It doesn’t seem possible for a person to get to my stage in life without experiencing dark, lonely and painful moments. Perhaps it is possible for a small group of people with certain constitutions. But then there are the rest of us, and for another small subset dark moments are entirely too common. They can become dark days, weeks, months and even years.
Like the majority of the population, my heart contracted when I heard the news about Robin Williams last week. But I didn’t have to ask why, I knew that in that moment he just couldn’t find his way past the pain and the dark. And I wished that I could have reached out and helped him to refocus, just enough to get through that worst moment, on some small bit of joy. Or even just the knowledge that joy does exist and has power too.
There is always joy even though the cruelest aspect of dark moments is the way they work to rob a person of joy. A pensive Robin Williams would appreciate the irony in the fact that someone who represented joy to so many wasn’t able to summon it for himself at a crucial moment.
I learned this lesson well the year that my father died suddenly and my husband left me the following month. The dark loneliness was crushing. But spring still came and brought delicate new leaves and tiny hardy flowers. My children still laughed with their friends in the next room and the sound was a balm.
I have kept this lesson close in these following years as I have grappled with more trials, more dark and painful moments. I have learned many things about this dark, this melancholy, this depression as it has been a companion for most of my life.
Mary Schmich, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote a thoughtful piece in which she said “Suicide is a mental health issue, not a moral failure”. She also introduced her readers to a lovely poem called “Wait” by Galway Kinnell, which says in part:
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
He understands the dark. And he found his own methods to find joy. And he knows that sometimes when the dark and pain are working hardest to block out joy, the best method is just to wait and trust that the joy is strong too and will find a way to seep in and make things interesting again. Given time.
Pain and dark do have power. They are heavy to carry around and exhaust a person. Joy is light and therefore seems inconsequential but it has power too. Joy’s might is everywhere. We have to be able to receive it.
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Tagged: Depression, Learning, Life, Reflection
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