Have you ever slogged through a really rough season – maybe post-natal depression…or ANY type of depression, a tragic loss, a harrowing relationship, a child in deep struggle – and found yourself on the other side?
When I was in my early 20s my whole world tilted toward Rough and I found myself in one of the longest, darkest tunnels I’ve known. The catalyst was an unraveling of my childhood faith (I was raised a leftist, evangelical Christian), but as that particular unraveling started, I felt as though my very being tore apart. My systems for knowing what was real and true – about myself, about other people, about our world, about EVERYTHING – were clanking and clunking and sputtering and shooting smoke and broken parts all over the place, and once they gave it up completely, I was left in a pile of rubble miles high.
As the breakdown was happening and then for years afterward I cried and flailed and railed and just generally resisted what was happening with every fiber of my being. It felt AWFUL. (And I’m sure was no joy-ride to watch.)
And then there was light.
Just writing that makes my heart BUZZ with resonance. Because when the Hebrew Bible opens with lines like,
…I feel them in my bones. As I flailed through my darkness, I was without form and void. Darkness was over my deep.
And then there was light.
It wasn’t like a switch turned on, but more like day arriving after night.
It was like a rough, gravel road with potholes and poisonous snakes and rock- and mud slides and treacherous ravines on every side and my own screams and cries and wailing gave way to…the quiet of a meadow mid-day. Wind through wildflowers. No more road.
My cosmic questions hadn’t been answered and I didn’t have a clear sense of identity or direction yet, but my deep darkness and intense need to flail just weren’t there anymore. Such a strange and welcome quiet!
And I could look behind me and see the road I’d traversed and remember viscerally the yuck of it all, but with a different set of eyes and a new kind of distance. A distance that said: I did that. I made it to the other side.
Maybe you’ve lived some alternate version of this story.
My story continues, of course, and I’ve traveled on new roads and taken shortcuts and longcuts and experienced struggle and fear and frustration and confusion and every other emotion and route that’s normal to us all.
But I carry that utter-darkness-turned-to-light experience with me now, and it shapes how I feel about new darknesses I face. It adds hope to them. And patience. And a hint of a slowly-nodding, knowing, squinty-eyed expression that says with almost a warmth of recognition, “I know you. I’ve seen you before.”
Totally NOT what I felt in my Season of Flail.
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After our chicken died, and death’s reality stared us all in the face for a time, we decided we needed some chicks. Three of them.
And, good lord, these chicks are cute!
Their names are Cookie, Lovely, and Lucky and their presence felt and still feels like a dawning. A day after night.
I made this video for the grandparents soon after we got them, and since almost none of you are my kids’ grandparents and can’t be expected to watch this much footage of someone else’s children, maybe go to the 9:44 mark to hear the song/see the images that capture the reason why I’m posting this video at all. Substitute “new hope” or “fresh life season” for the “you” in the song:
(If video doesn’t appear above, click here to watch.)
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There was a season after my flailing when, like the day we brought home our chicks, life took on a golden hue. I didn’t have kids and I was spending most of my time writing a novel and I had time to exercise regularly and journal and eat well. I started my first blog and used that as a practice of naming, via essay, who I WAS, rather than always who I WASN’T (as had been the case through all those years when life looked grim). And I was attending fascinating lectures at the nearby university, and taking writing and spirituality and Tai Chi classes, and reading wonderful books.
It was an amazing season. Mhm, it was good!
And then, of course, as life tends to do, that season shifted and I was deep in young motherhood, feeling lost and lonely and low. Completely unprepared for how UNdomestic and unskilled at household management I was turning out to be. Trying still to write and feeling more blocked, on every level, than I ever thought possible. And feeling incapable of understanding my blocks, let alone finding pathways around them.
Can you guess, by the pattern so far, what sort of season happened…is happening…next?
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The day after we brought our chicks home, our dear Charlotte stepped with boots on one of our chick’s feet. Poor chick limped the rest of that day and all of us felt sick when we saw it.
And of course the irony wasn’t lost on my husband nor I that the chick whose foot got stomped was named Lucky.
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Tending trust is, among other things, the practice of noticing life’s pattern. Which invariably involves stretches of darkness and turmoil and gut-clenching fear – and for many of us, the feeling of being completely undone and remade through some of those stretches – and moments or days or full on expanses of beauty and joy, peace and light. Sometimes ALL of it – the darkness and the light – are rolled up in the very same Now.
And tending trust, in that noticing, is nodding with increasing recognition at life’s hardships, learning to be less and less scandalized by them. Less and less surprised that shit of all kinds happens.
But more than that, it’s learning to hold all of it – the glory and the grime – loosely. Not unfeelingly – because glory is worth celebrating, and grime really does suck (pretending like it doesn’t is not what trust tending means) – but with streaks of hope and patience and levity striped through it. Streaks of “at-some-deep-level-I-know-this-too-shall-pass”. In greater and greater measure as trust takes deeper root.
It’s nodding with tears sometimes, and laughter at others, that yes. YES. I, too, am Lucky.