That sounds like a fairy tale. What happens when that story is a nightmare? When it boxes us in and we feel obligated, even programmed, to follow the same patterns? When we watch ourselves do something – turn away help, push away a friend, lash out in anger – only to feel powerless to change course. When we feel trapped in the claustrophobic box of expectations as it sinks below the surface, our face mashed against the top, gulping for air and clawing at the walls frantically as the numbing coldness comes on…
Is it any wonder we feel so anxious?
The power of a story is that it is continually being written, unwritten and re-written.
I’m going to share something from when I was a teenager. When I was in high school, I suffered dark times and dark thoughts. And yet I was surrounded by a beautiful gang of misfits. We were loving and broken and inseparable. We got ourselves through. One of my friends was sent away for having suicidal thoughts and we bonded deeply over gallows humor. (Though, that is another story that I will share, with his permission, another time.)
I read and wrote a lot. One day, I came up with a symbol and a name for myself. Hell – if Prince can have a symbol, then why can’t I! That symbol is on the left above and I honestly never knew what it meant. I just knew that represented me. I was also inspired to take on the name Eros Thanatos. Now buckle up, folks because this gets a bit morbid. To me, Eros Thanatos meant: the instinctual desire to kill oneself.
FUCK. It's a wonder I wasn't a goth! But I was too good at masking it with humor. (Heart-pound to Robin Williams, wherever you are.)
Imagine taking that into your core identity. Your core story. That beyond all else in this world, deep-down, there is a part of yourself that instinctual wants to kill itself… I even went so far as to get these tattooed on my back around a yin and yang symbol. Not only was it my story. Not only did I identify with it. Not only did I have it tattooed on my body. It made me feel special.
Over time, I forgot about it (mostly) and it faded into the background. Is it any wonder that I struggled for many, many years with depression and suicidal thoughts? Is it any wonder that I struggled to trust anyone, especially myself? Would you trust someone that you unconsciously thought was destined to kill you? Would you open up to others when you suffered unimaginable losses, or would you continue to close off?
The path forward was long and filled with adventures and friends and plant medicines and reflection. Some incredibly uncomfortable moments. Some incredibly blissful moments. A lot of exploring.
Ten years ago, I lost my parents and began a downward spiral. Nine years ago, I hit rock bottom. Eight years ago, I had an adventure and decided life was worth fighting for. Seven years ago, I met a community that would change my life. I also began exploring plant medicines. Six years ago, I made the committed decision to find a way out of my company, even though I loved and felt responsible for the family we had created. Five years ago, I met some magnificent souls who would help me see what I wasn’t able to see. Three years ago, I trusted myself wholly for the first time. That unlocked a door and I was able to love myself, conditionally at first. Two years ago, I allowed my darkness to be fully seen by others and the stench of shame began to melt away. One year ago, I made the decision to move into a community and to be around people I love and care about daily. That was uncomfortable at first. Last week, I felt unconditional love for myself for the first time. A love beyond trust. A love without limits.
And now as I look back on those teenage years, the story has unconsciously shifted as I lived through all of that. The symbol on the left has become the one on the right. And when I look at that symbol, the meaning is clear. Infinite Love Expressed. That is who I am.
Eros Thanatos has become Life and Death. Light and Dark. The acceptance duality of our nature and existence. Remember the yin-yang symbol in the tattoo as well? Wholeness. This is also who I am.
Those small shifts in meaning have re-written the entire story. They have given meaning to moments that I wanted nothing more than to forget. They have brought understanding to who and what I am, even in the most uncomfortable situations. They have given purpose to opening up further and sharing these lessons to help others.
So I ask you this: what story have you let define you? Is it still true, or have you been following it out of habit? Looking at it with your older, loving eyes – how would you re-write your story? If you’re not ready to re-write it, what step could you take today to help you become ready? Will you take it?
PS – I want to give credit to Tamas for the term “Infinite Love”. It stuck in my head for years, when he once told me, “No matter how deep the hole is, I’ll continue to fill it with my Infinite Love.” I also give credit to Shinzen Young who I once heard use the terms Eros and Thanatos. (Yeah, I was shocked, since I had never heard anyone reference them together!) He said they represented the duality. The continual expansion and contraction of our existence. Another mind-seed that was gratefully planted in my brain.
PSS – for an entertaining and fascinating look at the power of stories and heroism, check out Derren Brown’s new special Sacrifice on Netflix. (And thank you to Daniele for turning me on to him.)