Everyone in our house is asleep but me. I’m in the upstairs hall, typing against time as my laptop has little juice. I can hear loud breathing coming from our bedroom, a sign of a sound sleeper. I wish I was there. Sleeping. Soundly. But I’m heavy hearted tonight. I am beginning to think this is what seasonal affective disorder feels like: heavy, unsettled, cynical.
I have a few major issues swirling about in my life, and I really would rather not deal with them. I would rather box up my feelings and put them in storage where they can rot for all I care. Yet, I’m sure they will wait for me there. Wait for me to untape the box and deal with the feelings that come popping out to breathe the life they need to move on, to become feelings that are constructive rather than destructive.
There’s nothing I would love more right now than to take a dry erase board and write my problems, my burdens on the board, look at them and then erase the board clean. I have thought of many ways to numb the creeping feelings of heaviness before they get the best of me, before the feelings are more than feelings but rather pain. I want to shake the heaviness of life. The suffering is so great in so many people I call friends. Just tonight I listened to a friend’s story of a broken past and how she hopes for a brighter future. I listened to another friend share how this season of her life is so much harder than she ever imagined it would be. And I wonder why God doesn’t ease up a little on these people; and then I wonder why he doesn’t ease up on me. I feel so selfish saying that, yet another friend told me that it’s actually easier for me to focus on their pain because then I don’t have to deal with my own. She said: “Don’t minimize the pain you feel just because those you love are dealing with pain. Your circumstances are real. They exist NOW and you need to deal with them NOW. So go ahead and feel sad. You won’t feel sad forever. It WILL pass but only if you face them.”
It was as if she was giving me permission to stay there for a bit. The problem is… I’m afraid I will become cynical and bitter. I forget that God is good all the time, not just during the sunny, no-mess days.
Today, as I read an article from Sojourners online, I was reminded of what can happen when I stay there in that bitter, cynical place. Author Gareth Higgins wrote about the connection between the movie, “Sweeney Todd,” Northern Ireland’s past and the US Presidential campaign. He wrote this:
” I think it’s simple (the connection b/w the three): a cynical world breeds the opposite of empathy. And where there is no empathy with those whom we feel are different, the killing can begin. History shows us that where no attempts are made to resurrect empathy as a meaningful part of politics, the killing may never stop.”
He is referring to Hillary Clinton being reduced to tears in New Hampshire and how Mike Huckabee had compassion on her, when most often candidates use the weaknesses of others to their advantage. The compassion was touching in a time when the debates are heated and the stakes are high. In Sweeney Todd, apparently the urge to get even is met with spiraling violence and in Northern Ireland there is not much compassion for what the violence did to that community. So we have cynicism in politics, a character seeking revenge and whole communities trying to find healing.
My point is that there is a very fine line between dealing with my own stuff and my “issues” and running to rescue my friends from pain. If I can first deal with the reality of my pain, I am better equipped (and less twisted) to be able to find pure compassion for those around me who are struggling. I never want to shut myself off to the Spirit that compels me to love others and care for them. But what I find myself doing sometimes is loving and caring for others to death. The death of me. Again, it sounds so self-focused. What I am learning though, is that if I am truly honest with myself, if I can face the darknes and walk through it, daylight comes. It is in the daylight where Truth shows its face. It is in the daylight, after finding my way out of the night that I can better handle the pain of others because I am not merely overwhelmed by their problems, or feeling sorry for them. Rather I am following the lead of the one who guided me into the Sunshine once again.
I can almost feel the heat of the Sunshine now as I write this. I feel a strength that comes from surrender. I am beginning to feel peace in knowing, and believing that in all things my God has a plan for me. It may take a while for the night to pass and for the light to direct its rays from my head to my heart. But I can feel it moving.
I really have no idea if this made any sense. It was all very free-flowing, stream of consciousnes-like. I’m not going to re-read it b/c I will obsess. For now I’m leaving my hiding place in the hall. And my hiding place I’ve made inside myself. It’s time for rest.