Dark night of the soul is a metaphor used to describe a phase in a person's spiritual life marked by a sense of loneliness and desolation.
Throughout my life, but particularly in recent years, I have danced intimately with the dark night - and perhaps as a result of griefs enduring passage, I have become somewhat comfortable in her familiar embrace.
But if depression and grief have taught me anything, it is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, there is no secret road or pathway that one can take in order to reach the light, just as there is no secret key one can use, to lock the gate and stave off the darkness. All resistance is futile, and the only real way out it seems, is through.
Recently I made an assumption, that my own dark night was ending. I had walked for miles in grief's desolate wasteland, when finally, a shard of light had managed to push its way inside. But no matter how far I seem to move away from the dark temptress, no matter how much ground I cover, still she manages to find me and extinguish the flickering flame.
In her famous book On Grief and Grieving, author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross talks about the five stages of grief, and highlights acceptance as the final stage of grieving. Almost three years on, and although I have reached a place of acceptance, the dark night still has a way of pulling me back under. Perhaps more accurate is the line where Kubler-Ross states, 'you don't ever bring the death over a loved one to a close'.
These days, my own dark night is triggered by the moon. Ever since I was a child, I have been overly sensitive to what the full moon has to offer and depending on where the planets reside, I will either become desperately emotional or wildly energetic. And although my emotions have been at the whimsy of the moon for as long as I can remember, this last full moon was more powerful than any I have experienced. Its impact was brutal, and although I felt highly alert and energetic (did not sleep so much as a wink), I also felt frightened and frenetic, anxious, helpless and desperately alone.
Here now, on the other side of that experience, I feel strong again, and perhaps a fraction stronger than I did before. Today for example, my car ran out of petrol on the highway, but instead of launching into an emotional panic attack, (which would once have been the norm), I calmly set about resolving the situation. (By resolving I mean hitchhiking to the petrol station and back to my car to syphon the contents of the gerry can into my empty tank).
As I walked casually alongside the bustling highway, under lightly falling rain, I couldn't help but wonder where this newfound sense of empowerment had come from. (Yes, I am aware that I just sounded like Carrie Bradshaw).
Perhaps, I thought, empowerment is a consequence of experience, growth and emotional maturity; which for me, meant the death of the victim archetype. Perhaps, as my best friend Katherine pointed out, when you reach a realisation that there is no saviour, no knight in shining armour, no hero coming to fix things, then you stop waiting and begin to make things happen.
When Chance died, so too did my romantic ideals about storybook happy endings. So useless and damaging were those fantasies, that I had no choice but to abandon them altogether.
It's not that I had been been helpless prior to his death, on the contrary, but on some unconscious level I had bought into romantic notions -not specifically about gender roles - but more along the lines that someone was coming to rescue me and make everything better. As a result, there were certain things that I had taught myself, I could simply not accomplish.
In many ways the cyclic return of the dark night is something that frustrates me greatly. I don't have time for this - I tell myself - as though voicing the fact that I have a ton of essays due will make it all go away. I should know by now that grief, depression and the planet's impending forces could care less about the deadlines set by my psychology tutor, and in my experience, the words 'enough already' have a tendency to fall on deaf ears.
The fact that the darkness comes for me when I am busy, tired, or when I least expect it, must serve as a reminder that we cannot control anything in this life, least of all the forces that make this crazy planet spin.
Instead, all we can do is hold on tight and brace ourselves for the turbulent confrontation and remember that before long it will soon be over. Well, at least until next time.
And in between, it is worth remembering that out of the darkness, comes light; that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel, the knowledge that it will always be okay. In the light, the lessons that we were confronted by in the darkness, ring out with a profound clarity. Little by little, everything becomes clear.
Today, when I broke down on the highway, I was surprised to learn that even in a crisis I can be strong and capable and confident. The old me who would have once fallen apart in a similar stressful situation, has evolved into someone who is no longer afraid of the crap bits life throws my way. On my journey through the darkness, I have been forced to examine the deepest parts of myself and shed those traits that no longer honour or serve me. It is worth mentioning, that alcohol has also been left behind.
It goes without saying that if I could go back and change that awful day that left me broken and wounded, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can't. There is no going back or getting back that which we have lost. What I have lost in my lifetime is immeasurable, but in order to survive that horror I have chosen to focus on the blessings; those things that I have gained through countless nights, spent alone in the darkness. The strength, awareness, courage, determination, willpower and self-esteem.
All I can do now is move forward and acknowledge that without the blessings, I would probably be stuck in the earlier stages of grief, or worse, still sitting alone on that bustling highway, waiting for somebody to save me.