You have lost the woman you so adored. Or the career you fought for. Or you’ve been struck by illness—suddenly—terrified at the uncertainty of what lies ahead. And you do not want to face your grief. So you seek out remedies, temporary gratifications which might, just might, bring a glimmer of respite for your suffering.
Perhaps you smoke, allowing each inhalation to transfix you, as if time is ever so briefly suspended. As you exhale, you feel free.
Perhaps you absorb yourself in porn, the vertiginous, ecstatic visuals taking you to a place of enchantment.
Perhaps you delight in alcohol, allowing each exquisite concoction to fill your inner being with a sweetness and state of being that feels almost majestic.
But it is a lie.
It is avoidance. The avoidance that at once desecrates your essence, while burying it in a chasm of pain. Pain that leads to the steady construction of malignant walls. Walls that get progressively thicker, as your true voice feels as if it is fading into the abyss.
It is self-propagating, and it compounds in a manner so potent you do not realize its true talent is not in its strength, but its deceit.
It proceeds to turn fraud into truth. Falsity hurtling toward an illusory state of sincerity.
Veritas no more. You cry from within, as if in a beautiful cathedral, where your words are carried to the furthest expanses of its architecture. Though you are unaware that the church is empty. Abandoned, lost to the expanses of time.
No one hears your pleas, because they are not privy to the terror that beckons within. They most desperately want to be heard, but you do not allow them to escape the prison of your pain. They reverberate vociferously, but rather than being released, they are caught in an echo chamber of your own making.
As in a fog of sound locked in a soundproof room.
A cavernous wince.
A blatant disregard for anything but itself.
You see, avoidance begets avoidance. It will stop at nothing to avoid, for that is its essence. As a result, avoidance avoids everything.
It cannot exist unless you permit it to. And you grant that permission through the avoidance of avoidance’s existence.
Therefore the only way to cease its claim over you is to plant yourself directly in its path. You must look directly into its proverbial eyes, and declare it’s grip null and void.
Doing so will not be pleasant. You will not like it. In fact, you’ll tremble in terror. You’ll feel a vulnerability so intense that you’ll desperately want to, well, avoid it. That’s its power. It knows you don’t want to face it, for to do so would be to confront your truest self.
Your deepest spirit.
Your inner child.
Your weeping soul.
Your brokenness. Your self-hatred. Your inability to forgive yourself, and to forgive others for the injustices they’ve wrought against you.
You will feel that all of these forces are conspiring against you in a tragic dance of inevitable defeat.
But it is imperative that you engage each and every one of them.
You must lean into the dance, and breathe it in. What will result at first will cause unimaginable pain. A pain with an acuity of epic proportions. You will feel alone, perhaps more alone than you ever have. And every fiber within you will scream for relief.
A ferocious recoil.
A howling lamentation.
A dogged loneliness.
But you must confront it, and do so with a vengeance. You can not do so alone--you must, and I stress must—enlist the aid of those who love you. But the responsibility must reside with you. There is no other way.
We all claim that we want to be real—to show up without pretense—but that’s rarely true. For to do so requires the willingness to shed our lies. The lies we tell ourselves because of the pain we feel so deeply. Shedding these lies isn’t easy, because they are wonderfully convenient. They’re easy to tell ourselves, at least initially. Over time, they take on a life of their own, and pervade every facet of our existence. They manifest in our inner life, our thought life, our relationships with others, and in the decisions we make. And they are incredibly powerful, as they have the capacity to define who we are, and thus, how we present ourselves to the world, and how we choose to live our lives.
When I was struck by a pervasive, inexplicable illness a few years ago, I wallowed in a chaos of weed, food, and just about anything I could find that would destruct me. I felt that I was over. Receiving a diagnosis didn’t help, nor did treatment. So I tucked myself away, as if I was lost in the haunted tundra of the earth.
I didn’t call the friends who were worried about me. I showed up at work in a haze of grief. I turned down invitations to see people I hadn’t seen in years, for fear of looking like a pathetic loser. I didn’t go after opportunities that presented themselves, because in my mind, I was nothing.
