Friday, December 9, 2016

The Task of This Darkness ...

In a dark time, the eye begins to see.

Theodore Roethke

Hello Everyone,

It's been a long time! My broken left arm and injured right one continue to heal - in the case of the left one, a little too well! It seems that my left radial nerve is trapped by the adhesions of healing causing considerable pain when I forget and twist my arm to the side and backwards, stretching the caught nerve. Fortunately, it's my left arm and I've learned pretty quickly not to twist it unthinkingly as I put on my coat, throw a scarf around my neck or reach to turn off the bedside lamp. This intense intermittent pain is a small darkness in my life this winter. (I tend to be pretty impatient with any restriction of my activity!) 

Soon, it will be Winter Solstice, the time when we reach both the shortest day and the longest night of the year. A time when we tend to hope for and celebrate the coming of light to end our particular darknesses. (We all experience darknesses, large and small, as we move across our lifetimes.) But what if our darkness is not going to end any time soon? What if you are a family caregiver experiencing chronic sorrow, someone who is freshly bereaved or a helping professional in the grip of compassion fatigue? It is at times like these, when the darkness seems most profound and overwhelming, that it is good to contemplate not just the coming of light to rescue us but the lessons contained in the darkness, itself.

Last Saturday, I attended a silent retreat where we focused on one of Jan Richardson's poems, Travelling in the Dark. In the poem, I found this line:

Then again
it is true
different darks
have different tasks ...

I began to wonder, "What, then, is the task of this darkness, the task of the darkness of my aching arm?" In the deep silence of the day, I found some answers to my question. For me, the task of my aching arm is to slow me down enough that I have time to finish the book on chronic sorrow that has been waiting so many years for completion. It also allows me to reconnect with the grief of that time so I can remember and write from my heart rather than my head. Important tasks indeed.

And what about you? Do you have a darkness in your life this Solstice? What might be the task of this darkness at this time? Perhaps give yourself some time and inner stillness - a quiet hour before bed or early in the morning or a walk alone in the woods - to consider the task that might be waiting to be discovered. Allow it to speak to you and trust its wisdom. As Jan Richardson says later in her poem :

That in the darkness
there is a blessing.
That in the shadows
there be welcome.