Updated: May 2, 2022
The world is a dark place. What happens when your safe space becomes tainted black?
My favorite place to unwind is the beach. I feel free walking along the bronze sand, gazing at the pink and purple sky and the endless turquoise horizon. I feel like nothing can touch me except God’s peace and clarity.
One evening around sunset, as I was sitting on the beach and listening in on a Zoom call, I had a passing thought. I pictured myself in the water… not swimming or laying on a floaty with a tropical drink in hand, but inside the water, covered by a blanket of warmth… and silence. This scared me.
How could my happy place become one of… darkness?
Such betrayal! I had deemed this beach a sacred space that listens to my secrets, catches my spilled tears, and never judges me.
I had - and still have - every desire to keep living, so why did that thought come cruising through my brain so casually? Passing thoughts are not sinful per se, but this one felt wrong.
Was this Evil sliding its ugly fingers into my corner of the world? Or was it my mind sinking to a low place and sabotaging itself… again?
I’ve only experienced a thought like this one other time in my life. It was after a breakup. I was driving at night, and I just wanted the clashing pain and pressure to stop. I thought maybe if I just turn the steering wheel a little to left and crash my car into a guard rail, I could cause a bigger distraction. I didn’t want to hurt myself or anybody else. I just wanted something else to erase the pain of my current situation.
Kind of like the old trick of creating a bigger pain, like punching yourself in the arm, when you’re trying not to feel the sting of a paper cut.
But pain on top of pain is not the answer.
For days, the thought of me floating beneath those dark, quiet waves haunted me. I didn’t know what it meant. And the worst part was that I saw my face, and it looked content. I couldn’t make sense of it… until I saw this picture while doom scrolling my Facebook feed:
It stopped me in my tracks. This was me. This was my vision, my dark thought captured in a drawing. My eyes skimmed the caption like lightning:
"And once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about." -Haruki Murakami, from his book, Kafka on the Shore
Clearly, I was in the midst of a storm. At least a mental one.
A quick Google search on Murakami, the acclaimed Japanese author, led me to themes like consciousness, love, and searching for the meaning of life.
I felt better. I wasn’t alone. And my dark thought didn’t mean death. Phew.
Let me be clear - I am not suicidal nor struggle with suicidal thoughts. However, I experience the highs and lows in life very deeply.
It’s the blessing and the curse of a pure heart. And I do not want to shy away from talking about it, because I feel like a lot of people do.
We can feel shameful about the best parts of ourselves. And I’m here to tell you not to.
Heck, I have to remind myself, too.
Another theme I came across is the honne-tatemae divide in Japanese culture.
In Japan, "honne" refers to a person's true feelings and desires, and "tatemae" refers contrastingly to the behavior and opinions one displays in public.1
It’s basically the internal conflict almost everyone goes through, from fictional superhero characters to everyday humans, like me and you. We’re all just trying to survive our storms. But sometimes in our survival, we hide how we really feel on the inside. Or worse, we lie about it.
Again, this won’t solve the problem. It’s just stacking more pain on top of pain. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
That’s what solves the problem. Love is always the answer.
So, when you’re drowning in dark waters or feeling the weight of the world, choose love.
When someone says something hurtful; respond with loving words.
When you lose sight of your dreams; do one thing you love.
When you fall into a pit of hopelessness; remind yourself you are loved.
Because you are.
It doesn’t mean you won’t feel pain. I think the world will always try to find a way to rear its dark, ugly head into our safest, purest places, because that’s what it does.
But just like us (and superheroes), the world has two sides, its honne and tatemae. So where there is evil, there is also good. Where there is chaos, there can be safety. And where there is darkness, there is always light.
Swim towards that light.