THE DIAPHANEITY OF LIGHT
By: Lauren Anderson
Hey hey! It’s that time of year again when I can’t sleep! WOOHOO!!!
I’m being sarcastic, of course. (I think you could probably glean that… but I know that sarcasm rarely translates to the written page, so here we are.)
I hate it when this happens to me. I’m not much of a sleep-seeker in my normal moments, but the insomnia that seems to creep into my life twice a year is always such a pain in my ass. And in my eyeballs. And down to my f*cking bones.
The worst part is always the wide awake-ness of my night always messes with the wide awake-ness of my days and then everything gets pushed and pulled into corners and piles and I feel so behind as my mind races ahead and the sentences become run-ons and and and.
I’ve written about insomnia before. And I think I know what’s at the root of it again. Depression.
It’s always depression. But what’s hitting me this round is that I’m in such a better place than I have been in years, and yet, I still experience depression. I’m in therapy, I have a strong circle of support, and I work out regularly. So…What’s up with the depression still?! DAMMIT.
It’s frustrating and also liberating to know this about myself. I no longer think of my depression as something I need to fix. It’s something I manage. And it’s taken awhile, but at this point in my life, I think I do it well. I can usually still function. I can somehow mine the moments of joy.
And I always make it to work. That seems to be a thread in my life… so good, I s’pose. #worksaves
Depression is kinda like a backpack that I have to carry. Sometimes the backpack is filled with rocks and I can’t move. Sometimes it’s only the multi-zippered nylon shell. But it’s always a possibility.
And It’s always with me. SIGH.
Not trying to be bleak here. I actually like talking this candidly about my depression. I think I used to hide it away, or try to act like it can be cured. But now I know better. I want people to talk about their stuff like I do about having asthma, or if someone has high blood pressure or sciatica er something. It’s something we deal with and hopefully…get help and keep going.
Also, I want to reframe depression a bit. Because I think having depression has given me a particular worldview that is very helpful. In some ways it’s helped this very sensitive soul ~ survive. By practicing confronting the “darkness” of my mind, I can now recognize the difference between the ghosts in the funhouse mirror, and what is real and true.
It’s made me able to cope with darkness that happens outside the mind and in the world too.
I’m no longer running from demons. Instead, when the darkness comes I stand very still and shine my flashlight in the corners. I’m a detective on the hunt for the answer.
“Just the facts Ma’am.” Without judgement. Just trying to shed some light.
* * *
When I fall in love with someone (friend, family or otherwise) they can probably recall me saying at one point, or multiple times, “I want your light and your dark”.
I think I started saying this to people when I realized that *I feel the most loved when people want all parts of me. The bright and shiny parts that are easy to share–but also the dark and creepy stuff.
And it’s not loving someone IN SPITE of their darkness. It’s loving someone AND their darkness. It’s loving that part too, recognizing we all have it. Just like we all have the light.
If someone I care about can offer both their lightness and the darkness to me, and trust me with it—I consider that an act of tremendous love.
Because if they are able to trust me with their whole self, (not just the pretty stuff,) then they are allowing themselves to BE TRULY SEEN. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable. And I believe when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with each other, that’s where true connection begins.
And if they let me be the one to get to truly see? What a gift that is!
In my humble opinion, that’s where real love lives.
* * *
Which of course got me thinking about light and how it refracts and interacts. Which leads me back round to my late night insomnia readings. (Everything connects!)
I was reading up on gemstones– as I am want to do when I can’t sleep. And in the jewelry world, they have a specific word for the transparency of a gemstone. Since clarity is one of the ways they classify stones. (FTR: It’s the 4C’s. Cut, Color, Carat, and CLARITY. Boom. Now you’re a trivia champion.)
The word is Diaphaneity. Pronounced DIA-FAN-ITY. Isn’t it pretty? The word reminds me of a queen on Wonder Woman’s island or something.
It’s basically a fancy word for the way light interacts with the surface of a substance.
We all might recall from science class that there are really only three ways light interacts. Transparent, meaning we can see everything–no obstruction. Translucent, meaning we can see some with some obstruction. And Opaque, meaning we can see none. Total Obstruction.
