I Have Made Peace with the Darkness

**The following is a piece I wrote almost a year-and-a-half ago. For today’s throwback Thursday, I’m remembering a time when it seemed depression was lifting. At the time, I felt a great deal of anxiety. These days, I would say that I am still making piece with darkness and the light is still blindingly garish. I suppose I’ve made peace with knowing that peace is an ongoing process. Hope you enjoy!**

I Have Made Peace with the Darkness.

It is the light I fear.

Lately, I have begun to see the light in the distance. Maybe its temporary. Mood swings have always been swift tides. At three o’clock in the morning, I might feel excitement, almost euphoria, at a new revelation brought on by lack of sleep and significant pondering. By seven o’clock in the morning, I want to die and can’t be alone or care for my children. That has been my life for a long time.

I did not want to meet the day.

I still have those moments. Recently, in fact. Yet, something is smoothing the turbid waters. A slowing of my spirit and soul. Consistency in the tides.

I dare not call it hope. It feels much different, as though I am exchanging one shadow for another. Depression and I have become friends. We’ve made peace. He’s here to stay and I am no longer surprised by his appearance. I am accustomed to this shadow, the darkness behind me.

It is the light on my face that is surprising, blinding. I am like Peter Pan looking for his shadow, confused at where it has gone, only to see it again momentarily on the wall in front of me…or is it behind me. Why is the light so bright? Where is my shadow friend? There he is! No wait, that’s something different.

I’ve come to know the name of my new friend. Now that I can feel his presence, I’ve asked his name.

{I am anxiety} He said.

We are not friends yet. He moves too fast. Coming and going, triggering and trapping. Where is he leading? Do I go there too?

I’ve read and re-read my notes from my therapy program. It seems depression has to do with the past, our darkest times. Anxiety is connected to our future, our light. He is the shadow when the light dawns.

My question then is whether High Noon will ever come. The moment when all the shadows are gone.

But perhaps that is only anxiety talking. Whether, what if’s.

Deep down, I know the truth in my soul.

High noon will come. {And pass.}

The sun always goes down. The shadows always reappear. The darkness always finds us. It is the ebb and flow of nature pointing to something archaic in my soul. Something that belongs to all mankind.

Growth happens in the darkness and the light. Some beings require more of one than the other. Shade plants, plants in Full Sun, etc. We know the only places plants do not grow – in full light, in full darkness, the nether regions – arctic and Antarctic.

Deeper still, growth is a cycle. The plant, the animal – they have no destination. Once gone, the ground of their resting place is made fertile.

New life begins again.

Day and night. Day and night. Day and night.

We return to the ground.

New life begins.

This is the rhythm my soul knows. My mind is learning it still. My new shadow has come.

Yes, I have made peace with the darkness. Now, I must make peace with the light.

Candidly,

Ash

The Chrysalis of Doubt

She was so eloquent and passionate, but I just absolutely, at my core, disagreed. She was almost there; she had part of the truth. She was talking about doubt and how the Shiny, Happy People at churches don’t want us to talk about it. No, not just talk. They don’t even want us to whisper about it.

She said it was dangerous to hide this topic within ourselves. Yes, I agree. Hiding is rarely the answer. Then, she said doubt was the enemy and I cringed. She said there was ]’a war being waged over our belief and that doubt was the enemy. I just couldn’t get  on board. I couldn’t be moved from my foundation. War waging is rarely the answer.

You see, I have doubts and it makes people really uncomfortable around me. I either become a pariah or a project. Pariahs are avoided, unfriended, unfollowed and forgotten. Projects are prayed about and worked on. Neither of those roles is a comfortable one for me, but I’ve decided something recently.

I’m willing to be around people who are uncomfortable with me. I scare people sometimes. I talk about suicide, depression, darkness, pain, fear, ugliness. There are very few boxes here and they are not wrapped in pretty bows and paper. They are tattered boxes, used and crinkly.

They are perfect for playing in, I’ve noticed.

Doubt is a Friend

One of my favorite people that I’ve never met says, “The opposite of faith is certainty.” I think the favorite person might be Brene Brown or it might be Anne Lamott – not really sure. Regardless, it is a fabulous point. If you are certain of something, then how are you having faith?

