07 November 2012

Background (Noise): How I Learned to Stop Hiding and Love the Dark

Kali knows a thing or two about re-birth through death.
In my mid twenties I was an “Adult” with a capital A. Sure, I still had a framed poster of Hedwig and the Angry Inch on my living room wall (since relegated to the bathroom) and when my friends came over to stay on weekends we got absolutely wrecked, but I had a steady 9-5 job, a beautiful apartment in the West End and a fat stack of RRSPs accumulating interest in the bank (or wherever they are).

I also didn’t like myself very much. Worse, I had no idea that I didn’t like myself very much. That combination is dangerous.

I was caught in this strange limbo in which I attempted to show everyone, including my loving boyfriend, just how normal I was. Just how well adjusted and Adult-y and capable and good. I stifled the part of personality that loves dark and macabre things in order to prove that I was not fucked up IN ANY WAY AT ALL. See, I have always loved horror movies and graveyards and scary stories and since childhood I have nurtured a fucked up fascination with death. But in my mind, if I was somehow bad (too brash, too loud, too manipulative, too much ME) then this stuff was contributing to the badness. So it got the kibosh.

Not too many people know this, but while I was backpacking Asia and living in India a few years ago I was also being bullied and stalked online. I filed police reports and cried and lived my life in a kind of quiet desperation, just wanting it to stop. The worst part of it all was that the person who was harassing me seemed to know that I had a molten hot core of self-hate and they knew EXACTLY how to fan those flames. I slid into a world of self doubt and sickly nausea. I would pick at my raw scabs and re-read the awful things that this person sent to me and I would envelop myself in a blanket of shame. I made choices and decisions in my personal life that echoed the swamp of negativity in my brain. I lived in a weird hell.

And my weird hell was constantly being surveilled online. Every blog post I wrote was written with a keen sense of self censorship as I attempted to prove to the harasser – and, by proxy, to myself - that I was good. I left so, so many things out, afraid to admit them even to myself. It was a sick loop. The horrible things they said to me reinforced every fear I had ever secretly held about my perceived inner wretchedness.

I went to talk to a counselor about it last year, and she looked at me in horror as I recounted the entire saga and then admitted that I still re-read the horrible things that the harasser sent to me. She wrinkled her nose and spat out the words, “Well, that’s stupid. You just don’t do that anymore.”

This advice should not have worked. At the time, the counselor's harsh recriminations sent me reeling from her office and I should have landed in the arms of some liquor, the wrong boy and my email archives to worry at some old wounds - but somehow it worked. Since that day eighteen months ago I have not once looked at anything the harasser has sent me. It feels amazing.

Shortly after this breakthrough I started studying Buddhism in earnest and I began to cultivate self-compassion. I forgave myself for all of the pain I have caused others in the past (and started to work on forgiving myself). The old unquestioned notion that I was a “bad person” began to fade away.

And now here is the weird thing. As I work on this monumental task of loving and forgiving myself, all of the sudden I realize that as long as my actions are compassionate and kind, it doesn’t matter whether I love Bauhaus, Dario Argento and grave etchings. Whether I get jazzed about memento mori and Victorian hair sculpture and human skulls. I can still be “good.” I am still good. In fact, I think I am better for it. One of my favourite things about Buddhism is that it actively encourages us to think about death, to prepare for it and to realize that it is nothing to fear.

There is a bittersweet irony in the fact that it took me embracing the dark side of my personality to get to the light. Stifling the weirdo macabre parts of my brain in order to be sweet was like going to war for peace (or fucking for celibacy). Redundant.

This was meant to be a post about my walking tour through Singapore’s Chinatown, and I still want to write about that – but for now I think that this should stand on it’s own. I’m glad I wrote about it, and I promise it will make sense after my next post. The paper effigies, dead women and temples of Chinatown loosened some things in my brain - and made me more ready for the next eight months. To be continued....

Contemplation, forgiveness and Tiger Beer -
Violet Dear

See! I'm not alone. She is my hero. :)


Tonia said...

Shroud the cat!! Just freaking brilliant!
Never be afraid to embrace your dark side - without it you're just half a human being.
May the tiger beer flow plentifully, Violet Dear.

Amanda said...

Hej hej my dear, dear, Violet Dear. I can only say what I already think, you are like all of us, a work in progress. If you did not embrace and learn from the dark, the sad, the painful, you would not appreciate or truly understand the things you have achieved. With much love and admiration, your fellow traveler of the inner world.