In the Dark

In the Dark

I wrote this as a description of people going through the process of recovery and starting again.  We all move through that at our own pace, and can't know the cadence of another.  Enjoy.

There is a place underwater that the light stops penetrating.  It is different depending on the part of the ocean that you go to, but the point of no light is still there.  To go to this part of the dark water with a sub and turn on the lights you will find some creatures that thrive in these waters.  The individual adaptations will be just that, individual.  The types of actions are also very specific.  The pictures of these creatures are amazing.

To get to a place that is so deep that light is gone is quite of journey.  The path to this level requires more than a casual step into a part of life that is not generally frequented.  Mostly it is avoided.  The parts of this depth that are different is that the pressures are truly phenomenal.  The lack of plants and the need to attract food with bioluminescence has forced the development of patterns of behavior, and changes to the creatures themselves, that dwell there. There are a few that move from the shallower parts of the ocean to the deep and then back again, and we as humans would be crushed by that same journey.  Some can adapt and do well in these deep waters.  Others will endure and then retreat.  They return but are different for the trip.

It is the same for us.  Instead of water it is pain.  The attributes are similar, and we use comparable language.  Engulfed is a word we would use, so is overwhelmed.  Submerged, or waves of pain, are there as well.  I was listening to the radio and a fundraising event was on.  It was for the Children’s Cancer fund.  Of course, there are the obligatory family stories of the day they found out and the tales of treatments and then of course I am weeping and all I am doing is listening to the radio.  They went into the deep waters and saw no light, no path forward, no way to get their bearings. They were and or are, alone.  This place is singular and specific to yourself.  If you have been spared this dark place, then be glad.  Those that have been through the deep waters have a story that can be told but that cannot be shared.  People may ask and they may even care about finding out the details, but they are not you and they didn’t go to the deep waters.  Even if they had, they brought their own stories to the deep water and their stories filter the deep-water experiences differently than your stories.  They are not you.   You are not them.

The stories of a healthy child and a trip to the amusement park that turn into a trip to the emergency room and a Dr that tells you of the tumor in the brain that is inoperable, is a plunge into some deep water.  When you know the time is short and the dreams in your hand are melting like sugar in coffee… and you are alone.  The mind is an amazing thing, and when it is given a blow like this, it goes to places that are only yours.  Each of us is different in our fears and anxieties, but also in the barriers that keep us stable and strong.  When healthy, and our lives are secure, the ability to push and pull and roll with the ebbs and flows of daily life are dealt with as part of the deal we call living.  It is when that is given a severe challenge and no way forward that looks familiar that things become dark.  This is the place of the concussed.  The one that gets the shocking call or summons.

The Sherriff, the lawyer, Doctors, Military Chaplains and many more are people that are the conveyers of this type of news.  They walk into your life and are given the task of watching the floor fall away from your feet.  The stability of your life ground into a powder so fine… that gets into your eyes and the knowledge makes you weep.  The dark water requires a depth that has pressures that crush.  Even modern-day submarines have what is termed “crush depth”, and death is instant at that level.  It is also with what was to be your life.  This instant death of your previous life.  The reality that this moment in time is the new beginning of what had not been considered but now is, your “new normal”.  And it is anything but normal.  The piercing darkness produces a list of fears, lies, truths, hopes, and a broken timeline.  The old timeline is not useful here.  It is not functional here.  The shift of appointments, waiting for the next result, therapy, stumbling, falling.  All a part of the “new normal”.  Needing help, and not wanting to be needing help combine to take you out again, and you shrink.  You shrink from facing life and friends and questions that you don’t want to answer.  Or don’t have answers for.

What we don’t realize is that we need friends that are pushy.  That crowd into us and confront our shrunken lives and demand that we face the reality of reality that has also been pushy enough to crowd into our lives.  The irony is that these pushy friends need to push back as strongly as the reality that we are not confronting.  Some will not do this well, so there is that.  The trouble is that most will error on the timid side when what we desire, and need, is the strong warriors that will tell us it is but a mental flesh wound and to face the demons that are confronting our lives.  Sometimes, these are friends that have been in deep waters of their own, we just didn’t know until now.  When they have told us their story, during the quiet night and the dark sky with no stars to guide our way.  These, that mix their tears with our own, are the valiant warriors that hold us in their arms and will be as Samwise Gamgee and tear their coats and stub their toes as they climb the mountain of pain in the darkness of a dark time and a lost path.  Willing to support your quest, to cast the burden into the fiery pit that consumes.  The place that consumes our rage at the injustice of consumed dreams.

