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Light on. Light off.

I grew up in a religious home in small towns throughout the South. This was the kind of religion that kidnaps you and makes you think it was your fault for being a kid.

Hell, fire, brimstone. These were the terms used to describe the teachings we grew up under. My innocent gay ears heard all the stuff about what god thought of me and it was not good. I knew early on to deny, deny, deny. When people asked why I stayed in conversion therapy so long as an adult, this was why.

I believed what they told me about god’s hate for me. I believed I was meant to suffer because of this thing that existed in me. Because I did not have any exposure to what a different narrative may look like, I remained committed to the narrative that I was told I needed to heal from.

A few weeks ago, when I walked out of the yoga studio, it was snowing. I love snow. I was sweating under my clothes and I love that feeling when you walk out of yoga and your warm face hits cold air. I triggered that thing I have drilled into my mind that says “Inhale and feel this.”

Not to dive into a live breathwork session, but to make sure I am breathing deep and allowing my mind to acknowledge that in this very moment, I feel pride. Pride that I questioned the self-hate that directed the first 40 years of my life. Pride that I left a career that was going to send me to an early grave. Pride that I walked to yoga no matter how cold.

Pride that I am walking about in a big city to a small apartment adorned with all my books and travel photos. This was the life I craved and for many years did not know how to find. And, it’s mine.

I don’t know that we ever fully heal. My right shoulder has been injured a few times, and it seems to be back at 100% range, but I have a feeling it would take a lot less of a blow to get it back to where it felt torn again.

I think the soul is like that. Peace abounds after grief, heartache, the survivor’s journey to undo, mend and rebuild. That is a noteworthy peace. Similar to the pride I felt for building the life I craved.

But, the soul that has that peace is also weary, right? Restored from what used to live in every fiber? Yes. But still aware that those fibers aren’t quite as durable as they used to be? I think so.

I think healing looks different as we progress, and continue to find what helps the past stories not hurt so much. The shame for why we believed terrible things about ourselves is replaced with the newness of the lives we build far from those narratives.

The shame for staying in a place or with people who were causing so much damage becomes the pride that it did end. And, that there were many times we weren’t sure that would happen.

As I have moved about healing spaces and ideas, there has been a lot that has done more damage. It took me years to understand that I was allowed to do a hard pass on someone’s idea of what healing meant. This was something that would have been valuable to me 25 years ago.

In case that last sentence was not clear, please read this: “You are allowed to say NO to something that does not feel like healing!”

Damn, if you need that, please write it down. I really, really wish I had known.

So many of us enter this recovery path and have no way to navigate what healing is and what it is not. We are prone to ideas that other people suggest we would benefit from. And sometimes, those ideas are harmful deceptions rooted in a person’s desire to have control over you rather than to see you set free.

I used to pity myself for the ways I would show up on retreats where I felt out of place. Now, I pity any person foolish enough to tell me I chose my abusive childhood before I came to earth. I pity the person who has the courage to say, “Everything happens for a reason,” but does not know how to offer comfort to people who are hurting, including themselves.

When you come face to face with childhood trauma and abuse, suddenly, a bright light is shining on so much darkness. It is not the easy, peaceful kind of light shining in the dark. It is the painful kind where sensitive eyes beg for someone to pull the blinds. It is hard to know what to think, believe, or feel.

When someone is in this state, they are trying to function.

They are trying to get to the next day, sometimes the next hour. Of course they are going to believe someone who tells them they know what they are supposed to do. Of course they are going to open up where that person has access to those wounds they are trying to hide. Of course they are going to believe what they are told when it is wrapped up in the word “healing.”

And this is where so many people experience further hurt.

The light is on, or it’s off. I don’t think the switch gets stuck.

For so many survivors, the light was switched on unapologetically.

But they know the coping patterns they used to rely on to turn the light off don’t work anymore. So, they remain in the light and do what they can to rebuild there. And with each past memory finding relief, they see that being in the light is starting to feel warmer.

The light isn’t so harshly unapologetic anymore. It is on.

The light is on, or it’s off.

Once they get settled with practices that help them feel safe in their mind and body, they intentionally invite more light in.

The contrast between their light and their dark is nowhere near as stark as it used to be. The light and dark is noticeable. It is different. But people with complex pain have lived in both and know them well. It was the light that felt so abrupt.

For many of us, we didn’t even know we were in the dark, because we built our lives there.

The light is on, or it’s off.

I don’t have an idea of what it would mean to fully heal. There has been enough light to tell me that I live in a world where I will always have to fight to exist in ways that honor what my soul carries. I can’t take that on each day.

I can’t heal the world, so it makes me feel more welcome here. But, I can create more light–for me. In me. I can make sure I don’t retract from those pressures and the fears that tell me how unconventional my life is. I can’t–I won’t let me take those to the dark. Living with them in light is healing. It is truth.

The light is on, or it’s off.  And I can only speak for myself on that switch. But, I have learned that many people claim light and the way they speak, and the way they treat the wounded ends up shoving hurt souls back into darkness.

All, in the name of healing. Love…and…light…with a dash of retraumatization.

When you are trying to find connection, look for people who have a similar light on. That means you share ideas about what safety is. It means you feel empowered by their presence. It means the light is on.

But, be ok with walking away from people who have their lights off to the things that make you feel safe. And be ok, not being responsible to make them turn that light on.

The light is on, or it’s off. I have never met someone who was in the middle of seeing me. Ever. It has always felt like they have the capacity and/or desire to, or they don’t. This is not for me to fix. It’s information to help build more health and save myself some additional heartbreak.

I hope for all of us, no matter what our light is turned on to, that we can better our lives and the lives of those around us. But, we must take up space to do that. We must stop pretending that some have more value than others. We must stop trusting those who want power over people.

When you enter relationships or seek approval from people who do not have their light on for you, you will lose valuable time. Again, it does not mean they are wrong for that. It means you are trying to flip a switch only they can turn on.

There is no peace when you have to live in someone’s shadows. No matter what they call it, it’s dark there, and that is not where you are meant to heal.

Sending peace to everyone working with the brightness that came too fast.

Sending compassion to those looking for others with the light on.

To more healing….

Nate

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