The Dark Side of the Moon ~ the Pull of Darkness

Tonight in the UK is a total eclipse of the moon, starting around half past six in the evening.

I find this sort of event challenging because it makes me think that for every good bright thing there is not only a shadow but a dark side.

The dark side of love is hate; the shadow side of either is indifference. Dark is not automatically to be equated with evil but fairly often it is not only portrayed as such but does actually represent what someone like me would see as evil.

But even as the world turns, so too does the balance between light and dark, and kept in equal measures, we can live as complete beings. However, when the tug towards the dark becomes overwhelming that balance becomes uneven and we make poor decisions that hurt others and ourselves. When someone harms us, our first instinct is to strike back and take revenge; it is seldom to forgive and to try to understand.

I’ve been finding the pull to the dark overwhelming lately, and tonight I hope to sit through the eclipse and watch as the moon passes through blood red shadows and back into the light and as she does so, I want to trace my own journey through the dark and back into the light.

Dark is not always evil, but dark is always…..dark.

Pray for me.

Darkness is Uncreated Light

 

Darkness is uncreated light

 

The last few weeks have been a hard time for me; physical health issues following an operation a week before Christmas became compounded with my cycle of spiralling through periods of low and high mood, and came to a head on Christmas Eve. For days I sat and read through tweets and Facebook status posts about how excited everyone was and all they were doing and felt dislocated and isolated. It had been a close run thing that I was able to be at home for Christmas; the post operative infection was near to sending me back to hospital to be tied to an IV drip of antibiotics. But the collective excitement and frenetic happiness that the outside world seemed to be presenting to me did not cheer me. In fact it just brought home to me quite how false most human celebrations actually are. What is at the core of them may not be false but not that many get to the core. The tinsel and the cake are just external manifestations of that core and mean nothing in themselves(except perhaps calories and expense.)

On Christmas Eve, it started to coalesce into a painfully clear-eyed understanding of the whole concept of depression. The essay I wrote at that time may be posted at some stage; a few people have read it in its current form but since the overall theme was written from a place of immense pain, I am not certain it would benefit many to read it as is.

The nub of the essay was that depression is a product of the removal(whether willing or not) of the usually unseen barrier between true objective external reality and the reality that lives inside our minds. This is something that happens at times of great grief or disappointment in particular. When someone dies, we cannot pretend(at least, not for long) that they are still with us; when we fail to get the job we were sure was ours we cannot carry on as if we did. Other triggers are common; how we look, our talents and skills, our relationships and so on, often do not match what we have in our heads. Clinical depression is often described as being a result of chemical imbalances in the brain but even this is not being backed up by conclusive research. Not to mention the whole chicken and egg conundrum: which came first, the imbalance or the depression?

I spent much of Christmas Eve either crying or fighting tears. This isn’t that unusual; when I have been in this space before, for the same reasons of the veil between the realities being suddenly absent, it usually takes going through the pain to come out on the other side. The fact that it was Christmas, the time when everyone is meant to be happy smiling bunnies, was at once a major contributing trigger to the epsiode in the first place and at the same time, something that just added continuous fuel to the pain. I know I was ill, feverish and in pain, and anxious, and that this was probably why it happened then and not at some stage in the future when I cannot hold the dark matter of reality apart from the marshmallow world of sweetness inside my head.

But there were things to be done and I did them. My husband put up the Christmas tree and the decorations and as I looked around the house, transformed from its workaday look, a tiny feeling of release began. OK, so the two realities didn’t match; but for a while, it simply didn’t matter as much. Christmas Eve picked up slowly. I managed to eat a little. I felt a tiny bit better. And when Christmas Day dawned, I was weary but all right, and the day had a quiet holiness about it and as a family we had a good day. Boxing Day we went to visit my family, about two hours drive away, and stayed there till yesterday afternoon. It was fine, pleasant and good to be with people I loved.