In the lifecycle of faith, doubt is the chrysalis. In the cocoon of doubt, we can be fully ourselves – angry, fearful, tearful, sad, frightened, confused and absolutely breathtaking. It is the cocoon that people watch with bated breath, wondering what will emerge.

I personally imagine that I emerge an ugly, hideous moth. Ha! I am okay with this now. Moths are infinitely more useful than butterflies. Moths are pollinators just like butterflies and actually account for more of the pollinating action than butterflies. Go figure!

The other thing I love about moths is that they are largely nocturnal. You see them and are annoyed at how they flock to the porch light, I am sure. Yet, I have learned to love darkness. It is my home. There is beauty in darkness, just as there is beauty in the light. There is the darkness that brings solace, that brings rest and dreams. The darkness of caressing couples too. It is not entirely bad, as one might think.

Yes, I am a moth. In my cocoon of doubt, I have stopped fighting. This is only part of the process – to wonder, to guess, to be intrigued. Perhaps it is even the best part. I don’t really know if I will settle on “God exists” or “God is a myth” or ”

God is not concerned with me”. I sort of like being here – in this possibility. I can be all things to all people and connected to all people too. I understand those who believe wholeheartedly, because I have been in that phase of the lifecycle. I understand those who don’t believe, because I have been there too. And I even understand those who believe He is unconcerned, because I am sort of there right now.

All I can say to myself and those who find doubt in themselves is “Good, you are growing, maturing.” If in this lifecycle, you choose to believe or not believe, just remember that cycles repeat and next time you might choose something else. Nothing is forever. Today, I doubt. Tomorrow I might believe. The weight of today and tomorrow is more profound, more enriching when we are honest.

Truth is an evolution. My favorite words.

Candidly,

Ash

 

A Steady Fountain

I’m finding that the time I spend writing is less and less fulfilling, but in a different way than I expected. I expected to force myself to write daily and bleed at the keyboard. I did not expect that stopping would be so hard or that the time spent doing it would never seem like enough.

I’m finding that I want to do more than just blog posts. Hence, my stab at poetry last week. I’m writing a memoir-style book about our family’s journey with autism and depression, though I’ve not sat at that particular task in some weeks. I’m also writing some fiction, which I will never tell you about until my selected jury of husband and BFF have deemed it “not awful”.

It just doesn’t seem to be enough. Each day, I sit down and feel my way through musings here and if I don’t write here, then I take a stab at other projects. Honestly, of late, I like the other projects better. They are more fun and less weighty.

I am having fun in life. So strange.

Last week, I ordered new violin strings and yesterday they arrived. I restrung them one at a time and tuned up as much as I could, though everything is still a full step too low. I’ll come back to it today and it’s the number one thing I’m looking forward to today. I hope that I can get her fully in tune so that I can play without wincing. I find that I want to name my violin. How strange. I have a great affection for her.

I know that when the time is up and I need to set the keyboard aside or hang up my bow, that it will not feel like enough. Not in the sense of lacking worth, but in the sense of lacking time. I want more time with these expressions. Stopping to do the necessary things like eating and moving laundry, changing diapers – they eat at the precious moments spent in harmony.

I stopped writing before I typed harmony. The word was hard to find. How to describe sweet release? Its like the flow of a dribbling Italian fountain, the stucco a bold contrast to the glistening water. Peace. Harmony.

Perhaps writing is no longer like cathartic bleeding? Perhaps this season is a small expanse of time not devoted to the coping and discerning that comes with depression and anxiety.

I like this expanse. It feels free.

I think I’ll stay awhile and try my best to not watch for the dropping hammer. All I know is that today, it feels like all the pain has finally moved through me. Now, something more tender can flow.

Another lesson I’m learning – Everything passes eventually. There is beauty in letting the pain abate and the peace descend. Just as there will be beauty when the pain returns. I simply hope I won’t cringe so desperately when it arrives.

Candidly,

Ash

Unboxing a Deity

I’ve written in some of the posts about my faith in God. I try not to think about what people will *think* of my faith or lack of it, that is. It’s hard to separate our beliefs from the people around us, our relationships. How do I connect with someone who knew me as a Jesus-freak, cross wearing non-swearer?

I swear pretty damn good now. (Sometimes even in front of the children) I think I still love Jesus. He always appealed to me – loving and attending to the small, forgotten, less fortunate. The cross, however, makes me cringe, if I’m completely honest. Maybe I don’t care to know a god who uses his son’s blood to wipe away the ugliness of humanity. Maybe I want a god who doesn’t require me to be perfect in order to spend eternity with him or her. Maybe I’d like to know a god who loves me sin and all, no human sacrifice necessary.

It makes me wonder if all of the shame I feel for existing, doesn’t have a relationship with being raised to believe that I had sin nature – that in and of myself, I will do wrong. I mean, I hardly believe I’m perfect or that anyone is perfect. But born to sin? I think not. I’ve held too many perfect, innocent babies in my arms to believe that the *sin* quotient plays into things from the start.

If I were to sum up a lot of what has been happening in my heart spiritually, I would say it is a deep need to reconcile what I have believed with what I do believe now. It comes down to writing what I feel to be true in my soul. I think it is good to explore these thing, write them down, scribble them out, change…

I feel that God is real and benevolent and even God instead of god. I feel that Jesus is worth following and that others are probably worth following too. I’m partial to Jesus though. Maybe its because I was raised that way or because my heart simply remembers Him from the many moments in childhood – moments of pain, in which words from the Bible were the only comfort I found. Jesus knew I was depressed long before I did. I’m certain of that.

I also feel that God isn’t discriminatory. If He or She knows good and evil, then He/She knows how grey the lines between the two can be. I think maybe God is more okay with uncertainty than we think. Maybe God could care less about the holiness of our lives and more about whether we are searching for a spiritual path in the midst of the rubble. Maybe the journey is truly more important than the destination.

Destination – how I hate this part. Heaven. Hell. I remember people in church saying things like “The worst part of hell is that we would be separated from God.”

I’ve been to hell. Maybe not that metaphorical or literal place, but I have definitely been places without God. Many times of my own choosing and many times at no fault of my own.

People (and the Bible) say that God will never forsake us. I wonder what that word “forsake” meant in its original language, because I have felt forsaken and, I think, I have actually been forsaken. Then, that thought alone brings me in a circle. If God is benevolent then how have felt forsaken so very often. Then, another thought, we choose what we feel…and other bull shit. (Not really  bull shit, but sometimes I don’t want to analyze my thinking and choose the necessary thought and then feel the way the thought tells me to feel. Sometimes I just want to be good and angry!)

It felt like God was gone, whether he was or wasn’t. I perceived him as gone, absent. It fucking hurt. It still hurts.

I could do this circling all day long. I can reason and weave my way through a web of contradiction to an evolved truth.

But it may not be functional for tomorrow or a week from now. If walk the spiraling staircase of my belief and faith every single day, then I may not get anything else done. Maybe this, all of this back and forth about God or god and benevolence, maybe its simply a distraction.

I’m distracted from the present moment in which it felt good to say to a benevolent deity, “I know you see me. Please help me.” I think and say things like that all of the time. Perhaps they will never go away. Perhaps its hard-wired into me.

Perhaps it matters very little whether God or god exists or that he is good or wise. Perhaps all that matters is that the breath I take as I say those words centers me, reminds me that maybe, just maybe, all is not lost. Help can be found. I am seen. I am heard. I am not alone.

Perhaps it is what my best friend and I call “both/and”. I may be by myself AND I am not alone. I may not believe God is real and I still pray. BOTH can be true AND I can sit with the contradiction. Both/And.

I am not lost and I am not found. I am simply present.

Candidly,

Ash

Truth is an Evolution

It’s another one of those days. I feel like I have nothing to say, but I’ve learned too well that its actually the opposite. I know to keep going, keep trying, because chances are this empty feeling is related to repressing my emotions. I flip through my last few days like it is a catalog, searching for the point in time where I didn’t give myself enough freedom.

I find it, that moment. I was writing about Evan, trying to create a book for special needs mamas. I shared all of the things – the dark things, the very intensive trial and error with more error than anything else. Most of the time, I find that when I’m repressing emotion, its largely the emotions swirling around my little boy.

He’s getting big so very fast. Writing the section for my book titled “Our Story” is the essence of draining. Our story now spans seven years and there is much to say. This first round through it, I figured I would just do highlights of the story as I wrote and come back in the second draft with more detail.

I’m not sure there is going to be a second draft.

My brain wants to tell me that I’m a wimp. This is too hard. Its not worth it. The agony of reliving so many moments, so many hopes to be ended in complete letdown. My brain doesn’t want me to go into those depths and feel. My brain wants to preserve equilibrium. It knows this area is the epicenter of the quake coming to claim me.

I’ve been learning something lately – something that helps me open the conflict and pain in my soul.

Just because I’m hurting, doesn’t mean I am hurt. Just because I grieve, doesn’t mean I am bereaved. Just because I cry, doesn’t mean I am broken. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it won’t soften.

Absolutes are the death trap of my mind. They bind me up and twist me in knots. I don’t want to be riddled with conflict so I have to loosen my grip on those absolutes.

I used to believe in absolute truth. I was taught to believe in absolute truth. Literally, I sat in a small Christian school learning how to “defend” absolute truth.

I don’t believe in absolute truth anymore.

I believe truth is an evolution.

People say, “Nothing changes.” Others say, “Everything changes.” I think they are all correct. In this moment, there are some things that have been the same forever and somethings that have changed drastically. The only thing absolute is that there are no absolutes – a contradictive statement in itself.

I think the scary thing about our world is that contradiction is not accepted. It is vilified, personified, dramatized. Yet, what if contradiction was a bastion, a beacon for peace? Perhaps the beacon for peace would say to those arriving, “Here lie two truths, neither incorrect. They are apparently contradicting, but at second glance comprehensive. Stay awhile until you can see how a pattern forms and weaves itself into a tapestry.”

Later today, as I am writing our little story about autism, this is what I want to remember – that while the memory hurts, I am not presently hurting. I am well and coming from a place of strength to write this story. I can write this story and be well, at peace. Just because I paused, doesn’t mean I will stop.

Candidly,

Ash

Overcoming Survival Mode

Sometimes victory seems hollow. For the last few months, I have been in survival mode. Our recent move proved to be more of a challenge than I had anticipated. I mean, no one expected the school system here to refuse full day classes to my son with autism. No one expected the bus to randomly not pick him up or not wait for him to make his slow progress up the driveway. They were common ordinary things basic student rights for which we fought.

Being at home with Evan is simultaneously enriching and exhausting. Just imagine all of the things your third grader might do when you are not at home and had no internal safety alarms. Things that toddlers might not be able to do, but would if they had the ability. Right now, I’m struggling to put into words the constant energy, the constant vigilance that goes into caring for Evan.

Nothing is Autism-Proof

Our home is “child-proofed”- locks on doors and cabinets, refrigerator and stove. Really, they should call it “toddler-proofed”, because that is the only age group those locks and latches protect against. Despite all of these efforts, I constantly worry that my son will eat something poisonous/harmful or escape from my home while I’m moving the laundry. He’s a nine-year-old. You can’t child-proof for that ability. They can figure out locks and mechanisms just as quickly as any adult. Our only saving grace are alarms that we mounted above all exterior doors. Literally, it sounds like a bank has been robbed every time I open the door. (Note to self: Video tape our safety measures so other parents can see what we’ve done. Also, how freaking ridiculous that alarm sounds.)

I’m still not sure I’ve given a glimpse into the taxation of daily living with Evan. I love him so, so dearly and sweetly. Yet, the three hours I was getting each day of the week was not enough to care for myself or the needs of my family.

I was in survival mode.

Today, I get to emerge from survival mode as Evan starts his first full day of school.  Yes, I need this desperately. (Mostly, I need it because later today he has a dentist appointment – no picnic, I assure you.) For weeks, I’ve been wondering, considering what I will do with this prolific freedom. Yoga, exercise, bake homemade bread, actually mop the floors (Swiffer can only do so much), file our taxes, go to the doctor, find a therapist, take the babe to the park, grocery shop, run errands, write fiction (that sounds fun), finally watch that last episode of Scandal…

I mean, really, the list is endless. Time has opened up before me like a cool, spring morning. Refreshed, relieved – those are things I might feel.

Overcoming Survival Mode

Instead, I slump around like a sloth in pajamas, fixing copious amounts of coffee and scrolling Facebook. As usual, my mind starts the barrage of insults about my productivity, my ungratefulness at finally being offered that precious diamond called time. I shake my head at my perceived awfulness.

