Finding Light

I received the following response to my post “New Year, New Attitude” from Andrea Buka:

I am coming to the same realization as you about cumulative grief. It is overwhelming sometimes.

Last week I came to the realization that I cannot abide spending a third year just waiting it out. Waiting for what? I need to find practices that are healing and counteract the grief and depression. For me this is a resolve to get more exercise and to make things. Cook again, sew again, journal again. And less time in Facebook and more in real books.

I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the dark feelings taking over. I think they sucked away the last 2 years of my life. Thank you for sharing your writing about the dark and the light. It makes me hear your voice, both when I am reading it and later on, too, when I need it.

Thank you, Drey.

It’s an unfunny reality about bad feelings that when they first begin, we often work diligently to try to dispel them. But over the long haul (at least in my experience) they can wear us down, eroding our belief in the light, battering us until, when light does emerge, we sometimes turn away from it, unwilling to believe in the reality of its existence, or that it will endure, that we can trust it. Instead, we wind ourselves deeper in darkness like burrowing beneath the bedclothes because that’s what we’ve come to know, and we hate it, but it’s now our normal and it feels safe even as it’s sucking us dry.

I can’t speak to Andrea’s experience of the past two years, but that’s where I’ve been. Initially, it was too much all at once…too many disappointments, too much loss, and too much sudden change. I’ve never been good with change. I like it (sometimes), but I prefer when it’s initiated by my own hand and comes on at a pace with which I can cope. (Good luck with that; it’s not in the nature of change to be so accommodating.)

The change that (for us in the US, at least) rumbled in the distance in 2019 and landed in our laps in 2020 was sudden and crushing. If you looked closely (assuming you could bear to), you’d find it was faceted, this weight, and each facet mirrored further change, further turmoil and loss. We cowered in our caves in fear of what was outside, because now an invisible monster stalked our streets and whispered at the window, crept in under the door, lodged beneath our fingernails. The monster kept us from those we love, from those who we offer strength, and who offer us strength in return. It cut us off at the knees. Its light illuminated our best nature (consider all those who worked to feed the destitute, and every frontline person who risked their own lives laboring to save the ill) and shone harshly on our worst. (I’m put in mind of the woman who was quoted as saying, “Why should I care about strangers?”)

I envy those who found purpose early on. At the beginning I thought Shelter in place? I’ll get so much writing done! And I did…for awhile…until one psychological blow after another shut down my resources. I felt drained of all vitality and emotionally battered, unable to persist in the exercise I knew I should do, unable to make myself sit and work, to be productive, unable to even make a dent in the stack of books beside the bed.

I’m still trying to understand that time. “That time” makes it sound as if it’s over. If only it were. But it’s ongoing…and changing,  had you noticed?…but what I’m discovering with the beginning of this new year is a reemergence, in myself, of a warrior spirit. And she’s fairly well pissed off. 

Not at myself. (There’s that, at least.) I can, and must, forgive my own inertia these many months. I can, and must, honor the grief I’ve experienced, the many deaths, some very personal, others those strangers that woman spoke of, because how can any Human Being not shake at their core by the knowledge of over five million deaths (and counting) across the globe. It’s like contemplating the stars; your brain can’t contain the immensity.

But now it’s time for me to move toward the light again, to find it, and to create it if I can’t find it, because I need it. Northeast Ohio, where I currently reside, is not a place renowned for sunlight in the winter. Days here (weeks on end, sometimes) are cloaked in an undifferentiated gray (what my husband’s cousin has dubbed the “Kent Cloud”) without nuance or texture. On those rare days with a peek of sunlight, I will bundle up and stalk the neighborhood, or one of the area’s many walking trails, and turn my face to the light.

Coming in late yesterday afternoon from one such walk, I stopped and marveled at a tiny speck of yellow in the grass by our front stoop. It was a dandelion; closed, yes, but only just, waiting for any brief moment of warmth, of sun, to stretch wide and reach toward the sky.


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