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Meeting the Darkness to Uncover the Beauty in the Shadows

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It would be a lie if I told you the collages of people’s picture perfect lives gracing social media today didn’t cause me to slam my laptop shut, only to quietly reopen it a few moments later. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Please don’t take this the wrong way — I’m truly astounded by your ability to run five marathons this year. And you, with the glass of champagne and that hunk of a boyfriend attached to your hip? You are beautiful and I want you to know that I too, am celebrating the love you share. And goodness, that sweet baby snuggled under the Christmas tree, illuminated by the lights’ golden glow? You may be a new momma, but I know how long your heart has swelled in tender anticipation of this beloved child. Hold him close and be proud.

With each photo, I smile, mesmerized by the beauty that surfaces each year, despite the deep and constant pain that threatens to suffocate our world. But moments later, the impact of that pain seeps through my skin and into my blood, casting a familiar shadow onto my heart. And that is when anxiety speaks, beginning as a whisper and getting louder as it watches me tremble. With glazed eyes and a look of defeat, I settle in for the battle:

“You’ve wasted another year.”

“They don’t really love you.”

“All you’ve been this year is a burden.”

“You can’t do anything right.”

“Your Master’s degree? Who are you kidding?!”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Give up now before you mess things up further.”

“Will there be a place for you in 2017?”

To be fair, 2016 challenged me, and I fought all year to find my footing on life’s rocky terrain. I struggled to create healthy boundaries and felt hurt and alone. I started counseling but considered quitting weekly out of fear and shame. I started taking antidepressants but resented myself for accepting medication. I stopped eating and became dangerously thin, but didn’t care enough to nourish my empty soul. And I slept, dreaming of fast forward buttons and ignoring the calls of my worried friends and family. I blamed and berated myself for every struggle, every slip, every failure… and found even the most joyful moments shrouded from the light.

But now, we’ve been given a chance to breathe in the opportunity for change that comes with a new year. I don’t know about you, but I want to believe in fresh starts, in the magic of hope and the power of courageous living. I desire connection — to feel needed and to be deeply cared for. I long to believe in love, forgiveness, humor and grace. This all sounds nice, does it not? But the wonder of it all is that I can — because I am worthy of another chance. You are worthy of another chance. You are an equally valuable part of our human family. You are capable of a fresh start. You are a living, breathing, magical example of hope. You lead a courageous life, persevering and overcoming hardship. You deserve love, you deserve forgiveness, you deserve to laugh and you deserve grace. And first and foremost, you deserve to receive these gifts — without reservation — from yourself.

Make time to do the things that bring you joy, however small. Gather friends who nourish your soul, heal your heart and remind you of your meaning. Meditate, pray, journal and create. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sleep well, move your body and eat food that gives you energy. Be honest. And forgive, both yourself and others. Handle yourself with care, grow from your mistakes and be your biggest supporter. You are worthy of love. You are deeply cherished. And you deserve only the best care.

Light may at times grow dim and tremble. But upon meeting darkness, it never fails to uncover the beauty that hides in the shadows.

You are light. Come along, let’s learn to love ourselves this year.

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Thinkstock photo via LFO62

Originally published: February 16, 2017
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