Recently while traveling for work some teammates and I were sitting outside of a pizza place waiting for our food, and I answered a question that might have had to do with something slightly more personal than work, and one of them immediately called me out for being too deep. I promptly moved on to talking about the next drinking spot or the weather. This isn’t a new experience for me, far from it, it’s a label most people have given me through and through, as true now as it was when I was a little girl.
There’s a physicality to depth, a mystery to it, and a necessity for its teaching that we miss when we think it’s only accessible in therapy, in sermons, or in ‘deep talks with deep people’. We all have this capacity simply by being people interacting with the world and with each other, in participating in the living that generations before and after know and have to grapple with. But so many of us (including myself) walk around as though we’ve signed some social contract delineating what’s acceptable to discuss and what’s not. It has an authority that I fundamentally disagree with in its substance and in its existence. This is why I love writing— there is great freedom in being able to speak from my highest, my deepest, my most generous self. The older I get and the more people I know, the clearer it is to me that we are made of the same trappings and bits, and that we all fundamentally belong to each other, that the deeper we get into the source the more truth there is to discover. Depth is only scary when we see the bottomless aspect of it as threatening instead of inviting. Those of us lucky enough to have found our people know that it truly does take a lifetime to get to know someone because we have to let ourselves and others explore and change. Whether we admit it or not we are all always unfolding, never finding a definitive ground.
The word 'deep' has roots relating to the word ‘depart’, which connotes descending beyond the surface, much like coal miners back in the day who would take canaries with them as they walked deeper and deeper into the mines to serve as early warning systems for toxins in the air that people couldn’t sense until it was too late. The canaries would sing when they sensed the contamination in the air; essentially they were highly sensitive. I’ve always been told that I’m highly sensitive. So much of maturation is an owning and an unbecoming; it’s about looking our self-narratives in the eye and asking what belongs and what doesn’t. Being an empath means that I’m highly receptive to feelings and vibes that someone else could write off, not unlike the canaries. Because it’s a part of me that’s always been different--especially in my immediate family--it is almost inevitably called out in a shaming way. But just like with most things that are present for us early on, it has served as a loose road map of how I am always going to be. I just have to learn to love this part of myself. The world needs the highly sensitive to sing their songs.
My great grandmother is someone who I’m said to take after in ways that aren’t present for me in other women in my family. She died prematurely in her 50’s, when my dad was in high school, and both he and my grandma speak about her personhood often, drawing parallels between us. In times when I’ve felt foreign, I think about stories I’ve heard of her and take comfort knowing that there’s something literally deep inside my genetic makeup, a thread of connection that both predates and outlives. This is what I think of when I think about deep time and deep truths, realities that are true regardless of the immediate time and place context; certain kinds of wisdom weaves throughout, it informs me now and I trust that it informed her then.
Depth is transcendent in nature, orients the psyche, gives ultimate perspective, realigns us, grounds us, and thus heals us. It speaks to our core parts, both to the impermanence of them but also to their foundation. This is why deep truths are always archetypal— they exist beyond time period and culture. It is source and therefore it’s expansive, opening us and allowing us to access the psychology and history in interactions that seem mundane or everyday, but they’re not. I believe that nothing ever is.
As someone who often thinks about and is fascinated by the body-mind connection, this inevitably involves a sense of depth that is not only highly personal but also a curiosity about how some experiences can be lodged in our bones and our bodies, beyond where language or traditional therapeutic methods can reach, not because they’re weak but because they were never meant to solve what our bodies need to answer. Sometimes we need to work it out through movement, through touch, through awareness that’s felt and sensed and not just thought, but wholly realized. In this sense, exercise has come to mean an entirely different thing for me as I feel otherwise pervasive stress or anxiety melt when I put foot to pavement or hands to the mat.
When we write off depth as something contained to certain contexts for certain types of people, it limits us in our capacity for healing, living, and connecting. There is something profoundly curative in learning from what has threaded through chronology and geography, in seeking out each other’s expansive insides, and in seeking out the same in ourselves.