Article and Photography by Rachel Leah Gerson
Today I want to talk about the three-fold theme of this year: balance, facing your shadows, and tossing out what you don’t need. It’s been on my mind a lot all year, but more specifically this last week, and the themes seem to be touching everyone I talk to, whether I knew them previously or not. Those three things tie together in beautiful and profound ways, each theme forcing you to dive into the next and then back again. And each cycle of each theme that you experience forces you to go into the next one deeper, and then the next one deeper, yet again.
Let’s talk about balance: light and dark. We need both to survive- metaphorically, spiritually, and literally in the physical world. There is no way that we would be able to know one without the other, and if you look at it in nature, a flame is seen better at night, and the cast of sunlight creates shadows. Half the year is darker days and half the year light, half our time day and half our time night, and the list goes on.
We’ve had so many things illuminated this year. Physically speaking we’ve had three supermoons in a row, more days of sunshine than not (at least everywhere I’ve been to in the last 11 months), a few meteor showers, and warmer weather than usual in many places around the globe. Metaphorically speaking, we’ve seen a lot of societal and political issues come to light in the last year (which I have touched on in my article “How Our Country and Our World Came to THIS, and How We Can Rise Up” that you can access here), as well as a lot of facing the rawness in ourselves, in our relationships, and in those closest to us in our personal lives. For instance, many of us have come to find that the habits we hold that were once annoying have become even more so, or we’ve come face-to-face with the death of a loved one (or several), or the forces that have driven toxic relationships to persist, including those within our relationships with ourselves.
These illuminations have been shocking to us- perhaps even jarring- and we would not have been able to ground that shock without the presence of darkness to be able to work through it. The light has illuminated the darkest parts of our lives, ourselves, our relationships, our societies, and our world, this year, so where is there a better place to go to confront your fear and anger and shock than its own home? Nature has given us no choice this year in choosing to fight our darknesses. We can try all we want, we can grab our guns and pitchforks, but it won’t budge. And perhaps this is a lesson for many people- one that I will touch on in probably several articles and videos over time- no one gets anywhere by fighting fear. Ever. It only perpetuates a vicious cycle where you will be forced to stare that fear in the eye time and again. The best way to cope with fear is by putting in the work to understand it.
About 5 years ago I had a bad run-in with deer. It’s a rather long story, but the short version of it is that I had accidentally scared a buck and he started hissing at me, and had I not left the place I was in at the time I did, he probably would have charged me. I was petrified of deer after that, but instead of running away from them and fighting being around them, I devoted a few hours a day to following them around and studying them. Where were these deer coming from within themselves? How did they eat, act, move, migrate, react when they sensed me? After months of this, I came to love the deer, and to understand that within kindness and grace and vulnerability comes strength. If we work to understand our fear and the perspective of whatever it is that we fear, it will teach us lessons. And through gratitude in receiving those lessons, we can learn to love it.
So Universe has forced us, this year, to do that. To come with peace towards fear instead of with anger or skittishness or more fear. Literally speaking, we’ve had several eclipses- both solar and lunar- throughout the year. We had a Black Moon. We have had many planets go retrograde, slowing down so that we could see their dark underbellies. Metaphorically speaking, we have been given this gift of the darkness to be able to slip into ourselves and retreat and dig deep and sort through our emotions about what’s been illuminated. To meditate on it. To “sleep” on it. To really sit with it and be with it and massage that process. To learn to love it. Every harmful thing, every hurtful thing, every scary thing has a purpose in helping us and nudging us to learn, to grow, and to evolve.
Darkness breathes way to light, and it’s impossible to grow if we don’t have that breath. We suffocate ourselves when we stay stagnant. We suffocate ourselves when we do not give ourselves the space and time to face the darkness- to face our fears and our shadows- because in doing that we are failing to give ourselves the room or the permission to grow. So we can take these moments where Universe presents us with a chance to walk down the hall to meet our shadows as gifts. Perhaps they are difficult gifts to unwrap, or maybe you unwrap them quickly and easily and then don’t know exactly what to do with them; where to put them; how to handle them. So you need to sit with them awhile; hold them; marvel at them; get to know them; grow with them. And in the end, no matter where you decide to place them, you will leave having learned something; having gained something; having grown and slithered out of your old shed and into the sunshine.
So your fears have been illuminated and you’ve taken the time to step into their place in their homes in the darkness to meet them and get to know and understand them, and possibly even have love or compassion toward them. And when you’re done with all of that and you emerge back out of the tunnel and into the light, again, you are met with a small plastic trashcan, and you feel the great urge to discard a bunch of your baggage that you took with you on that whole long journey through light and dark and possibly light and dark again and then light and dark again- the point is, you’ve had it for long freaking time and you don’t need it anymore and it’s not serving you and it’s time. for it. to go.
How good does it feel to put that unneeded baggage you’ve been hanging onto, that’s been weighing on your shoulders, that you’ve already met and dealt with and faced in all its glory (possibly multiple times) into that trashcan? Perhaps the small one isn’t big enough and the urgency to go looking for a large bin- maybe even an industrial-sized, metal construction bin- is hitting you like the need for a bathroom when you’ve a full bladder. The point is that the year has been making us face our journeys and all that we’ve been through, and it’s been making us dive so deep into our stories that we feel not only compelled to be done with them, but a complete satisfaction in being done with them. It’s that time when you’re saying, “I don’t need this anymore, let’s move on”, and you truly mean it, and you feel the bricks crumble off your shoulders and disintegrate, and you sigh and it feels so good.
I’ve moved around a lot throughout my life, and the amount of physical crap I’ve accumulated boggles my mind. I just moved into a new place this last weekend, and all of the boxes that are still sitting in my living room are confusing to me. I’ve opened some up and gone, “Really? Why have I been dragging around all of these stories that I will never publish from high school peer-review writing workshops?” or, “Do I really need every single ticket and programme from every concert, reading, graduation, etc., that I’ve ever been to?” or, “Do I really need this shirt from my 6th grade school play?” (Yes, that is seriously one of my things I’ve been hogging around all these years. No, I’m not a packrat. I was just a sentimental child.)
After decades of this accumulation and of taking it from house to house to apartment to house to apartment, I’m finally sick of it, and I’m finally going through and throwing away or giving away what I seriously do not need. And I’ve been doing the same with my mental clutter, my relationship clutter (in all of my close relationships), and the clutter within myself (because I’m human, too, y’know). And though it’s a lot of work and it’s really intense (I cannot stress that enough!), every time that I have emerged from on the other side of the darkness, I turn around to that cave, and I say, “Thank you for being there. Thank you for holding me on this journey. Thank you for showing me where my darkness dwells; for helping me meet it; for helping me understand it; and for helping me to understand and love myself more than I did, yesterday, because of it”.
Sending all the luck and love in the world to you as you emerge from your darkness a stronger, better, more stunning version of yourself.
xx RLG ❤