There is a term for understanding another person’s story called granularity.  The idea is that if you put sand over a screen of a certain size hole then only that which fits thru will be underneath and the bigger rocks will be on top.  For me to listen, I need to know the granularity of your story, such that I can mix effortlessly with it.  To diminish your story of pain is to diminish my relationship with you, and so in return.  To misunderstand the size of the story you are telling me can happen, but to willfully do so is betrayal.  We have most all at some point had a small child put their hands on our cheeks and look us in the eye as they tell us the gravity of their tragedy.  They want us to understand.  They still do, even in their old age. 

When we talk about this with others, we soon find they are trying to match their understanding with our story.  Even if you have beaten cancer or been divorced your story is not mine.  The best we can do is find a place that says,” this part is a 9”, so that I can dig into my own story for a time when the pain is a “9”, so that I can say “wow”.  I cannot say “I know how you feel”, for that is not something that is true.  You can say “when I went through my deep waters, I felt…” and perhaps they will join you in that sentiment.  Perhaps they won’t. Sometimes saying nothing is the better thing said…

An interesting point here is that you cannot know.  Being OK with that is something people struggle with, as they seek to understand.  You can’t.  My dark waters took me to a place that I could not see others in that place.  Perhaps these waters were deeper than you understood, and I was there longer than you realized, and so it goes.  And then I touched bottom.  Yours may be the Marianas Trench deep, and mine was simply deep enough to be dark, so be it.  When the light goes out, it is dark.  Deeper is not relevant to the darkness, only the pain.  Your level of pain is a combination of surprise, betrayal of hope, and a violation of what we call or believe is justice.  This includes the notion that we “had nothing to do with it”… and perhaps that may be so.  Parents of children with Leukemia are true when they say that. However, being alive is to have the reality of the world available to potentially impose upon our lives without our consent.  Accidents are called that for a reason.

So, what are we to do then?  When the time comes to notice that we have risen up at least to waters with light, be understanding that this is progress.  To know that you have a story of darkness that is at a granularity that can only be understood by another with the same or finer grains limits the list of those that you can expect to be of help.  There is an old saying, “You cannot give what you do not have”.  Well, now you have something.  Not asked for and not wanted, but here none the less.  If you are done in the deep, but not better yet, that is fine.  There is no timeframe for “better”.  There is a step that you can take that will help though.  Dive back in and go to that place where you cannot see.  Put a plaque as a marker on the deepest pain you can touch.  On the plaque it will read, “and God was here too”.  You know that God is in your daily, so let Him also be in the place of greatest despair.

“Here is the problem” you say…. “It was not supposed to happen! ” We have all said it.  We had a plan.  We were the “good ones”, the ones that God would build a hedge of protection around as in the Garden of Eden.  Except that the ones that lived there were booted out and told to not come back.  We remember selectively.  To believe that only a cosmic sadist would exact this type of malevolence on people that He claims to “Love” is more than we can stand.  So we go dark.  In the book “The problem of Pain” (CS Lewis) he writes of the problem of God wanting to give us a gift and our hands being full of the lies that we tell ourselves, so we can’t receive the truth.  I am old enough to know this is true in my own life, resulting in enough searing pain that I had to open my hands to cover my ears to hide from my own screams.  Then when I stopped, due to exhaustion and not reason, I could then receive the gift that my hand could hold.

I am better, but not much.  I scream less.  I lean into the darkness and dive down with a plaque sooner now.  I weep easier.  I am not in charge, and it has been a climb up from the deeps.  I am not alone on this journey, and we all have a story for the fire pit.  We will all listen.  We may not all speak, and yet all will know.  If you are not ready to put a plaque on the spot that you touched, that is fine.  We will let you tell your story of darkness, too.  It is worth the telling.  It is worth the hearing.  We won’t have had the same path to the deep, and one day, you will know the value of yours. “Hello Darkness, my old friend.  I’ve come to talk with you again …” You know it as do I.


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