Some days, just getting through the day is like slogging through molasses. Sometimes, even when you can list a thousand things for which you are immensely grateful, and point to many things that are going well, the wet blanket of all-that’s-wrong/all-that’s-lacking/all-that-could-go-wrong covers everything, even the good stuff, in a heavy, grey, cloudy mass. Eventually, you reach a point where trying to throw off the blanket seems like so. much. work.
How do you get out of those periods? How do you scrabble your way up through the murk to the light again? I don’t think there’s one way that’s right for everyone. However, I do think there is a truth inherent in such periods of darkness. This truth is that, just as the body signals disease with physical symptoms, these periods of dark discomfort let us know there is something that needs our attention, something that needs to be looked at more closely, something that we’ve been sweeping under the rug, hiding behind the door, shutting away in a closet.
This is where I’ve been in recent months. First, I swept because I was busy. Then I hid because I was exhausted and not ready to look. Then I shut because it had become too painful.
I shared some of what I’ve been going through with friends I met through an online course, and one of them said something that I knew-but-forgot and that I keep returning to: stay with the discomfort; it will tell you what you need to know. I think this is another important truth: before you can find your way to the other side of it, you have to allow the darkness and the sadness and the despair. You have to be willing to be with it (i.e. no sweeping/hiding/shutting), to look it in the eye. Otherwise, it just keeps coming back in one form or another.
I’ve had stuff coming at me from multiple fronts the last few months, so I haven’t really wanted to sit down and be with all of them. One? Maybe. All of them? No. Too overwhelming. However, I’ve finally become weary of the sweeping and hiding and shutting; in the end, keeping up the denial is so much more exhausting than dealing with what is, especially since all of that avoiding keeps you stuck right where you are. It’s an endless loop.
So, at last, it’s time for me to eliminate distractions, shift my focus, and let the swept, hidden, and shut away come out into the light of day. It’s time to put on my big girl pants and just deal. I started Monday…took a few baby steps, including asking for help and support. I have no idea what the next steps are. I’ll probably just feel my way forward, as I usually do, stumbling through trial and error on my way back to that calm, centered, clear-eyed Self that I know lives deep inside me…the one that doesn’t cower at things that go bump in the night or believe the distorted fun house mirror through which I sometimes view my life.
It will be a process. I’m sure there will be times when I take two steps forward and one step back. I had yet another curve ball come my way only yesterday afternoon, so just as the wet blanket was starting to feel a little lighter, I’m once again having to stop and regroup, to take a breath and find my balance so I can look what is straight in the eye with some sort of equanimity and see it not only for the challenges it might bring but also the opportunities.
I’ve learned over the years that—no matter how painful—the periods of darkness that I’ve experienced have brought with them a deeper understanding, even wisdom, about not only my life but also about life in general. And yet, even though I know this, I still find myself bracing against the darkness when it comes, trying to shove it back—to sweep it, hide it, shut it away—so I don’t have to face it and feel the discomfort it brings. And I do this knowing that, like a splinter, it will only fester and become even more painful the longer it is ignored. What I know (but repeatedly “forget”) is that the darkness is here to show us how to find our way back to the light, if only we will turn and face it and hear what it has to tell us.
If we never experience the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing stimulates our appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness or desperation. In order to complete our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.
― Anthon St. Maarten