I spent literally every evening—for months—hidden from view.
As if I was enveloped in a vivid cloud of blackness.
I was a nebula of obscurity.
Hiding from everything, and everyone, I possibly could. I hated myself, and the solution for that self-hate was to avoid the person I hated.
That person was me.
I saw no recourse but to channel my pain via acts of avoidance. Living with intention was not an option, because to do so would have required that I absorb what had transpired both in me and through me. But I was in state of utter disbelief. I had convinced myself that I had given myself away, and I did not know where I really was.
Except I did. I was utterly present. I was alive. I had choices. And I did what I presumed would bring the most swift form of relief. I avoided myself.
Over time, I found that a great paradox was to be found in what I had been doing: avoidance itself is an act. I didn’t see it that way, because avoidance seems convenient, easy, even fortuitous. It convinces you that it doesn’t require effort, that it is itself escape. And it is escape. Escape from what you are. From who you are. And with that, an escape from your calling. From service to those around you. From the care of those you love. And most importantly, from the nurture of your very self.
The paradox in this way of existing is not altogether different from saying “I don’t speak any English”, in English. The contradiction permeates everything inside of us, but we don’t care. Or we tell ourselves that we don’t care. Yet we always do, for if we truly didn’t care we would not feel the desire to avoid so greatly.
Running from the stars of your very epoch will only cause you to come crashing into the waves of time itself.
As if lost in a desert, blindly clinging to the hope that avoiding its existence will quench your thirst.
Lost, inhibited by the practice of avoiding action brings out not the worst in us, but the least in us. Because living a life of avoidance is to live life lost, and concealed.
A few years ago, in the midst of a severe illness and depression, I realized that I had lived most of my life distant from everything and everyone, a keen and subtle observer. I would quite literally position myself on the fringes.
As if I existed at the outskirts of humanity.
Seeing everything, but rarely acting.
Taking in the experience of life via a filter of my own creation.
A filter of invisibility. Of imperceptibility. If only I couldn’t quite be understood, not quite revealed, all would be well enough.
I’d be assured in my ability to not be hurt any further.
Though it was perhaps the most consequential lie I ever told myself.
And it nearly destroyed me.
Out of that destruction, however, I found something. A tiny flicker of hope came into my field of vision. In my seemingly perpetual tears I slowly found that those tears contained a clue.
They contained life. As byproducts of my pain, they were merely an expression of what I had experienced, and thus what I had longed to so desperately administer to those around me.
And, somehow, in the dichotomous fruits of that aching, I stood and faced the horror that had been cultivated in my spirit.
And it has brought me home.
I am now in a place where I know that to be an observer is no longer sufficient. In fact, it’s selfish and foolhardy. It precludes the gifts so beautifully given to me to flourish, and rise above.
As in the ascent of the mists from the trees.
The calling of the one who longs for you.
The invitation to life not asked for, but given freely.
A voracious hunger has been imbued within me. Though it has not only recently come into fruition. It was always there. I have now merely given myself permission to express it.
To be an observer would be to betray the hope that resides within. That hope can, and will, only manifest when I intentionally become a participant.
An immortal passion not curtailed, but unleashed.
And, most distinctly, a giver of all that I am.
There is nothing else so precious. The vulnerability required to do this often seems stultifying. Horrific. Dizzying.
As in an obstructed maze of piercing consequence.
Though avoidance is not my master.
And I must make that declaration each and every day. For no one else will do so for me.
I had become unacceptable.
But I am now risen.
I am not fixed. I am interminably wounded.
But I am declaring myself anyway.
I know that I am loved. I have the opportunity to quite literally give of myself as no one ever has before.
Because no one else has ever lived my life. Or ever will.
That is the greatest gift of all. Though it must be received, cherished, and acted upon. If you do not do so, you are effectively giving it away. Participating in your own debasement. And the one and only person who can give it away is you.
So I beseech you, my friend, please do the world a most generous favor.