I arrived at my desk today to find a brown-paper wrapped package containing a copy of, The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May.
It couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Someone I love dearly, a best friend and wonderful person is suffering so deeply that the only caring I can offer is to hope that he knows he is loved as he suffers through what is, I’m sure, one of his ‘Dark Nights of the Soul’.
What my heart tells me to do is to keep reminding him of that, but what I know I have to do is let him find his own way, and hope that during the darkest of times, he knows that he is loved.
I want to call, text, send emails, books, quotes, stories, cards and carrier pigeons. I want to wrap him up and protect him from the demons only he can face and conquer.
I want to stomp my feet and shake my fist at the sky and….
To be honest, I’m not sure, as I’ve been having what I like to describe as, “The Dark Night of the Whateveryoucallit”. In other words, I don’t like to admit that I’m sad, depressed, angry, frightened or broken-hearted.
I like to breathe deeply and remember that whether or not I like it, I will wake up tomorrow and slog through the difficult emotions.
I like to remind myself that it’s ok to come home, cry myself to sleep and let this sadness snake its way through my body until I’m strangled by it.
I like to remember that ignoring it, or raging against it will not make it less painful or faster to go away.
Although it is painful to experience the ‘darker emotions’, the more you allow yourself to feel these in their gruesome fullness, the more cathartic it is. It’s scary as hell, but why use your energy fighting something you must face?
That’s been my experience anyway. Instead of running away from it, I just let it wash over me, seep into my bones, and tumble as tears from my eyes. Whenever we emerge from these darker times, we are a changed person, often with more capacity for love, compassion and empathy. The storms polish us like sea glass that has been worn smooth from being tossed ruthlessly against the rocks, and then gently brought to shore.
I’ll share with you some of the things that I’ve learned about not resisting painful emotions;
1)You have to reach out to people. Don’t roll your eyes and stop reading. Everyone has their own life, but friends are always willing to listen and do what they can.
2) There is alchemy in every human encounter; each person is at the same time giver and recipient. Helpers are gifted the opportunity to help, by those in need.
3) No emotion is permanent, so there’s no point running away from the hard stuff. It stays there until you’re too exhausted from chasing the next item of retail therapy, cigarette, joint, drink, lay or thrill-seeking adventure. Then you’re just left worn out and having to deal with what you spent all of your energy running away from
4)We all screw up. We all stumble backward once in a while when we need to be reminded of why we didn’t stay there in the first place ( bad relationships, addictions, habits…you get the gist of what I’m saying here…).
5)Life goes on, even when you don’t ever want to wake up, it goes on. See #1 and #8 when you really are suffering.
6)Guilt and shame are chosen emotions. They’re tough ones to overcome because they whisper evil things to our ego, and ego is a ruthless critic. Looking deeply and compassionately at guilt and shame can ease a lot of internal suffering.
7)When you are able to, offering your compassion and love to another human being may be emotionally risky, but it’s totally worth it.
8) Talking does help. Language helps us process, but it also invites different perspectives and the occasionally necessary reality check.
For those barely able to take the next step through the dark night of their own soul, I wish you peace.
For those of you who care about someone who is going through this, I also wish you peace.
Be kind to yourself and be kind to one another. Be gentle…and stock up on tissue ’cause you’re gonna need it.