Stories make up who we are. They connect us to one another, our ancestors and ourselves. The unifying thread in all of our stories is heartbreak, but in that there is tremendous beauty. The deeper pain is carved into us, the greater space we have for experiencing joy and the greater depth we have for understanding one another. Pain, when felt and really addressed, changes the trajectory of lives.
Dark, Spark, Burn, Bright are recurring themes in our stories, whether we realize it or not. We may experience each with a profound impact, or in gentler waves of sadness and lightness. The dark is the place where even breathing feels strenuous. It’s where we question if we will ever feel the warmth of life again. After the dark, comes the spark. It is that flicker of light. The first glimmer of hope. The tingly feeling after you have felt numb for so long. The thought that maybe there can be good from this. Maybe this all had to happen. Then comes the burn – it’s where we step into new territories and let transformation happen because of what we have endured. Our burn turns to bright – there is where we set ablaze. We thrive not only from what we learned in the darkness, but because of it. Burn turns to bright. The bright arrives when you can look back and see how all of the dots were always connected. Every tear, every change of life course, every love, and loss – it was all a part of something bigger. It is our duty to allow the transformation of the dark, to envelop us into the burning bright light. It is where we become whole, by living from our truest intentions. It is the single greatest gift you can give yourself and to those around you.
There is a time period that rings loudly for me, as I navigated the uncharted waters of the darkness years ago. It is the one that I eventually rode the waves on, that brought me back home, that brought me back to my light.
I was boarding a plane to Chicago, when I looked down at my phone to see my mom had called several times. She usually calls before I fly. I didn’t think much of it. I put my bag away, sat in my seat and reached for my phone to text her back. She beat me to it. I read. “Call me.” I sank deeper into the chair and called her. It rang for what felt like minutes. The line picked up. In between cries, my mom made out, “Patrick has died.” Patrick was my cousin, and was an extension of my own brothers. I started to spiral, yet here I was on a plane, confined in my pain, with no way out of it. My mom assured me to stay put and that they were all waiting on the other side. I sobbed in agony. I couldn’t see or feel my body. Everything was a blur. Then I felt a hand on my hand. It was the woman next to me. She looked into my soul with her big brown eyes. She said I don’t know what you’re going through, or what has happened, but please know on this flight you have me here the whole time. Patrick, already an angel, was holding me closely through her. That flight home was the ride to my new normal. It was a season of darkness that had more in store, complete with job changes and city changes. There was still yet sudden loss. I lost big love, I lost loved ones too soon – I completely lost my way.
This new normal left me exhausted and struggling to comprehend how life keeps going on, when everything you have clung tightly too completely bursts apart. I was scrambling to pick up the pieces and forcefully fit them back together. Everything would feel less heavy and less anxious, if the pieces could just go back to before. Life doesn’t work that way, does it? When we hold onto something so tightly, it just perpetuates that cycle. Wish and hope for things from the intention of real truth, but not from filling a void – then let it go. Healing and guidance only arrive when we stop clinging. The spark came for me in letting go of my grip. In releasing my plans I wanted to have, over and over again. It is the surrender. It came from travel. It came for me in seeing new landscapes, cultures and hearing stories from people all over the world. It came from thinking less about myself and listening. The spark came to me in friends showing up, making dinners and throwing parties just to celebrate life. The spark came in a new job, in new relationships I never would have had before this all happened. The spark came from me humbly moving back home with my parents and brothers. It came from those late nights of tears, talks, struggles, too much wine, and laughing through the complete disarray. If we allow space to comprehend the darkness, allow time to mend the brokenness with grace, then and only then, the spark feeds us. It gives us the energy to continue with purpose. The dark to spark brought me alive again.
The spark gave me the tools to have perspective, gratitude and honesty with myself. The burn allowed me to tap into these tools and bring me home. The season home in Chicago served a richly significant purpose, but as I returned to myself, I felt the pull that it was time to go. I sold all my belongings, broke my lease, changed my job and moved to Sydney. This was my burn. It was the big life change where I gathered up everything I had been taught from the people and places since the big Dark, and let the burn take hold. I knew how to cope with staying busy and traveling before, but I felt different now. I needed to be fully in my head, heart and body. Moving to Australia forced me into necessary stillness. The pace of life felt slower and work, more balanced. I had ample time to rest and just be. The ocean was a necessity and journaling was a non-negotiable. The time there taught me how to yield inner compassion, which in turn gave me insight into where my heart was leading. I realized our struggles are much bigger than what we know in this life. There are pages upon pages from our ancestors that have come before us, that we can and should dive into. It helps us understand our patterns, and to break from ones that no longer benefit us. I found forgiveness for every part of what had come before, but mostly for myself. I felt my truest, joyful, most resilient Bridget burn.
After my time in Sydney, that pull re-surfaced. I knew it was time to come back to San Diego. I was ready to be closer to family, find routine, work creatively and still be near the salt-water air. This is a place I had lived before that moment on the plane, before the sudden loss, before living with my parents, before Australia. It nurtured parts of me I didn’t even know were hurting. It broadened my view of the world. It showed me why living near the ocean was an integral part of who I am. The journey I’ve been on over the last few years has deeply enriched the sense of home I have in San Diego. Even more so than location, I cherish the woman that I am here now. My capacity to love, to create, dream, and experience real joy has no bounds. I have learned how to swim through the depths of pain with a spirit of resilience and strength from the generations before me. I won't let that spirit's light be put out.
The darkness taught me what I’m capable of, how brave I am and how to have more empathy. It brought me the deepest connections of my life. Travel taught me how we are all in this together. We all have sorrows of many kinds. We all want to be heard, seen and loved. It opened my eyes to the significance of our stories. Sharing our journeys from a raw, vulnerable place, help us bridge the gaps, release our own judgements and create meaningful connections. Chicago taught me how there is nothing more transformative than the relationships we cultivate in our lives. It taught me the value of community, roots and what it really means show up for one another, continually. They gave me my spark. Australia taught me how vital it is to spend time with yourself. How to not only be comfortable with it, but to actually enjoy it. This time allows us to make peace with our past. It enables us to live with more grace and enjoy life in it's fullest capacity.
Falling is destined to happen to us all, but I hope you choose to rise. You are rising for those before you and those to come. In each new chapter of the dark, the spark, and the burn throughout your lifetime, hold onto gratitude. If you’ve got that, even in the darkness, that flame can never be truly extinguisehd. We’ve got this one life, so let’s burn. Let’s burn bright.
Storytelling + Burning Bright takes on a new life here: www.sheburnsbright.com. RISE with us.