Thought of the day: BRINGING UP THE LIGHT.

Dear Ones —

So there have been a lot of questions posted on this Facebook page lately that all seem to be of a theme to me. They are questions like: How do you fight fear and anxiety? How do you find happiness? How do you learn to love yourself? How do you forgive yourself and others? How do you conquer your demons? How do you defeat loneliness? How do you know when it's time to move on? How do you move past the traumas of your past in order to become a more contented person in the present? How do you make yourself brave?

You know…the simple stuff, in other words. The really easy sorts of questions which a person like me (who has a BA in Political Science) is TOTALLY qualified to answer.


The truth is that I don't have the answers to these huge questions. Though I do love you guys. And I do know intimately what every single one of those questions feels like, because at various times in my life, I have inhabited them all and suffered through them all. They all go under the sub-heading: HOW ARE WE MEANT TO LIVE?

There isn't an easy answer to that. Nonetheless, I'm going to offer you an easy answer.

(OK, not an easy answer, maybe…but certainly a reductive one, which I nonetheless hope may help.)

I've attached here a photo of some paint strips. You know how, when it comes time to paint your house, you go to the hardware store and they have all these paint strips available to choose from? And you know how each paint chip has a signature color, which is then presented on one strip in a range from darker to lighter?

So several years ago, a friend of mine introduced to me the idea that we humans are not unlike these paint strips. Each of us is born a signature color. This is called your NATURE. We come into life with a certain personality, a set of emotional inclinations. (Every mother I've ever met confirms this — that her child was "born that way".) Some of us are just born bubbly and cheerful, some are pensive and shy, some are over-sensitive, some are temperamental, some are brave, some are cautious, some are talkative, some are suspicious. I'm not even going to posit any theories as to why we are born this way…but it does seem we are born this way. That's just your native color.

You cannot change that. To keep with the paint strip metaphor — if your essential personality was born sunny orange, you will die sunny orange. Red is red, forever. Plum is plum. Grey will always be grey. You are who you are.

That said, life happens to us. If we're lucky, good things happen. (Good parents, good friends, good education, good health, good fortune.) If we're unlikely, bad things happen. (Horrible parents, abusive situations, poor health, violence, trauma, neglect.) If we're normal, probably a combination of good things and bad things happen. This is NURTURE. And these events can shape the lightness or darkness of your native character. In other words, your essential color doesn't change, but as life occurs, it either darkens you down or brightens you up. You're either at the top of your paint strip, or at the bottom. A good life can make you into a brighter version of yourself, a bad life can make you into a more shadowy version. So you are still "purple", let us say — and you will always basically be purple — but that can be a really dark coagulated sort of bruised purple or a gentle pale violet purple, depending on how things are going.

So here's what it comes down to. The part of your life that is your responsibility, as you become a self-accountable adult, is to do EVERYTHING IN YOUR HUMAN POWER to stay at the lightest possible version of your essential color. If you were never a sunny bright orange, you will probably never be a sunny bright orange, and that is fine. Maybe you were born forest green, instead. Cool. Just become the lightest version of your forest green nature that you can be. It is neither necessary nor possible to change your essential personality/color. But once you've figured out what your essential personality/color is, try to become the brightest possible version of it. That's your work.

Which means: Find out what brings in your light, and pursue it. Find out what brings in your darkness, and renounce it. Is fear holding you back? Fight it as though your life depended on it. (Because it does.) Jealousy is a problem? Battle it with endless love. Resentful that others have ruined your life? Wracked by uncertainty? Sad every moment? Torn up by addiction? Find something — anything — that brings forth your own light and pull yourself up as high as you can.

I can't know what will bring in your light. Only you can find that out. And you gotta find that out.

It isn't always easy. It isn't alway cheap. It isn't always convenient. It isn't alway appreciated by those around you. There are times when I have looked at people whom I have loved for years, and I can see where they just gave up, and settled on, like, the fourth stop down on their paint strip. They just embraced their deepest darkness and quit, and choose to live there for ever. And that is very much a choice. But you don't have to live there forever. I think it's your only job to live your life at the lightest possible end of your paint strip. Get whatever help you need to take you up there. Every inch of upward movement counts. Don't be proud. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance and inspiration. Don't be afraid to look dumb. Most of all, don't stay in the safety of your own darkness out of loyalty to other people who have chosen to stay in the safety of their own darkness (your family and loved ones, as a possible example.) Fighting for the light is messy as hell and it requires both vulnerability and stubbornness. It takes energy. It takes a lifetime commitment. It's often totally exhausting. Do it anyhow.

Because nothing is worth more.

Also, seriously — what else are you gonna do with your time? NOT bring in the light?

See what I mean?


via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall