Last night I couldn't sleep. Something pretty awful happened. Something I can't even explain or talk about in a blog yet. (I am not being coy. I am just protecting myself.) Needless to say, I was feeling pretty low. As low and dark as a human being can feel. I think the words despair came out of my mouth. I think I heard the words: hopeless, lost, alone, followed by no one can help me. There isn't one person out there in the world who can help me.
My husband sat patiently and listened to me as I sobbed. (I am officially the world's ugliest crier. It is a testament to our marriage and to his infinite patience that he has not left me by now after one of these episodes. Things drip off my face. I sniffle loudly and my mouth turns into the shape of a huge oval--like a Peanuts gang character. And thanks to my autonomic tremors my hands and lower jaw shake pretty uncontrollably too.) While I sobbed, I railed against the injustices--so, so, so many in the world. I blamed myself for being "stupid" and for allowing myself to feel hopeful and to see the best in people. I was angry at myself for assuming that there were just, kind, and decent people who knew, I was sure, what was the right thing to do.
I thought, admittedly and briefly, it would just be better if I disappeared: if I melted into nothing. It would hurt less that way. I would physically become how I emotionally felt--like nothing.
It was as they call it, the Dark Night of the Soul. It was dark. It was black. It was horrible.
But, like most dark times, it ended.
As I was crying, I looked out of my living room window and stared at my neighbor's lawn. Suddenly, the light post in her yard came on. Suddenly, I could see. And what I saw was incredible.
Perhaps it was the water in my eyes clouding my vision. Perhaps it was just my eyes adjusting to the light, but as I looked at the light, I saw the light shine from the lamp in a shape of a cross.
I am not a devout person. I am not a card-carrying-believe-everything-I'm-told-to believe type of gal. I have more Doubting Thomas than Jesus in me any day of the week. But, I pray. I pray every day. And when I saw the cross made by the light I thought of how Jesus suffered on one a long time ago. I thought about how lonely he was. How abandoned he felt. I thought how even Jesus felt alone. Even Jesus cried out in the dark. Even Jesus has friends who turned his back on him, denied him his value, his worth, his human dignity.
Then I immediately thought of so many of my friends who have come to me out of the blue in the past few days to tell me how badly they are hurting--to tell me how alone, sad, and dejected they feel too. I have talked to moms who are overwhelmed and lonely. I have talked to women who are desperate to get out of abusive situations. I have talked to people who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Then I moved away from thinking of my friends and family. I thought of all the children in the world without a mother or a father. I thought of all parents who lost children. I kept breathing and praying. I wasn't trying to diminish my own pain. I wasn't bullying it out of existence by comparing it to others' tragedies. I was trying to find comfort. I was trying to find a light in the darkness--and for me the knowledge that others are out there are hurting right now and need someone--maybe me--makes me forget about my own darkness for a while. It helps me get centered. It helps me realize we're all in this together.
When I saw the cross of light in my neighbor's yard, I thought instantly of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and how I used to pray them every day when I was a single mom. I started every day with a prayer card of my grandfather's. It was in so many ways, a lifeline, a light. It was, for me, his light shining from heaven telling me everything would be OK. And so every morning I read these words:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn,for they will be comforted.Blessed are the meek,for they will inherit the earth.Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they will be filled.Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy.Blessed are the pure in heart,for they will see God.Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called children of God.Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Full disclosure: I had to ask Siri to look it up on my phone because it had been so long since I said it. Prayer in the modern age! Thank you, Siri! And if you're wondering: no Siri doesn't pray. She sent me to Wikipedia.)
When I was done praying, I put my phone down. And it occurred to me--without the phone in my hands--that I indeed had two hands for a reason. I had one free hand that I could use to reach out to a friend to and ask for help. (So I did. At 3 a.m. I thought of one of the strongest, most fearless, compassionate woman I know and I asked her for help. It wasn't easy. It took all that I had to admit to her that I was not perfect, that I was foundering, and that I needed her wise counsel. Her grace. Her patience. And she had all that and so much more to give.)
After I was done writing to her and asking for help, I looked at my other hand. With this hand, I could lend it--and be a light in the darkness during someone else's time of need.
It wasn't a week ago at a speaking event, that I talked about going through some pretty dark days. I told a room full of women that even in their darkest and lowest moments, they need to keep their eyes open and move toward the light. I told them that it is only in the darkness that we see the stars shine brightest.
Easier said than done, Mary.
But, I remembered my own words. I held on to them for dear life. And I thought about all the stars that have shined their light for me lately. I have had so many unexpected and amazing surprises, gifts, friendship, and love shown to me in so many amazing and inspiring ways. I would never had seen those stars--those angels of light--had I not been so far in the dark.
And so I am not afraid today. I am not alone. I feel intensely grateful. I feel a little better. I feel a little more hopeful--a little less lost.
So I am paying it forward. Someone showed me a kindness and shined a light for me. So today, I am doing that too. When all hope is lost: Go to the light. You are not alone. You are not hopeless, lost, or beyond help.
You got this.