When I was four or five, my mother, two brothers, and I took a drive to a farm where my mother’s friend, Trish, lived. Along the way we stopped to pet cows and horses that lined the road. Once we arrived, we did much of the same. Petting, p l a y i n g in the sunflower fields, taking pictures in the stables.
My first memories are in this field. My m o t h e r is standing in front of me wearing a halo of s u n l i g h t around her head. I’m in front of her, incredibly small, d a z e d by the glitter in the air, amazed by her tall, glorious figure: s u n f l o w e r s everywhere, a looming blue sky, while a hum buzzes in the pit of my stomach—she has no facial features, only hair alight and b l i n d i n g .
But as you can guess, or as you might know for yourself by now, this never happened. This is merely my earliest manifestation of light as power.
Within this scene there is incredible lacking. Where is my f a t h e r ? Although, we haven’t reached the catastrophe of 9/11 he is still missing and I sense that something is wrong. Without language to speak of it at that young age, did it make a difference?
This is my earliest mark of d a r k n e s s . It has nothing to do with my mother or my father but rather the inexplicable sensation of not knowing and still, in this moment, not being able to verbalize the incredible l o v e + l a c k i n g that can occur in u n i s o n .
Later on, over a car ride or coffee or a winded conversation of her h e a r t , my mother reveals her own take on my recollection of the farm. She tells me that it’s true, her and my father were in an argument and she wanted to get away for the afternoon with us kids. I listen to her, taking note of her green eyes, her blonde hair, the yellow stone in her marriage ring that says she is a woman that won’t be caught dead wearing a tacky diamond—and neither would I and so was I for everything I saw in her.
When I think about darkness I remember my basement. My lakehouse. Lightening. A red teakettle. It is a similar story to the one about light. Along Lake Michigan is a quiet town of Beverly Shores. As a child, I spent three months of summer mostly reading atop the quiet, remote sand dune that serves as the foundation for our lake house.
In the dark memory, I am standing in the stairwell that leads to the common area encompassed by windows. There is a s t o r m going off outside. There’s no rain—only violent f l a s h e s of lightening. My mother and father are arguing. I watch, small bodied and big-eyed. Most of what I remember is the wall of windows, the jagged edges of their mouths and the sharp edge of the wooden cabinet, my body imploding.
Like the story of light, there are no words. It is a fantasy. But, by this point in childhood, I had already decided that I was like my mother and my mother was like light and my father then, had to be the dark and had to be the reason that there was no rain for this violent lightening storm.
Within these images and stories themselves there is no goodness, no badness—there is only my relationship to them, which is shrouded by insensible decisions. This is to be a child. Without a proper format for release and understanding, my susceptibility initially resulted in a mixture of confusion and anger. I thought this s e n s i t i v e way of being would always leave me feeling isolated from others. Only after quite some time was I able to find the point of it all, and with this realization, m y p o w e r . Within these moments was my capacity and inexorable need to feel the unspeakable magic in other people’s experiences.
E m p a t h y , some call it. I began to embody my greatest gift and use it as fuel. I began to live intentionally and act on i n t u i t i o n as a real form of genius.
If I had to decide on an i n t e n t i o n for my life, it would be closely tied with light but I know that I can only say so because of what I learned in blind spots. My intention has nothing to do with these opposing forces, quite the opposite. My intention is to be bare and believing. To see each moment as new and fertile. To be more gracious than critical. To be both and balanced so that others can feel free to show up as they are.
This past May, I graduated college. On the c u s p of so much life, I assumed my options: stay in Colorado—safe, expected, comfortable. Move home to Chicago—out of the question, absolutely not. Travel—exciting, scary, new. I decided to “move” to Costa Rica. I say move because I was expecting to be there at least 3 months. I said “move” because it’s more thrilling than a post-grad vacation to another country. And truly my intention was to become part of another culture, to be i n f u s e d as if a local, to learn more Spanish, pick up surfing, get my hands dirty. It wasn’t luxury inspired by any means, I went with no money to a country that has high prices despite the local people who can’t afford products who’s only choice is to exploit the tourist prioritized population. But I digress…
Upon landing in Costa Rica, I had this odd twinge in the pit of my stomach. Butterflies people said! Excitement! But, I knew the feeling wasn’t excitement but rather, a realization that I had made a mistake.
C o u r a g e is defined as, “the ability to do something that frightens one.” But I wasn’t afraid of being alienated, poor, or even targeted by a crazed drug deranged couple I was working for in Costa Rica. I was afraid of moving home. I was afraid of my lonely self. Once I landed so far away from everything I loved, I realized how held I already was in Colorado.
A big part of living courageously and with freedom is allowing others to see every side of you. The light and the dark. Often, I’m afraid of staying put because of my darkness. The shadowy side of me that gets afraid when people are too close. But mostly, this construct is due to the restless voice in my head that comes at me with a hammer. “You’re not kind enough, you don’t give enough, you’re unlovable and cold,” the negative side of the binary in my mind that fluctuates without control at times. But what if I stood in one place and allowed the ugly to show? What if I was honest? To believe I am the best version of myself even when I don’t feel like it is a grace I’m only just starting to understand.
What that looks like right now is being more s o f t and kind to those when I’m at war in my own head and asking for help— externalizing when I feel trapped inside. One of many starting points for this s u r r e n d e r was when I booked my return flight home from Costa Rica and told myself that there is no shame in changing your mind, only in ignoring yourself.
The first night I was in Costa Rica I woke up to cockroaches crawling along my body. From that night forward I slept with a scarf wrapped around my head and the covers tucked tightly underneath my body. For the most part, I was unbothered. But on this particular night, after buying my return flight, I was only able to skim the surface of sleep and energetically I was exploding with anxiousness. At some point deep into the night I felt an intrusive weight in the bed with me. This was no cockroach, moth, or colony of ants. As I began to stir I saw shadows dart around the room as this thing began to move. I jumped from bed and switched on the light to find a rat staring at me from the windowsill above my head. It didn’t move upon our acknowledgment, just stared back at me as if saying something or rather uninterested in the fact that he was a rat and I a human. I felt sick to my stomach imagining a night spent with a long tail crawling across me in w o n d e r + f e a r l e s s c u r i o s i t y . I was angry that I wouldn’t sleep the entire night. I was drained from the emotional rollercoaster of choosing to go home. Why did this have to happen on this night?
I walked into the common area where the dogs slept and found myself a corner on their couch to sleep. It smelt of rotting tongue and the cushions were damp beneath me. I figured the dogs would stir before I if the rat were to come into the room with us. I dozed in and out of c o n s c i o u s n e s s with panic until once again I felt a weight, except this time on my lap. In the dimly lit room I woke to, yet again, the rat’s curious stare from the arm of the chair. This rat had an agenda and the entire next morning while relaying the unbelievable story to the rest of the jungle lodge I questioned what it could be. My mind went here and there and up and around about the metaphors of rats, the p o w e r of unexpected animal encounters. The possibility that this was a grand message from somewhere off in the cosmos is pretty hilarious to most people, myself included... The world “operates” and we dance in our own way with the circumstances but the message from this rat is important—looking at small things with big eyes and true heart is important—and what the rat was saying was, “this is affirmation, not punishment!"
written by Edy Guy
Yoga Teacher in Boulder, CO