Just like light interacting with a surface, I think humans interact with each other in very similar ways. When there is trust, there is often transparency. When something is shady, or something we have feel like we should hide, we obstruct the light so nothing is seen.
It’s not always a bad thing either. Sometimes it’s for protection. It’s human nature I think to want to “close the ranks” to protect the core. And I think it’s an act of bravery (or perhaps an act of love) to dare to be transparent first. Even before we know it’s safe to do so.
When I’m brave enough to try this, I know that the chances of me getting hurt are high. But I also know that the rewards that I might get for letting the light (or the darkness) out first are HUGE.
* * *
This all came to “light” (see what I did there) at the gym on Monday.
Working out and letting my body be fully present in the room is something I am always working on. The gym teaches me every time I walk into it, that my body deserves my time and my love.
But even though I’m a few years in now, and it’s getting easier, there are still A LOT of moments where I’m in my head and feeling dark dark thoughts about my body.
This always seems to bubble out when I’m doing box jumps/step ups. Honestly? I love to brag about how strong I am. And then I am always HUMBLED when I have to jump or run. I still got no ups. If this was The Last Airbender/Avatar world– I would be an Earth Bender. I know it.
It’s better than it was, but the progress is so slow, it feels like it’s not happening.
But that’s another GHOST in a funhouse mirror. NOT A FACT. Cause the truth is, I am better at box jumps/step ups than I used to be. And every time I get back to it, I get better. Just like every time I cycle back through insomnia, or depression I get better at recognizing it, and handling it.
When I know it’s happening I can be honest with myself and others. TRANSPARENT. And letting that light shine into the corners, makes the darkness not so scary.
Back to the gym on the box. We are doing 5 sets of 15 box jumps and 15 clean and jerks. It’s grueling. The old me, would’ve tried to hide a bit, or make fun of myself for having trouble stepping up on a box.
So… JUDGING MYSELF basically.
But today, because I haven’t slept and it’s made me not have any more f*cks to give, I am full on GRIMACING. My face is squished into this unattractive pouty-slash-I’ll-kill-you face.
Coach Bobby sees my face, and he goes “Yeah! It sucks. Get mad at it!” Which makes me laugh, cause it’s kind of an inside joke between us.
And then my gym buddy Matt, looks over and goes, “C’mon Lauren! Let’s go.” He’s in it too, and he’s not giving up on me. And I smile.
My face changes and I finish my reps strong. A full two minutes before I thought I would.
In a moment, of letting myself “be truly seen” or TRANSPARENT by my gym buds, they were able to meet me where I was at. They were able to see and except the “darkness” I was experiencing in that moment.
Instead of ignoring it, or pretending like I wasn’t struggling, they both called it out, and in doing so MADE IT OKAY.
Bobby made me laugh, which is still my most powerful weapon and the one thing that propels me more than anything else. And Matt reminded me that it was okay, I was not alone, and that I had more in the tank.
A small innocuous moment at the gym, became a wonderful example of a very loving act.
And the good news is, I think a lot of humans do this stuff for each other all the time! We just might not see it for the full mitzvah that it really is. Or an act of grace. Or Compassion. Or whatever you want to call it.
That’s part of why I started being so blatant with my loved ones. Why writing about my fitness journey still feels important to me. Because I want to keep talking openly about depression and insomnia, and bodies, and not have it be a shameful thing. I want to normalize it.
I think I started actually saying, “I want your light and your dark.” Because I wanted to practice being super clear about what loved ones can expect with a person like me. And then, in return, they might know it’s safe to do the same.
Cuz, ya know, I spent most of my life being Opaque about this stuff. And I’m not mad about it, because looking back, I know that’s what I had to do at the time to help me get by.
But I’m different now. Like most companies and policy makers nowadays, I am moving towards more transparency. When a gemstone is transparent, it has more value, more power. Perhaps the same could be said about myself? And the way I choose to show up.
I think we are all choosing how we wield our personal DIAPHANEITY—
On a day by day, case by case basis.
And I think there is value in the Opaque and the Translucent, and how we show it on the surface.
But for me, I think I’m gonna hang out in the Transparency for awhile.
Because I want the light AND the dark.
And it’s the easiest way to let it all in. Or out.