climbing out from self-imposed darkness

Haystack Rock, Canon Beach, Oregon. photo by me.

i have a bit of a confession to make. it’s something i haven’t really spoken about before.

i recently walked away from the last remaining tendril of my former career in the music industry, and after doing so, i unexpectedly fell into a bout of pretty intense depression. i was shocked at how crummy i felt, especially when i was expecting to feel the exact opposite. i was hoping to feel free, and energized to move on and start fresh. but i didn’t.

i was grieving i suppose, for the life that i’d officially said goodbye to, one that i used to think i’d have for the rest of my life. but its charm had faded. no matter how hard and long i had worked to create what i had achieved, it just wasn't what i wanted any more. it no longer satisfied my soul.

i had a new passion i needed to pursue now, and i owed it to myself to manifest it as best as i could.

it’s amazing how a simple one hour weekly commitment (recording a music marketing podcast) was enough to derail my creative headspace, but somehow it was. in my gut however, i knew i was just subconsciously using it to keep me from my moving forward with my new work.

this was resistance itself, manifested in its most potent form — an excuse.

after i said my farewells to the podcast, i fell into the bitter-sweet comfort of familiar company — self-criticism, doubt, fear, pity and resistance — a few old acquaintances who never seem to be very far away, and who are always anxious to jump to my side whenever my confidence happens to wane. they’ve never had my best interests in mind though, no matter how much they otherwise pretend. they’re not friends, despite how much they swear they’re only there to protect me. in fact, they’re the very ones who are responsible for my pain.

after languishing in my inner turmoil for awhile, i eventually got fed up with my self-imposed sadness and i managed to somehow shake it off. i was only able to do this because i knew that these dark feelings of mine never last. i realized they're temporary and impermanent, as everything in life is. so when i’d finally had enough, i poked my head out from my darkness and emerged renewed, inspired, and intent on throwing myself whole-heartedly back into my work .

i’ve struggled with dark feelings for much of my life, which is why i find Zen, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy so compelling; they point to proven practices that can liberate us and end our suffering. in the back of my mind i’ve always wondered whether i might actually have clinical depression, or if i just sometimes get sad and depressed, as we all do. this question has haunted me for years, and when i’m feeling low, dwelling on the thought drags me down even further. i know the answer to this question is irrelevant though. i know that whatever label i hope to affix to myself won't be my saviour. in fact, i believe that branding myself either one way or the other will do nothing but lock me in an even smaller box, one that’s confined by the limiting definition of my supposed diagnosis.

when i finally snapped out of my haze i found myself re-motivated once again, ready to pour myself entirely into my writing so that i can not only improve my skill, but realize my creative potential, and finish what i’ve started. in doing so, i can move on, only so i can begin once again.

up until this point, my fingertips were still clinging to the last vestiges of my prior life in the music business. i needed to unfurl my fingers completely, and fully let go.

i needed to let myself fall so i could remind myself i’ll always land on my feet.

life isn't just one solitary hill, it’s an entire valley filled with many mountains of varying heights and many different plateaus, cliffs, peaks and raggedy edges. i needed to prove that i have the strength, commitment and tenacity to begin climbing once again.

only when i had cleaned everything off from my schedule and was able to sit down with no other remaining commitments was i able to rediscover the focus i needed to resume my writing, with vigour.

i couldn’t climb another mountain until i stepped off the one i was still clinging onto.

the truth is, this is exactly the type of thing that the book i’m writing is about — real life, creative, artistic and existential struggles. in hindsight, i now realize that what i was going through was a necessary part of my process. it needed to happen so that i could continue writing from my first-hand, authentic experience.

no matter what i do, i know new distractions will continue to appear, and that temptations will still arise. these are everyday challenges i need to become better acquainted with along my creative path, and i must learn to recognize them easier, so that i can overcome them, and say no to them, without any hesitation.

i put this into practice a few days ago when i said no to a paid writing job i was offered. it’s hard to say no to money when it’s placed right in front of you, but i knew this was a test. i knew the mental unease that the job would have caused me as i struggled to reconcile it with writing my book. i would have ended up being upset with myself for taking the job, and it would have once again set derailed my focus and productivity. so, i guess i passed my first test.

these past few weeks have been an interesting and unexpected tangent in the new path i’m on. i thought i’d already dealt with this problem of resistance a year ago when i first began my new adventure, but i guess one final, last block had to be removed from the wall i was still hiding behind.

i had to lay my days before me, open, raw and bare. i needed to give myself a blank tapestry, ready for my making.

it’s all up to me now. no excuses. no more procrastination. no more resistance that i’ll fail to recognize and fight.

i only have my words now — and my strength of will.

brian thompson