Some people who will read this in its entirety may be quite surprised. Among even my closest and most trusted friends, only two know how truly dark my vision has become over recent months. I have walked in an emotional chasm amid the relentless dark of night and breathed sulphuric dust. Too often in recent days my emotional muscles have seized in cramps and I have fallen, exhausted and lost. In those moments, I wanted nothing more than to never move again. When I did lurch forward, it seemed only a few steps before I fell once more. Bruises added to the cramps.
A dear friend once referred to chronically negative people as “energy suckers”. I have been Lord of the energy-sucking vampires. Knowing that, like a vampire, my need to feed could exceed my control of my hunger, I decided to spend this Thanksgiving alone instead of surrounded by friends. When I decided this, I knew I was taking a risk by isolating myself. The incessant maelstrom of negativity in my head routinely blocked any light that might try to pierce the darkness. Friends had helped me stand and steadied me long enough to take a few more steps. But I knew my disgust with myself for needing their help would be too great for me to mar the pleasure of their Thanksgiving by reaching out to them. I would cling to some shred of pride. I would give them at least that small gift.
And so I forced myself to go to work last night despite knowing how tenuous my grasp of my wildly intense emotions was. Knowing that when I left I would return to a long period of isolation on a day when others would be sharing laughter, camaraderie and making memories with friends and family and loved ones. I dreaded the misery that this most wonderful time of the year would bring. I wished that I could extend the 14 or more hours I spent hidden in bed each day to a sleep that lasted past New Year’s Day.
Instead, nine hours later, I smiled at coworkers as I walked from my job into the day’s early morning sun.
For a moment, I sat in my car and contemplated my mood. I was neither jubilant nor euphoric but I did feel good–and that was no small change of mood. Why the change? I still faced the long day and evening alone. I walked out the door carrying the exact same problems I walked into it with: I still do not know if I will be able to pay my bills; dear friends that I love and have driven away are still distant; I still fear poisoning every dream I have; the aches still ache and the void within me is still a gaping emptiness. Yet I felt genuinely thankful. Thankful on a Thanksgiving I dreaded? Why?
Because friends have willingly sacrificed their positive energy to restore some of mine–and they did so without asking me to sacrifice my privacy.
Because while I fear losing beloved friends, I have profound evidence that shows me that the ties that bind true friends are greater than time. That when a friendship is true, what today may seem lost is merely hidden beneath the clutter of circumstances and emotions. That the power of true friendship will push through the seemingly impossible-to-crack surface like magma through miles of rock. True friendship can not destroy itself; it can not be destroyed.
Because kindness can come from the most unexpected people when you most need it: the supervisor who I once told I dreaded coming to work when I knew she would be there who not only unexpectedly listened but took action to help; the co-worker with whom my relationship had not long ago been so adversarial who selflessly decides to give me many of his guests so that I can earn more tips and have the most successful night I have ever had at work.
Because although every sunrise reminds me of a greater Beauty that I may never embrace, the beauty of the sunrise is still a gift I should enjoy instead of hiding from it.
There are many more reasons, of course. And as I write this people dear to me are gathering and sharing what they are grateful for. They are making memories, smiling, bonding and laughing. I am thankful for their happiness. I am thankful that I am not diminishing their joy today.
I know that I am still in the chasm. I know that the climb out will take weeks. I will inevitably slip and slide back toward the bottom though I doubt I will see those depths again. I know there may again come moments when I lose the light. But for now, the soft glow breaches the darkness and makes the climb less precarious. I appreciate it.
I am thankful.
November 26, 2009