January 28, 2011

I’m thinking today about readers who are in really rough spots right now – moments or days or entire seasons when fear’s grip is a vice. When that blanket of dark thoughts (Could this possibly by okay? How can I/we make it? Will this really never end?) is heavy and immovable and the thought of it lifting – ever, or at the very least soon – almost funny if it weren’t for how impossible it is right now to laugh.

I’m thinking of people who might be living normal lives on the outside: working, parenting, walking dogs, hanging pictures, picking produce, but who wonder in their deepest, most private places, whether something isn’t truly, fundamentally awful about the way of things – everything, maybe, or even just the way of certain things: a relationship, a responsibility, a circumstance, a life.

I’m remembering a story my therapist told in one of our darkest sessions, a decade ago. She spoke of a Holocaust survivor (I think Victor Frankel, but can’t for the life of me find his Man’s Search for Meaning on my shelves right now to confirm), concluding, ultimately, his long description of the hell that he’d survived with a word so dense with meaning I had to catch my breath when my therapist spoke it.


I hear it and feel my own curled up inner places softening, an invisible thread of hope winding its way slowly through, beneath, alongside the darkest things I know our world to bear. It isn’t in a hurry. It winds its way through the dark things and in between them through things like sunsets, moonrises, the sound of wind through pine-dense forests. It moves alongside lovers, newborns at their mothers’ breasts, quiet glances between friends. Spider webs, river ways, a dandelion bursting through a pavement’s crack.

I don’t know what’s real, exactly, but I know that darkness is felt quite deeply, and that our world is holding all of that darkness while at the very same time an enormous amount of light. And that somehow, when the darkness is most deep, a nevertheless rings gently, resoundingly true. It’s a prayer and an answer, both. A window. A seed. A strength that need not be reached for or clung to because no matter what we do or don’t do with it, the net of it is there. And there. And there. It can catch us.

I hope that in your darkest nights you come to feel it, whether you know it by this name or not.

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15 comments   |   Filed in: Meditations   |   Tags:   |  


  1. What a beautiful story, word, and perfect image to go with it. I’ll remember this. Nevertheless. And the thread you describe. xox

    Comment by Lindsey — January 28, 2011 @ 6:01 am
  2. The concept of “Nevertheless” is like a key to the door of that dark place… or our own inner friend knocking at that door… breathing some light into the darkness… helping to open it up to the LIGHT and TRUTH of right NOW… opening up or unraveling the tight ball that fear can seem to wind us into.

    Nevertheless has a feeling of PRESENCE to it… brings one to RIGHT NOW.

    I think that it is so important and wonderful that we are all searching and not giving up… seeking a life of calm and joy. I used to think “What is wrong with me” or “When will I be free from this fear”. I have recently found some ‘freedom’ around this topic here at this blog as well as in the book I am reading Pema Chodron’s , “The Places That Scare You”.

    She shares about her first shifts towards… what??? peace… enlightenment (she is a Buddhist nun) when something shifted in her, she started observing that nothing was static. She writes: “My moods are continuously shifting like the weather. I am definitely not in control of what thoughts or emotions are going to arise, nor can I halt their flow. Stillness is followed by movement, movement flows back into stillness. Event the most persistent physical pain, when I pay attention to it, changes like the tides.” She goes on to say that she if grateful for the insight to “… what we struggle against all our lives can be acknowledged as ordinary experience. Life does continually go up and down. People and situations are unpredictable, and so is everything else… that we don’t suffer this kind of pain because of our inability to get things right.”

    It is how the mind works… it was, oddly as this may seem, freeing to know that I will never be free from fear (just like how you write about living ‘beyond’ fear)… thoughts will always be running through my mind and I am NOT bad or broken for having them… there is nothing wrong with me… “IT IS ORDINARY”, BUT I have a choice to have compassion for my thoughts (fears)… and to choose: Nevertheless… breathe… right now I choose to let go… and break through the dirt and bloom… to break through the dam and flow right now.

