This has to be said: We are all, more or less, pretty much lost, pretty much most of the time. In between, we have these moments of clarity. And then, the rest of the time, there’s this glimpse, just off to the side, of things we know to be true, of a place of comfort and peace. An oasis of serenity that is familiar, but just not really where we are right now.
Sometimes, the veils are so thick that we lose sight of the oasis all together. All we know is the general direction where we last spotted it. Or maybe it’s reduced to some vague memory of a feeling. In these places, a wide hole opens up inside us, and despair takes this opportunity to set up residence in the hole.
Because of despair’s densely opaque nature, not only is our view of the oasis eclipsed, but it also tends to block out the light altogether. Despair is the blackout curtain to the rest of the world.
Life is ironic.
And sometimes cruel. It seems that the brighter the light someone shines for the rest of the world, the darker it can be in their own home. Despair must have sensitive eyes, because when it sets up shop it throws a blanket over all the lamps inside.
And it hangs thick rugs over the doors and windows, so the voices from outside cannot be heard. We are constantly confused when wildly successful and widely beloved people kill themselves. But this is how it happens.
They wandered away from the oasis. And when their views of it became obscured, they soon became lost. Pretty soon, they could no longer see the light or hear the voices outside signing their praises. And they couldn’t even see the treasures in their own house, but all the lights in their house had been covered up.
I’d love to offer you answers.
I’d love to tell you that because I know how it happens, I also know the way out. I know how to pull down the rugs and throw off the blankets, open the windows and doors, run out into the rain and the sun and fields. But I don’t.
The only thing I know is that I’ve been there. And, like a bad acid trip, somehow I was able to wait it out. To use the fitting cliché, I was able to tie a knot in the end of the rope and hang on. And that eventually I found myself outside again, staring at the sunrise. Bowing deeply. Breathing in and out.
Perhaps the only help I’m able to give you about this is to let you know that I know what it’s like. That I’ve been there. That I’ll undoubtedly be there again. That when you are there, isolated from the whole world, you are not actually alone. That there are people, things, a world surrounding you, holding you up, laying you down, covering you with blankets, massaging your feet.
The best thing we can do is talk about it.
Admit that things are not always bright and shiny. You don’t have to wallow and roll around in your grief. But you must learn to turn around and look the monster in the face. Stop running from it. Stop pretending it isn’t there.
When we drag these monsters out into the light, when we use our words to expose them, they lose most of their powers. We see them clearly for what they are: parlor tricks, illusions, games that are rigged.
Our words are bridges to everyone else sitting in the dark right down, believing they’ve seen the end of the light. Dare to speak up. Use your voice. Create safe spaces with your words for others to leave the shadows of self-imposed shame and come forward. There is strength in letting go.
And we need to teach each other to see.
If we can talk about despair, then we can also teach ourselves to see beyond it. We can train our cats’ eyes to see in the dark, our ears to hear the faintest of songs.
I may not know the way home, but together we can teach each other how to look for the road markers. We can practice together seeing in the dark.
We can leaves ropes scattered about our paths so there will always be lifelines. We can go about lighting candles wherever we go, so that we can find our way in the dark when the power goes out. So that others can find their way to us, and so we can all walk each other home.