I absolutely love this song by Linkin' Park. Deep inhale. Like Chester Bennington, I lost my husband to suicide. Deep exhale. And some days everything feels so undeniably, soul crushingly heavy. The lyrics to the chorus make this real, and yet offer hope:
I'm holding on Why is everything so heavy? Holding on So much more than I can carry I keep dragging around what's bringing me down If I just let go, I'd be set free Holding on Why is everything so heavy?
In an interview with Genius, Bennington and a bandmate explain how the chorus is ‘boom!’ the release of patterns of thinking and letting go of all the self-loathing. The answer is out there, we just have to figure it out, they claim. Admirable Chester and my dearest Rob, I will continue the search in your honor. The only way I know how to lighten the load is self-love. Self-love is the answer. Self-love is the way out. It’s a commitment, a journey without a final destination, a permanent wandering, but it is achievable. Sometimes it’s slogging through your day with concrete boots and only the tiniest glimmer of self-compassion. Sometimes it’s staying in and remembering to breathe. Sometimes you feel the burden is yours alone. Self-love can only be achieved by you, but you don’t have to do it alone. Somedays everything is so heavy...but not today. Today I believe in light. I see it. I feel it. I pursue it. As the magnanimous Barbara Kingsolver writes in her essay “High Tide in Tucson,” “In the best of times, I hold in mind the need to care for things beyond the self: poetry, humanity, grace. In other times, when it seems difficult merely to survive and be happy about it, the condition of my thought tastes as simple as this: let me be a good animal today.” Simply being a good animal, or caring for things beyond the self like music, poetry, humanity, or forgiveness, all should rest in the comfort of letting go of what’s heavy and embracing self-love.
I’m not a suicide expert/scholar/counselor. Or a grief counselor. Or a mental health expert. (Although if Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to mastery is true, I can attest to the fact that I’ve spent that and much, much more reading about, researching, and working on my own mental health.) But I AM a survivor. And someone who has struggled mightily against the bondage of grief. And someone who has learned to surrender and sit with the pain. And someone who has miraculously experienced post traumatic growth. I am a professional dedicated to the shared human goals of courage, self-love, and soul shine. A believer in the currency of lovingkindness and the possibility of self-actualization – joyful existence, maximum living, contented existence, soulful alignment, luminous living – for all of humanity.
Face the darkness and persevere. There are times when the spaces between heavy and survival, survival and poetry appear as indomitable gaps. But I am wed to the idea that “To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another – that is surely the basic instinct. … We love and we lose, go back to the start and do it right over again” (Kingsolver). Self-actualization is a choice. Happiness is a discipline. Self-love is a pursuit. Self-compassion is an endeavor. Let’s build on the valiant struggles of those we have lost, earning a better future in honor of them. It is available to all of us. You decide. ONLY you can.