With all due respect to The Moz, there is a light that goes out. This past January was a dismal 31 days in my city, weather-wise. We had the lowest amount of sunlight recorded- 48 hours to be exact – in a month. I wouldn’t say I was depressed, but I had to crack out my Connie Francis, Nick Cave and Elliot Smith albums just to brighten the mood. Now I’m not one to be afflicted by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), in fact I have always reveled in being in the dark side of the moon (in a non-Pink Floyd way). But this winter, I’ve just felt…smaller, more confined, a bit weepier. Which surprised me because as a card-carrying Scorpio and lover of things un-Disney, I never thought a few overcast days would zing me in the bad teenage angst poetry part of my brain.
Growing up, I loved rainy days. I loved the idea of what was in the shadows. I harnessed my imagination to create dark worlds in my writing, and read books which made the Saw movies look like Sesame Street. I was fixated with the undercurrent of the soul and that stretched out into everything in my world – my choice in music, my friends and my clothes. I can recall my mother arguing with me to just purchase one item of clothing that wasn’t Death Metal Black. You know, a pop of colour when you do your ritual sacrifices in your bedroom, dear. And of course that darkness eventually manifested itself into alcohol and tumultuous relationship I had with it. Not all goth kids turn into drug addicts and alcoholics, but this kid who loved Slayer and The Punisher comic book series certainly played the part. Until it played him.
Yesterday afternoon, I found myself riding home from work in not only a bright and sunny day, but also in the warmest day in February we’ve ever had. It was magnificent. I was surprised by just how the weather was affecting me. I felt a lightness, an unburdening occurring, and even though I was battling a cold, I felt a pureness piercing my body. I stopped several times to absorb it all and take pictures. Breath is all in. I felt renewed and restored.
As I rode, I thought of the light that is shot through my life as it stands right now. Of course I can talk about spirituality and recovery and all that, but I thought of something else. I thought of the light that others bring to my life. I thought of the people who I surround myself with and what warming rays they beam my way, nourishing me and my spirit. I began to silently appreciate those who are in my circles who add to my life and bring me joys both subtle and profound.
I listen to a lot of spiritual teachers and motivational speakers. One message I hear over and over again, both from a divine and practical level, is that we need to surround ourselves with people who have what we want, who are an extension of our goals, who are doing the things we want to do in our lives. Gurus, mentors, peers – call them what you will – but those who show us the way, by deed and by word. Those who gracefully guide us and paint our landscape in colours we never knew were in the palette.
Bishop TD Jakes uses the example of ghettos as how it works the opposite way. He discusses how the idea of putting people of the same low-earning bracket together only created a bigger mess because there are no examples of what it is like to “make it”. People are surrounded with like people which only propagates negativity and depression. There is toxicity in despair and no matter how enlightened one may be, it’s difficult to emerge from the canopy of darkness. I understand this, as I look back at who I surrounded myself with in my drinking days.
I was a sarcastic, cynical and negative person. It wasn’t that I was horrible to be around, but I wasn’t an enchanted pixie either. I made sure, unconsciously and consciously, that I surrounded myself with similar folk. We fed off one another’s pessimistic energy. We never lifted one another up. Emotionally, we kept our cards close to our chest, fearful of showing a flash of vulnerability which others would jump on and attack. I made sure the people in my circles were deeply flawed and wounded and showed it. I felt the same and wanted to belong.
When I got into recovery, I started to tap into the part of me that was unexpressed – the feeling of wanting to connect, of seeking light and inspiration, of being grounded in sanity and goodness. And as I proceeded to (very) slowly move through the work, I found myself unable to bear the very attitudes and actions I showed with regularity in the past. The idea of lying, cheating and stealing made me ill. Gossiping suddenly felt vile. I couldn’t stomach people backstabbing one another or spreading destructive rumours. This was a great shift in my internal landscape, and it would eventually show itself in who I chose to spend time with.
Luckily, my drinking and the isolating that came with it removed many people from my social rolodex. I shed many drinking buddies and friends during my lost years, so I wasn’t left with much after I started the healing process. In the last few years, I have had to remove myself from people’s lives and vice-versa. Not in a judgemental or harsh way, but in a way which was kind to myself. I no longer held on to a misguided notion of loyalty for loyalty’s sake. I had to break up with friends and long-time acquaintances. I had to ask the simple question – were they adding to my life, or were they sucking the air out of my lungs?
These days I am blessed to have the people in all my circles – family, friends, recovery folk, professional comrades. I don’t have a large posse, but they have my back, and I have theirs. And that’s most important. They add to the mosaic of my experiences. They show me the way, even if they don’t know they are doing it, like my children who show me how to truly live. These are the fixture in my life, exuding brightness and authenticity. They bring me up, and encourage and support me. They are the physical demonstration of the spiritual principles I seek to live by.
That kind of light will always guide me. Even on the dark days.
(And speaking of lighting up my life, thank you for checking out my 40th Buzzkill Podcast!)