    Hope that made sense… it is a twirled up concept with so many facets… can be hard to explain… and i am still working on it and will be in every moment.


    Comment by Angela — January 28, 2011 @ 12:23 pm
  3. This post is so touching, but most of all helpful. I’m going through a difficult time right now and I know I will re-read this several times over and say to myself …. nevertheless. Thank you for an uplifting blog that I look forward to reading every day.

    Comment by Aimee — January 28, 2011 @ 2:20 pm
  4. Angela, yes, that makes lots of sense. Pema Chodron is such a wonderful teacher, too, and you’ve inspired me to check out her “Places that Scare You” – I haven’t read this one.

    Aimee, I’m sending all tenderness your way. I’m really glad to meet you.

    Comment by Kristin — January 28, 2011 @ 3:18 pm
  5. Gorgeous, thank you Kristin. Hoping I can incorporate this word into my self-talk as a gentle reminder that things are not as bad as they seem.

    Comment by Yvette — January 28, 2011 @ 5:08 pm
  6. [...] darkest places, if you are open to it … Kristen Noelle writes beautifully about this today, here. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "0"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

    Pingback by Nevertheless « Bohemian Grace — January 28, 2011 @ 5:48 pm
  7. A seed. A seed germinating in the darkness. What a beautiful image. Thank you, Kristin.

    Comment by kasey — January 29, 2011 @ 9:10 am
  8. I love that word, and your post. I haven’t been in that dark place since my university days well over 40 years ago, and it would have been helpful to have that word to help solidify a vague feeling that I could get through. It reminds me a little of “carrying the fire” in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. But the “fire” seems like it is a purpose that comes from outside oneself, and “nevertheless” is less specific. Your statement that it is a prayer and an answer suggests that it is more a seed of desire to get through rather than a purpose to live for. Is that how you see it? Or do you experience “nevertheless” as purpose?

    Comment by Roger — January 29, 2011 @ 9:42 am
  9. Roger, I think it’s both a purpose and a desire. Maybe another word that comes close to its meaning for me would be hope – not some huge, glorious, painted-up promise, but a much more subtle, comfortingly gritty reminder that darkness isn’t the whole story.

    Comment by Kristin — January 29, 2011 @ 9:26 pm
  10. Beautiful insightful post, Kristin, generous, words to which I can certainly relate. I was reminded of Marianne Moore’s poem Nevertheless, do you know it?

    Comment by Garrett — January 30, 2011 @ 6:36 am
  11. Garrett, oh my goodness! I didn’t know it, but am delighted that I do now. Yes. Yes! Thank you!!

    Comment by Kristin — January 30, 2011 @ 2:13 pm
  12. Simply gorgeous, thank you Kristin!

    Comment by Kate — January 30, 2011 @ 2:35 pm
  13. I wish I had read this four months, when I was there. I managed to pick myself up, but this would have helped to soothe my soul. Thank you.

    Comment by Christine — January 30, 2011 @ 5:53 pm
  14. Beautiful. For some reason it made me think of Scarlet O’Hara…

    I have this friend who really sees me. I mean, he sees “my crazy” and says that he loves my crazy. He talks to me when I’m depressed and have lost hope – and when I apologize for talking to him in that state – he says “Erica – I love you no matter what state you’re in”.

    He’s a producer, a writer, and a director – who writes poetry in his spare time. I bring this up because his name is Rami Rivera Frankl – and Victor Frankl was his cousin. I guess deep and profound wisdom must run in some families.

    Comment by Erica — January 30, 2011 @ 10:43 pm
  15. This is a beautiful post… and a beautiful word for so many reasons. I will try to import it into my daily vocabulary and use it. It reminds me of something I used to tell myself when in the midst of difficulty and confusion, “Let go and Let the Universe…” Somehow I forgot about that mantra and your word reminded me, after all these years. Both are a way of acknowledging the situation, accepting it, being in it and yet not being boxed in (trapped) by it. Very powerful. Now, to remember it and feel it when I need it…

    Comment by Meredith Resnick — January 31, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

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