Defy the darkness

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” – Anne Frank

My mother likes politics. It makes me sad, especially lately, but this is her house, so that’s what the TV is tuned to in the evenings after dinner. I go to bed early, so I only have to watch a couple of hours of it, and I try not to listen too closely. I intend to spend time with her, not the TV. I play games on my phone or scroll on social media, but enough gets into my brain to make it so I feel like I would like to scrub it clean before I go to bed.

In my opinion, this is a dark time in the US. (Don’t worry, this is not a rehashing of all the vitriol going on in Congress and local governments, or of the daily news of innocent people being shot.) The war and the sadness in Ukraine, climate change catastrophes all over the world, unrest in the Middle East – our planet and all of the creatures on it are suffering. I have no control over any of it. Neither do you, probably. I will vote in the US elections when it comes time to do that, and I will hope for change, but for now, and as for the rest of the world, I’m just trying not to be consumed by the darkness, and doing what I can in my little life to keep my light shining bright.

Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and the change I’d like to see is simply for people to be considerate of others and to be nice. That’s it. Seems so simple, but it’s eluding us in a big and dangerous way lately. I can only do my part – taking care of myself and continuing to fuel my light – so that I’m ready to shine and to care for others. That, as I see it, is the purpose of my life – of all of our lives – and there is none more important for our future on this planet.

I do lovingkindness meditation everyday. I try to focus on compassion and kindness in my dealings with people in my life. I try to take care of myself to ensure that I don’t fall into my own well of darkness. I journal, listen to music, make sure I get enough sleep, read things that feed my soul. I eat food that’s good for me and, in smaller measure, food I really love. I exercise most days and make time for creative pursuits. Now that the weather is more conducive to it, I walk in nature as often as I can. I have fun with friends every chance I get. These things fill me up, and it is my belief that the positive energy I’m cultivating – my light – in turn, brightens the world around me.

Your things will probably be different, cuz we’re not the same. That’s fine! Do your things – whatever they are. Do what works for you to polish up your light and get it shining brightly again. We all know what is best for us, what we need to really shine.

Is it easy? Of course not. I live with someone who tests my patience and my commitment to kindness in every way possible every minute of every day, and has all of my life. Now I have someone at work testing me as well. (See my last post.) It’s hard. I want to do what I want, eat what I want, do whatever seems fun or exciting, not the same old stuff I have committed to do everyday for my wellbeing. So the approach I take is, if I’m not going to do the thing I know is good for me, will I be letting myself down? If the answer is yes – it almost always is – then I have to decide if that’s okay. Would it be okay for someone else to let me down after they’ve committed to something? Probably not. Okay, then…

I love it when I don’t let myself down. I have no control over other people, but I’m in charge of myself; I’m the only person I can change. So that’s where I have to start. It’s not easy, but it is worthwhile. I am still finding my way day by day in my life, but I keep trying because I believe it matters.

It’s human nature to find fault, I guess, and if you feel bad or unsure about yourself and what your place in the world is, you are more apt to find fault with others and tell yourself that they’re “wrong” so that you can feel better about the way you see yourself. You see everyone different from you as a threat, cuz you’re not really sure, deep down, that you’re okay just as you are.

It’s not surprising that in our culture people feel like they’re not “doing it right.” We get that message everyday from someone on TV or online who wants to sell us something that will fix whatever shortcoming they tell us we have. All the happy shiny people on Instagram and Tik Tok are loving life and having fun, and we’re not, so what’s wrong with us? There must be something, cuz isn’t life hard for them? It’s hard for me. What do they know that I don’t? What’s wrong with me?

Of course, we’re all just fine. We all want the same things. We may have different ideas about how to get those things, and that’s fine. We’re different people, living different lives. Life is hard for everyone. Really. Human life fundamentally boils down to surviving loss, and if you don’t see that, it feels like you’re doing it wrong. But really, life is 100% about dealing with loss, and finding the things that bring you joy and doing those things so that you are better equipped to handle loss. Do the things that fill those holes.

All this folderol in Congress and with the guns in this country is in an effort to avoid loss. Loss of power, loss of privilege, loss of money, loss of property, respect, social standing or self-esteem. The harder you try to avoid loss, the more loss you create for yourself and others – loss of life, loss of integrity, lost hope. It’s a never-ending downward spiral.


The only way out of that darkness is acceptance, tolerance, and love. Heal your own losses, and you help others heal theirs. Show kindness toward yourself and toward others. Accept that everyone is different, and everyone is OKAY. Tolerate those differences in yourself and you help others tolerate theirs and everyone else’s. Love every single creature on this planet, and you will help heal the Earth and yourself. It has to start with each of us individually. Find a way to accept and love yourself. Follow your heart and know that you are just fine exactly as you are. Set an example for your friends, your co-workers, your family, your children.

Shine your light.

Live your truth, and allow others to shine their lights and live their truths.

Shine into the darkness and diminish it just that little bit. You are not alone. Together we can defy the darkness and find our way back into the light.

