I could sit here and tell you stories of how much I hated myself, how many moments spent looking in the mirror obsessing on flaws and wishing I were different... or "better". How many hours I spent straightening my hair, panic attacks if it got wet. How many years of my life where literally no one other then my mother saw me step in to water, because, though curls seemed beautiful on other people, I thought I looked like a clown. (This was before I grew to love and appreciate the inspiration of the clown persona.) I could tell you how lonely I've always felt and simultaneously I knew that many of us are here feeling lonely together. A sea of lonely. But this is the story we all know. We've all felt the imposition of negative thoughts and they affect all of our lives, in different ways.
I could also tell you a story about how many years I spent deprogramming myself. How many hours of meditation, workshops and community groups I've gone to. How many plates of food i've served with the soul intention of providing something better for my people, nourishment filled with as much love, nutrition and taste I could muster. Tales of how the only way I could learn to be safe was to love myself, also learning that loving yourself takes dedication. A dedication that takes years to consciously cultivate, and my work is far from done.
Even that is not the story I've come to tell. This story is about the day I came to the Nothing But Light project, with my own expectations and left with a profound lesson, one that has been running in the undercurrent of my entire life.
I joined this project because I want to love myself and I know I'm on that general path. To me, self love entails being comfortable in this bag of skin and bones that I have been decidedly uncomfortable in for the better part of 30 years. What might come from allowing yourself the ultimate vulnerability of having no protection, no make up, no clothes, just you and documentation? The thought terrified me in such an exciting way, I knew it is something I had to pursue. I'm a sucker for life lessons. So I thought, "I've done so much work, I really like myself these days. This will be a great and easy way to see myself, then get some beautiful photos after!"....not quite.
When it came time for my clothes to come off, to sit and just be. Naked. It felt like a slap in my own face, maybe I wasn't as evolved as I thought. Insecurities rolled in, "What should I do with my hands? Should I sit here? Still? Move?" I was as awkward as everyone had been, I asked the exact same questions. In many ways we, as humans, are all the same. What stood out about my experience was one exchange Anastasia and I had, which has changed my life ever since. I hesitate to share it, but in light of this specific project I feel it's important that I do.
We were speaking of similarities, between me and the other participants, her and I, etc. And she mentioned most people having some profoundly difficult experiences they had to transcend, yet every single one agreed that they were grateful to be alive and would not wish to lose that life. I had a strong emotional reaction to that revelation, but we were nearing the end of our shoot and I felt it would be too emotionally draining for us both to bring it up at the time. I have now spent the proceeding months mulling and meditating on my reaction and my truth, which has helped me grow and understand myself immensely. If given the chance or opportunity to relinquish this life (not by my own hands) I would do it, without much hesitation. I realized in that moment with Anastasia, this was not a new idea for me. I have always felt there was peace and comfort in death, it was life that was this long, arduous, painfully unavoidable journey. Yet I also knew killing myself would never give me the peaceful death I wanted, it would undoubtedly drop me back into some other body, cursed to relive this constant pain... Until I learned to heal myself. I notice how morose this must sound, but this has always been my truth. In seeing it and accepting it I was able to learn a wonderful lesson. I learned that I wasn't living my life for self love and happiness, I was existing purely so I wouldn't disappoint others. It was acknowledging this truth that is currently setting me free.
Since the conclusion of this project I have had ceremony with myself and my life. I am beginning to see the daily positive effects that come from following your own personal joy, working with the earth and choosing my health first. Through this project a light was literally shown on the most vulnerable aspects of me and though I don't feel it was an easy process, it did highlight a more positive and bright path forward. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity and moment in time. Also grateful to share my part in this story.