how much of the other light stuff (love, joy, lightness, peace, warmth) we have within us just waiting to be revealed and expressed. And hopefully in time that part will become the more dominant part and will not be threatened by a looming or impending fall into darkness because we did our inner work and have reflected on and integrated our shadow stuff. I think it’s about knowing ourselves really well and this takes time. (being in your twenties and trying to get to know yourself is what its all about)

      Travel, passion, poetry sounds great. If an adjustment is necessary then life will reveal that need for you – maybe by bonking you over the head or through gentle whisperings. Be true to who you are. We gotta take all the joy and passion that we can get and keep widening our scope of things that we feel strongly about and have “daily access to.” Once again I think balance, meditation, and discernment is key.

      oh and omg – what’s “normal”? I’ve forgotten over the years. Achieving “Normal” = hopeless. You’re cooler than normal.

      miss you too girl!
      xox

    • John said

      Iva, I too am an artist and have questioned how what is “healthy” and what is not. When I was a bit younger, my passions led me to some truly insightful and inspiring highs. It also led me to some dark and hollow lows. I began meditating when I was 19, but it was more like “Creative Visualization”. When I was in my early 30’s I began to become much more involved in Buddhism. As you may know, they teach about “the middle way”, finding a balance and not becoming too wrapped up in any thought or emotion, but rather allowing it to come and simply observe it. It truly helped me find balance in my personal life and relationships. What may be encouraging to you as an artist, is that my work became more and more inspired by this philosophy. I did not stop being creative, in fact I think I was able to channel my creativity in a more focused way. I was able to communicate my vision with more intention behind my work. I think that my work matured through this process. However, I must be honest and express that the part of me that was addicted to the highs and lows and the intensity of it all, yearned for more chaos. I think this is natural and a part of the creative process. I think this is how we grow. The Buddhists have a saying (it is sort of the equivalent of a commandment) “Self-Liberate, even the anecdote.” I suppose it could mean many things to many people in many different situations. For me, it expresses the idea that it is healthy for us to change things up from time to time, even if it is good and healthy for us.
      Anyway, I don’t think one needs to be a neurotic, unbalanced or extreme person to create powerful art. Yes, passion can be vital for fueling our desire to express, but powerful, beautiful and intriguing art can be made with a balanced heart and mind.

      Just my opinion.

      Many blessings,

      John.

  3. John said

    You have been sent from heaven… truly an angel… you are lighting the way and I trust that your honesty, courage and compassion, will continue to inspire for many years to come.

    Many blessings,

    John

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. I have learned much from a true angel. I love that these writings are offering you some comfort. The very core of my life depended on reaching John through the offering of myself to be of service in the ways that I can: sharing my understanding of love lost, of hell, darkness, and moving through it somehow. Blessings to you, sending you strength and love………….xoxo

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