Don’t tread on me

My co-workers think they know me. Some of them do, actually, because they are my friends. Others, not so much. I have a new co-worker who has been pressing my buttons repeatedly in the last year since she started, and while I was upset every time, I always responded respectfully and kindly, because I’m an adult, and that’s what adults do. I figured there is some deep wound in her that causes her to treat me the way she has consistently in the last year, and I gave her a pass, and tried really hard to have compassion for her.

And then there was yesterday.

She sent me an email that was so condesciending, insulting, and completely out of line, that I decided it was time to draw the line. She made the mistake of copying my supervisor on the email, because she was trying to get me to do something that is not my job, and I guess she thought my supervisor would see things her way. What my supervisor saw was the way I’ve been allowing her to treat me for the last year, and that made me mad. it embarrassed me, actually, because I had been sacrificing my well-being to keep the peace and that’s something I promised myself I wouldn’t do anymore a long time ago!

So I wrote back, respectfully and calmly, and told her that not only would I not do what she was suggesting was my responsibiity because IT’S NOT, but also that the way she treats me is unacceptable. I drew the line. This is where it stops. The mental health folks call that a boundary, and I set it without room for misunderstanding. My supervisor is 100% behind me (which is really fabulous) and so we go on.

Today the co-worker was FROSTY, to say the least, but I don’t care. I have lived with a master manipulator all of my life, including now, though my mother has mellowed in her old age, and also her memory is too faulty for the necessary gas-lighting, so I admit I’ve been a little out of practice. This woman is an amateur. The cold shoulder is nothing new to me and I’m great at ignoring it completely. I have carried on today as if it were like any other, and I will continue to do so. We have work to do, and that’s really all that matters.

I get that this is not about me, and I do have genuine compassion for her. I can tell you exactly how her mother (or someone) speaks to and treats her because that’s how she speaks to me. Always finding fault, belittling, scolding. Ultimately, though, it’s not my problem, and I just want to work out my last 8+ months at Acme Health Services doing my best and enjoying a job I’ve done for a really long time, working with some really dedicated and wonderful people.

So it had to be done. I should have done it sooner, but I felt sorry for her, starting a new job, under a lot of pressure, I’m a bigger person, take the high road, yada yada yada. I also thought it would get better once she relaxed and realized I”m easy to work with, pretty good at my job, and just generally terrific. LOL!

She pressed the issue, though, when she got my supervisor involved. Pushed her luck too far, and pushed me too far, finally. I won’t let it get that far next time. I’m hoping she really heard me, and that she will honor my boundary and treat me with respect, but if not, I’m prepared to lay down the law again, gently and kindly, I hope, but you never know. Mess with the bull, you may get the horns.


Drawing from the well

Yesterday was not the best possible day I could have imagined. I’m happy to say it was not the worst possible day, but something happened with work in the morning that got my mind going pretty good with all the things — the things I wanted to say in response, the things I wanted to do in response, the things I wanted to shout at the universe for treating me so unfairly. It was all swirling around in there fast and furious. I was red hot and steaming, and it took a while for me to calm down.

Not as long as it once would have, I’m pleased to say. The source of the discomfort was over fairly quickly, but my mind hung on for a little while after it was over, trying to make what happened everyone’s fault but my own. The truth is it wasn’t my fault, and, despite my desire to make it otherwise, it wasn’t anyone else’s, either. It was just something that happened, was fairly easily remedied, and really was not deserving of all the space it was taking up in my head. So…I reached into my bag of tricks, and rooted around a bit, until I found the solution to my busy brain.

I decided to start the day over.

I did all my morning things again, even though I had just done them a few hours before. I meditated. I wrote a gratitude list. I read a page from a book by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn. It all took about 15 minutes, and by the end, I was calm and focused and could resume work. Fortunately, I was working from home, or I would have been a little more hard-pressed to calm down as quickly, but it still would have been possible in a different way. Because really, all I needed was to find myself. I’m the only necessary part of this recovery process. I quite literally “lost my head” and I just needed to find it; to find me.

I had to begin again.

This is a concept I’m fairly familiar with in my life. I used to deal with depression quite regularly and I would lose myself for days or even weeks at a time. Self-compassion was something I didn’t cultivate until I was quite a bit older and had been through a lot of therapy, but even when I was younger, I understood that beating myself up about something over which I had no control was not a way to move forward again. Often, I couldn’t pick up where I left off exactly, because I had changed or something in my life had changed, so I started over.

Often, I would have to dip the bucket pretty deep into the well of myself, as Bukowski calls it, to find the resources there to go on, but I did. Every. Time. No matter what, often with a deeper appreciation of my own inner strength, resilience, and sense of purpose.

And now here I am, older than I ever thought I would be, and happier and more confident, too. Time is a beautiful thing, a healer and a teacher. However, I’m sure I’ll always be knocked off course momentarily by life – the universe is not a respecter of our desire to remain safe and happy in our belief that we’ve got it all figured out.


Not even close! Turns out that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t usually feel like it. All we can do is try again when we get knocked over. Get back up and begin anew. It’ll probably never get easier or less painful, but it is always possible to return to ourselves and who we know we are, no matter how long it takes.

We just need to drink from the cool clean waters of our deepest selves.

PS: the background graphic above was generated by AI, based on the prompt “begin again.” Pretty cool!