Looking for the light

Sep 3, 2011 by

Looking for the light

It is hard to find one’s way in the dark, without illumination. It is hard to imagine the darkness is only temporary, unless there is some hope for the possibility of illumination. Literally and figuratively, in both my waking and dream states, I have struggled to find the light in the midst of the darkness that temporarily clouds my mind, my thinking, my reality. The darkness is born of fear and uncertainty, in isolation, without benefit of remembering our loved ones who could help see us through the thickness and heaviness of the black clouds that shroud our sensibilities and emotions.

When I am in the dark, I take each fear-filled step forward, with an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, as my heart pounds in my chest and my palms sweat uncontrollably. There is a clinical name for this, and a myriad of pills, manufactured, marketed and sold; telling us it will all feel better with pills. Doctors encourage us to try several different pills, until we find the exactly right one, or combination of several, which will bring the light back so we can find our way. If you have spent years trying various combinations, you may find that the torch in the darkness is elusive at best. For you see, I believe the eternal flame is not lit by pills or the latest cognitive behavioral or dialectic therapy alone. Although useful as a match in lighting the torch, the matches burn out quickly, and the torch does not last forever. How then do we find the eternal flame; one that never goes out but burns bright forever, always available to show us the way? I will give you a hint; to find this, you must look outside of yourself… it is bigger than you alone… have you guessed it?

The answer is relationships. In my belief relationships are the foundation of recovery, the basis of sound mental health.

Learning to rely on others when the light begins to dim is not an easy task; particularly if you have the notion you should be able to do this on your own. To overcome the shame which resides in many of us for having these issues in the first place, only makes matters worse. Shame, denial, fear and sometimes just plain stubbornness, facilitates the downward spiral that I have seen so many times in my own life. Did you know that mental illness is the only illness which is characterized by the feeling that “maybe I don’t really have this illness.”? It is well documented that this is part of the reason so many stop and restart their treatment and recovery process, along with the shame, fear, and disbelief.

I want to share a story about one of my recent experiences which caused me to begin that downward spiral of spinning and heading down that dark drain. No worries, the story does not end badly, nor does it really end at all, for the recovery process is life long, thus the story never really ends.

Recently, my love and I went on holiday and journeyed to the east coast where I am from. Our itinerary included a trip to show my love one of the 7 natural wonders of the world; the magnificent Niagara Falls. This part of our journey also included a reunion, or perhaps more aptly described as a reacquaintance, with my estranged sister, whom I had not seen or had contact with for over 25 years. This also included meeting her 2 beautiful daughters whom I had not seen since they were very young; one a toddler still in the stroller and the other a very young girl. Both of these young women now each had a daughter of their own, so I was very excited to meet my extended family.

As fate would have it, our initial meeting filled me with disbelief, confusion and shock. I barely recognized my sister, and couldn’t take my eyes off of what she had become. My nieces, anxious to get to know me, keenly observed my reaction to their mother throughout our brief visit. My love and 2 very important long time friends, met us for this reunion, as they wanted to be present to offer me support; to be the light to shine in the darkness, should it fall over me. They were very aware of the potential for this meeting to be difficult, and so they came….

My sister took a very different road in life than I did. Her choices created a life of poverty for her children, and a lack of opportunity to rise very far above what she had created. Her life had been hard, included drugs and violence, and could be seen in the lines on her face, and the look in her eyes. Our conversation was strained, for me anyway as I struggled to find words, topics, or questions that would lead to pleasant conversation. I tried to focus on my beautiful nieces, but found myself lost in the reality of what I was seeing. We had brunch together at a local buffet, which was clearly a huge treat for all of them. At least this was positive. I found my sister and I could not really converse,; after all what could we talk about? I tried making my nieces the focus of our conversation, but she would bring up topics my nieces preferred not to talk about. For me, the visit was painful, strained, and incredibly sad.

As I participated in this very strained reunion, I kept stepping out from the situation to observe what was going on. The only way I could cope was to repeat Linda Ellerbee’s words in my head; “and so it goes”…. and then eventually it was thankfully over. We drove my family back to my nieces home and said words about staying in touch. My anxiety climbed as I counted the seconds until we were finally in the car, and driving away. Luckily, we were heading to the final leg of our journey, which was a week long stay in Lily Dale. This for my love and I is an annual event for 6 years running. We meet up with friends who come from all over the country (some even from Canada), to enjoy one another and soak in the magic of this very old spiritualist community. It is calming, rejuvenating, and healing. It is exactly what I needed after my experience with the reunion.

Lily Dale Jewel On The LakeAs we drove to Lily Dale, the darkness was like a dark cloud falling down around me. My love being sensitive to me, spoke to me softly and tried to engage me so I would not sink into the depression, which in those moments seemed so imminent. For my part, I struggled to stay present, and distance my self from the emotions of the experience. This of course meant I had to distance myself from all of my emotions, so I didn’t start the downward spiral. I held onto the hope that the healing environment of Lily Dale, and the presence of good people who cared and openly shared their own heartache, along with the never ending support of my love, would see me through. As we got closer and the familiar roads were in sight, the black cloud began to slowly lift. We turned down Dale Drive and my heart leaped. The black cloud was gaining momentum as it moved away. By the time we got to the gate of Lily Dale, I knew I would get through, and this too would pass.

We drove in the gate, parked our car, and I practically ran to the picnic table, where the first arrivals of our party were already sitting and waiting… waiting for more friends to arrive, for this is what we wait for. The familiar Cajun yell of aaaiiiieeee greeted us as we came into view. We embraced one another and reveled in the fellowship that had already begun. I briefly blurted out the disappointment and sadness I felt from my experience of reconnecting with my sister. Another woman immediately began to tell a similar story about having just seen her daughter. We promised to fill in all the blanks later. We sat at our picnic table and grinned at one another, knowing the magic of our bond was already evident. We talked about when all the others would arrive. We decided to walk over to the guest house we would take over for the next week, and check in.

Happily and with the full confidence that everything would be alright, I walked with my love and our friends; The Gathering of the Goddesses had begun. As everything eventually runs full circle, I take you back to the the first question here; ” How then do we find the eternal flame; one that never goes out but burns bright forever, always available to show us the way? ” We find it outside of ourselves; we find it in the relationships we form which become an important part of the fabric of our lives. I found it this time, in The Gathering of the Goddesses… and with my love, who is like a gentle flame on a candle, burning slow and strong and always there. This is not the first nor last time, I will find myself looking for the light. Maybe, just maybe, the next time I will recall these words I have written.

Lily Dale is also known as “The City of Light”

What a happy coincidence.

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2 Comments

  1. Donna, the levels of intimacy in your pain, awakening, and eventual understanding of self and others is woven so vividly I swear I was at Lily Dale with you! Thank you for sharing this powerful journey.

  2. John W. Strobel III

    What an incredibly sensitive gathering of words Donna. You’re ability to describe your feelings in an important moment in your life is stunning. Your description of the “dark clouds” makes them real and understandable…A masterpiece of learning about the “light” we all so very much need to affirm is there, if we just open our hearts and minds to it. Beautiful article Donna…JWSIII