Last night, as I was trying to settle to go to bed, I picked up the prayer book that sits by my bed. I do not have a regular discipline concerning either prayer or prayerful reading; I sabotage myself every time I have tried for the last 30 or more years. I figure that I need to follow the flow of my life, not something dictated by another person. The book is the Celtic Daily Prayer, a book from the Northumbria community in the north of England. Look them up if it interests you. I probably dip into this book a couple of times a week, and usually find that the words move me. The words for Christmas Day sprang off the page for me:

Do not be afraid to walk in darkness for I am uncreated light. I will cause you to look on darkness and not be afraid.

It speaks of several kinds of darkness but the last lines of the passage carried most power for me:

The darkness of despair and unanswered questions may require that we reach out and hold His hand in the darkness, even by faith, and just keep on walking.

In the end, surviving depressive episodes for me have to be about keeping on walking, holding a hand that is unseen and unfelt and having faith that however alone I feel in it, there truly is One who is there when nobody else can be.

 

Cry Havoc

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”

That’s what’s going on in my head right now: war, of sorts. The dogs of war are great snarling beasts, all white flashing teeth and raging red eyes, straining at the leashes, the deep, spiked collars digging into the heavyset necks. You can hear them growling; the low angry rumble of anger, rising slowly into as close to a roar as a dog can make. You could imagine this is the sound  the soul of a volcano makes before it blows its stack.

Can you smell their fetid breath, feel the sprays of spittle as they shake their heads in an attempt to slip their collars?

I can.

Those who think being creative is NICE should meet my dogs some time. The temptation to really let them loose is huge right now. What havoc they would cause if I did. What wanton destruction and violence….

I’m a Viking really. No horned helmet or sword or armour but a Viking all the same. A Berserker, one who gave in to the battle madness and would slay friend and foe alike without caring who they killed while the fierce battle joy flooded their veins with its power, laughing as they cut a bloody path through anyone and anything that stood in their way and weeping just as madly when they came to themselves later and saw what they had done.

That’s who I am.

One part of me anyway. The part I keep safe and silent and chained up. My Hyde side. That’s the side that comes out and rattles her chains when I write. It’s not that I mind as such, in the writing, but it does sometimes threaten to spill over into what we stupidly call real life. I go into a sort of trance, become a berserker with a pen, and I lose track of who I am and what I am doing. I mutter when I walk, I react as if I am in the story and I stop seeing people as real physical beings. 

Pain anchors me. The pain I suffer as a result of illness may be a gift from God to keep me from going wild completely. When it isn’t enough, I chose to create it; the feeling of knuckles bruised and bloody from hitting a wall reminds me that I live in both worlds, but one world collects the rent and that is the physical one. Everything we do, we pay for. Everything I write has cost me, in blood sometimes.  

This is my gift to the world.

Nice doggy.

Dark place, deep place, old place

Dark place, deep place, old place

 

I am in the dark place;

So dark I cannot see the walls,

Only the light that glimmers

Faintly round the edges of my hands.

Not enough to see by,

Only enough to remind me

That I still exist at all.

I hear distant voices,

Too far off to tell

Whether they mock me,

Encourage me, torment me

Or are simply oblivious

That I am here alone

In the dark place again.

It’s cold, but it always is here,

The steady unchanging chill

Of cellar or deep cave

Untouched by warmth of sun

Or the night-ice of frosts.

I am in the deep place,

So deep I cannot see the sky,

Only hear the birdsong

Far off in the distant world.

Not enough to climb towards,

Only enough to remind me

That the world exists at all.

My own voice rises,

Too indistinct for anyone to tell

Whether I am calling for help,

Or crying or simply singing,

Having forgotten the world out there

And have settled down to wait,

Here in the deep place alone.

It’s damp here, but it always is,

With the constant moisture

Of rivers and the moving spirit

Untouched by the need to conform,

To twist the soul to safe shapes.

I am in the old place,

So old I feel like a child again,

Only the heartbeat of earth

Distantly drumming in my ears,

Not enough to dominate,

Only enough to remind me

That I am not truly alone:

When I lie waiting to be reborn,

I lie surrounded by bright spirits

Whose home is here

In the dark place,

The deep place,

The old place

And who wait to guide me

Back to the healing light.

I have put this in today in response to an inspirational piece “Embracing the Shadow” over at Fibi’s blog  http://searchforwisdom.wordpress.com