For a long time, I didn’t know this.
I thought that the way I felt about things, my words and my actions…they were all normal. I thought the way I saw life was just reality and there was nothing I could do about it.
I thought darkness, misery and pain were the usual – and happiness, love and light were rare things, and not necessarily to be trusted. The betrayal was coming.
I thought that people who seemed to always be happy, or relaxed, or generous, or kind were fakes. Phoneys. What did they want, anyway?
Was I born with those attitudes? No. I was a really happy child, I remember that. Every day was special and exciting! No, I grew into those bleak thoughts. I had someone in my life who believed those thoughts, so for a while, I started to believe them, too. After all, there was a lot of evidence to back up my pessimism wasn’t there?
This world can be a bleak place, and it can feel like there’s no hope. Oh, people talk about it, but when you’re in a place where you’re scared, or poor, or addicted, or alone…what does hope mean?
And so the beast would lash out. The beast would use people, the beast would hurt people, the beast would pull a black veil over my eyes and wrap me in the comfort of misery, because there is a comfort in it: it’s predictable. You know it’ll be there.
And that’s the world I lived in. And I was in despair.
They say that change is easy, that the hard part is coming to that decision to change.
I knew something was wrong, and I knew that I didn’t want to be there – in darkness – anymore. I also knew that there were two ways out. Death was one of them, but by the grace of all that is good, I chose the other way.
I chose Life.
And at the moment I made that decision, the shadow over my soul lifted a bit and for a while I was happy, I was light. But the beast didn’t want happiness, the beast wanted it’s dark cave, it wanted to feed on misery. Any and all misery. It wanted the darkness of dark music, it wanted the violence of death played in front of my eyes with movies and tv, it wanted to rage and be strong and be forceful! The beast wanted my damned life!
And I regret to say, I gave it back to him. But a part of me refused, a part of me kept trying to fight it, and so, like hiking out of the mountains, I would climb out of one shaded valley into the blue, far-seeing sky, open and free – only to find myself descending again. Oh, how many times was it repeated?
How could I get out of the valley for good?
How could I live in the clean blue air?
My problem, you see, was that I didn’t know I had a beast in me. Like I said, I thought the beast was my very own soul. I didn’t yet understand that the beast was devouring me like a parasite.
I started getting hints.
I came to a point one day where I was yelling at someone I loved dearly, and I realized I didn’t even care about what I was arguing so fiercely. It didn’t really matter and it was a small thing anyway. It was a really strange feeling, knowing that I was watching this beast roar and stare and eat the sadness it was making, while at the same time I was watching it all happen, completely aware of what I was doing.
I started noticing this more and more.
And then, one day, I just told the beast to stop, and it did. I calmed right down, immediately, and said words that I truly meant, and weren’t just to get me out of trouble.
I said, “I’m sorry.”
And my life changed. Just like that, in an instant.
Don’t get me wrong, I still got angry, depressed, lonely, mean – but it was easier and easier to say to myself, “Hey, that’s not me. That’s the beast. Me? I’m really good. I love people. I love life, and I love this whole universe!”
I’ll tell you a secret. Once you start loving like I started loving, the shadow falls from your eyes. The darkness leaves your spirit and your thoughts. The light gets in and the entire universe is free to love you right back, just like it did when you were a child. You stop pushing everything away.
The other secret, though, is that it isn’t always easy. I still wrestle with that beast from time to time. When things get tough, I still hear the beast whisper in my ear trying to get me to do something that will hurt me, or someone else. Once in a while, that beast wins. I lose my temper, or I feel like someone insulted me, or that someone stole from me, or whatever. I get all attached to things or my feelings of wanting to be respected, or at least noticed. I want my own way and fight to get it, even if it’s stupid.
Yes, that old beast slips out from time to time.
What I’m learning is that the reason he can escape is because I’ve been keeping him locked up, in chains. I’m trying to give myself a chance to change, but I haven’t been giving the beast a chance.
Instead of soothing the beast, I’ve been sidestepping him. Why? Because the beast isn’t me!!
It’s not, is it?
Well, actually, I think it is. The beast, I think, was actually only trying to protect me all this time, it just got confused as to what was worthy of protection. When I look at it, the beast just wanted to protect me from other people’s ability to hurt me. It wanted me to fight! To dull my senses, to escape, to be in charge.
The beast wanted me to be the fucking number one gangster, because then no one would fuck with me.
Oh my beast…you formed when I was a child and only know the fear of a child. You only understand the simplest things a child would know.
“Stronger people can hurt me.”
“Pain is bad.”
“I’m not protected.”
“I need to be the strongest.”
“I need to cause the pain instead, and dull my own pain completely”
“I will protect myself.”
It’s time, beast, for you to change, too. I’ll teach you what I’ve learned while I was away from you, and I’ll protect you from now on, and give you a rest. I’ll soothe you with clean water and clean thoughts. I’ll wash away your fear by being fearless – you don’t need to jump in, anymore. You wanted me to be strong, I’ll show you the strength I’ve come to understand: that to fight is to make the thing you fight stronger. Real strength is finding out how to love the thing you fear, how to make friends with your enemies.
I’ll show you that you can see the greatness in everyone without feeling diminished – without needing to assert your own greatness. It’s there and if people don’t see it, it’s because their own beast has shaded their eyes and covered their heart.
Beast, you did your best to help me, but now let me help you. Let me change you from a monster into a friend.
After all, you are me, I’m you, and the time for nightmares has passed. Oh, there’s still darkness in the world, and a lot of it, but really, it’s just all these scared beasts fighting for their people, isn’t it?
When you look at it that way, the terror lifts a little, because my beast, if we can change, then that means other people have changed, too.
And that means that one day, everyone can.
Until then, we can only work to make ourselves free, but it’s a journey we’re all in together.
You know, I think I saw a bit of red on up ahead, it just might be our road. What do you say, old friend?
Let’s go take a look.