Then, a voice pops into my head (metaphorically speaking, of course). It’s the voice of my very best friend in the whole universe. She says it’s okay to stare at your phone for as long as you need, to play candy crush for hours, to ignore that giant to-do list. This is only day one. Recovery from survival mode takes time.

Here is the lesson I have been learning for the past seven years:

When your basic needs haven’t been met for a long, long time, then you forget what they even are. Coming back into myself, learning to recognize what I need? It doesn’t happen overnight. Remembrance is a tricky thing, because you can’t control it. Its pace and path are valleys and oceans sprinkled with twilight.

All I know is that today, I don’t know what I need. I do know that my pajamas feel really, really good and that the coffee feels very, very warm. I start there and honor those feelings. Perhaps tomorrow or in three weeks or five months, I’ll emerge from pajama kingdom and remember that makeup exists and hair dryers are for straight-haired people. Husbands are for loving and laughing and dating. Children are breathtaking when they try something new. Spring unfolds like fresh wind on dry, packed earth.

This is just one season – overcoming survival mode. There are other seasons coming too. Hopefully, summer, but one never knows….

Until the season changes, I’ll be here, remembering….remembering what is I need.

Candidly,

Ash

Let the Pain Move through You

I didn’t know adulthood would be this way.  I didn’t know there would be so much pain, so much less for which to live. Sure, there ARE so many beauties to behold, so many paths to walk, so many dreams to dream. Yet, there are just so many bills and crying children and lots of holding the space for people, for myself.

It’s a challenge – the holding of space. When I dreamed of homeschooling, I followed a lovely mother who had so much knowledge about “teach-moming”. She talked about holding the space like it was a sacred thing. Her idea appealed to me so much that I bought every printable, curriculum, book thingy she could possibly create.

The idea of “holding the space” was that sometimes the small people simply need people to be quiet. They need adults to be calm. They need others to pause. The instinct, when the shrill screaming of a small one rents the atmosphere, is to rush to them and say words, to instruct. I am instantly in their face and fixing/breaking things. I mean to fix things, but most of the time I break things instead. I break small spirits. I crush opportunities for growth and decimate plains of open feeling.

I found this principle, combined with assertiveness and observation, to be the most altering of any parenting technique. When I stopped and held the space, the small people could do all that they needed to do and so could I. The pause, the observance, the stillness allowed them to calm themselves. Sometimes they didn’t, but the holding of space also allowed me to calm myself. I always responded better when I was calm and still do today.

I found the idea of holding space to be similar to holding the note at the end of a song. In choir or band, we would look to the conductor and just hold the note, waiting for her to signal the stop. Similarly, in parenting a climax or crescendo might erupt from the small people and I would be the conductor to whom they were looking. If I cut the note short, then everyone was less satisfied. If I let it resonate, echo and dissipate, then the satisfaction of an ending could occur.

Pain is like a small child too. It needs me to hold the space – to pause, observe, resonate and diminish. It needs the process, the movement, the freedom to be the place where time and meaning great each other. The problem is that I didn’t have enough people holding the space for me while I was growing up. The eruption of pain was a geyser of uncontrollable proportions.

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Like a geyser with hot steaming water shooting into the air, my pain shot into the atmosphere spreading its deluge of scalding energy. It makes me imagine the person who discovered geysers. Frantically, they must have sought cover, desperately trying to reshape a world where water poured endlessly from the ground. Water from the ground – mind boggling.

This is the way I viewed pain my whole life, because the space was so rarely held for me. I needed someone to pause and watch, noticing the diminishing of the onslaught of scalding water from the ground. To show me that the geyser would come and go. Pausing to watch the magnificent spectacle was all that I needed. Watching it rise higher and higher, then temper to a small spray easing itself into a trickle that I could touch without being harmed.

This is the process of pain.

I need only let it move through me. Maybe through deep breaths or tears, perhaps pounding pillows or squeezing them tight, stepping into the heat or the cold and closing my eyes, walking the path in a nearby park, standing or dancing in the rain, listening to the music or holding the pregnant pause – these are things pain needs from me. These are the things I need from myself

“Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Allow it to be there. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace.” Eckhart Tolle