Thursday, August 31, 2006

On getting through the dark night

An entry for the UU blog carnival

It's a nasty truth of the Chaliceblog that I do a better job writing about some things when I don't actually know about them. Unfortunately, I'm well acquainted with dark nights that seem to last forever. Those nights when out of the corner of your eye, you see something frightening and inhuman peering at you around the door frame from the hall and your breath is already short when you realize it's a laundry basket.

I had one about two weeks ago that brought to mind a line from Robertson Davies' Tempest-Tost (my last copy of which I've given away, so I'm going to have to paraphrase for now) where Davies tells us that Hector hadn't slept all night and while when most people say that, they mean they slept six hours rather than their usual eight, in Hector's case it was literal truth. Davies wrote it better, of course.

I was very worried about something that night, something that was a reasonable worry but did not come to fruition. I talked to friends earlier in the evening, I even gave prayer a shot.

And then?

I waited.

Now, I realize that this does not seem a brilliant solution. Perhaps it would seem a little better if I gave you the mantra I waited with, something Katy-the-Wise told be several years ago during a similar dark night. (Everyone should have a friend who doesn't go to sleep until after midnight and doesn't care if you call lateish.) I was curled up on my couch in South Carolina, relating my latest woe in a sniffly voice and she said, softly and calmly:

"Things will get better, then they'll get worse again. That's life"

I have quoted that to so many people, I can't even tell you. I have repeated it to myself and said it back at Katy-the-Wise. I've never taped it to the refrigerator, but I've considered it.

Given free rein my mind will start with a worry like "I'm really having trouble getting my groove on this 'personal statement' thing. They want honest and non-boring, but the essays in the books of successful essays all sound alike. I'm not sure I can beat my biography into 'the rosy path, beset with a few standard obstacles, that led me to law school' form." and my mind will chew on this and end up with "...and that's how I will end up a beggar woman dancing in front of WalMart for change."

Then, I say, "Things will get better, then they'll get worse again. That's life."

Those eleven words have an immense power for me. They are sometimes the only bridle that gives me any control of my runaway stagecoach of a mind. Now, often the stagecoach is still running away, but having reins I can pull helps a lot.

And the little dose of venom, the "then they'll get worse again" is crucial to the believability of the phrase. Not lying to myself is a central part of this because I'm accustomed to discovering that what people tell me about spiritual things isn't true. My life so far has shown me that if I get jumped my street punks on a walk with Jesus, he's going to watch sadly as they take my wallet and later he'll urge me to forgive them. A girl needs to know some spiritual self-defense in this world because I have yet to meet the deity who will actually make things not suck.

It's one of the things I like about UUism that we're so down with reality much of the time. We get that when God answers our prayers, the answer is often "no." I am a shades of gray person, full of uncertainty and doubt, and for UUs, this uncertainty and doubt is just part of doing business.

So on those long nights, I curl up in bed, I pop on a movie that I'm only going to half watch.

And I wait.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have yet to meet the deity who will actually make things not suck.

This made me think of a sci-Fi book I read where there is a planet that has a God that actually works: If you live within a few miles of one of the temples of this god, you are far less inclined to fight or be defensive or belligerant. He calms people down, and they get along better. He's sort of a plant, and wherever he is planted, this effect happens.
what a notion! I wish....