Monday, June 1, 2009

The Face of Despair

This email was one of several that was truly cathartic for me. It felt like I put it all out there for everyone and anyone to see and I didn’t have a single care in the world about it. I was in the moment and wanted to share what that moment was like. We all have these moments but we’re private about them and I was too. I felt compelled, however, in this instance to dismantle the myths associated with bravery and courage and strength. This moment taught me beyond a shadow of a doubt that when I’m seemingly my most vulnerable, I’m in reality my truest self. Vulnerability is not weakness but dishonesty and insincerity is. Truth, although painful sometimes, is the only sustaining force that will enable one to endure the battle of Life. It is the weapon of choice for the courageous, the brave and those who dare to be real. I’m simply trying to be one of them.

February 11, 2008
Subject: the face of despair

I hesitated sending this photo taken of me this morning February 11, 2008 but I’ve decided to go ahead for several reason, not the least of which is the need to “keep it real”. So often we hear tales of another’s sorrow and despair but we never really see it. The phrase, “she puts on a brave face” has been ringing in my head all day today and I wonder what exactly that brave face looks like. Is it a face that only smiles and hides the sorrow I think people actually want to witness on some level? Is it a face that is rigid trying to mask despair? Is it a face that shows all emotions when they arise? I don’t know the answer to these questions. I only know that when I feel anything, I feel it deeply and completely. When I feel blue, sad, sorrow or even despair, I have learned that I need to sit with that particular emotion a while. It isn’t my preferred state of being or state of mind, so it is imperative to me to understand why it is presenting itself so that I can reclaim my more comfortable state of mind, which is joyful. I’ve come to realize that my emotions last week of irritation and agitation waned into a dark despair that I carried all weekend long. I can’t say that my sorrow is related to anything in particular, rather it is related to everything in general and that everything became overwhelming these last few days....

I am very happy to report, however, that since this morning, tiny miracles have happened throughout the day that have helped me purge this sadness.

For days my emotions have been just below the surface of my being and they would spill over occasionally and with little warning. I kept having this sense of dread and yet nothing specific would come to mind. It was this constant nagging presence that was picking at me. I felt as if the hope that people were continually giving me and what I was so desperately clinging to was turning to vapor before my very eyes. In its place was darkness and anxiety. I found myself worrying about Aria and I can’t even tell you what exactly I was worrying about; nothing specific and yet everything. I found myself thinking about her being so sick and so fragile and so weak and quickly I would here a voice “shhhhhhhing” me saying things like, “She’s going to be fine! There’s an 85-90% cure rate! Her doctors are so optimistic! She’s doing great!” Another voice would counter with, “Yeah, I know, but what if?.......” I knew this was the voice of anxiety. It always is. Anxiety is the master of creating situations that don’t yet exist and never do come to pass. Still, there it was, following me everywhere I went and with everything I did. I couldn’t escape its grasp and I became so sad, so, so sad. I mentioned to Doc what was going on and how I was feeling so conflicted about what I knew in terms of how I ought to feel so positive and yet I was feeling so negative. Doc, as only he can do, said something to me that nailed my reason for despair. He said to me very gently and tenderly, “Honey, there are no promises and no guarantees.” The air was sucked out of my lungs in an instant for that was exactly my dread. We have to believe and do believe that Aria will be fine. She will be cured and she will go on to live a wonderful and beautiful life but....
Just before I snapped this picture with the handy computer-cam we have, it hit me. For the last few days, this nagging dread, this looming despair has been invisible in a way. So I figured out how to see it.

“Ol’ Henry”, our farmhouse, has a quirky main entrance. When you come through the front door, you are immediately in the dining room! It is so weird and at the same time so grand! It is the meeting place and it is the place where we sort and organize for the day. It is the central station of the house. Over the weekend I noticed that I was resisting the front door. There was an energy there that I didn’t like. It was strange and cold and dark. There was an extraordinary feeling of oppression, not around the farm or the house as a whole, but only the front door. I realized this morning that the oppressive, dark, cold, energy I was so aware of at our front door was Death.

This is the unmentionable. It is the thing we don’t talk about, we don’t face, we don’t include in the pool of options. It is something we all know is the ultimate inevitable but it so rarely lingers on our front doorstep. Yet, that statement isn’t exactly true, is it? We can feel so peaceful about death knocking on the door of someone who has lived a full life and seems ready to go. It seems natural and it is. For many, the process toward death is one of a lingering presence that changes as the inevitable draws near. I don’t know what exactly that change is. I imagine it to be a gentle knocking and an acceptance of knowing what is knocking and then an eventual welcoming as the door is slowly opened and death enters.

It is in no way acceptable that death knocks on the door for children. I think we can all agree on that one! I know many find comfort in looking toward God, knowing he has His reasons for taking a child so soon. I don’t find any comfort there. I have my ideas of heaven and hell and death in general, but that is another email. For now, death is lingering on our doorstep. Our 4 year old daughter is at risk and I must surrender everything to a process I don’t fully understand and certainly have little control over. Rest assured that I don’t hear any knocking nor do I see any attempts to knock. Death is merely a presence..a dark cloud that I go through every time I open the front door. I deliberately take a deep breath now and I stand straight and confidently. My head is held high and I tell myself that we are, in this moment, all alive. I walk through death holding Aria in my arms knowing it is not her time.

Once I realized this, once I had a visual on the source of my despair, I saw my despair join death and I left them together.

“She puts on a brave face!” I am quite certain that I am as brave when I smile full of joy as when I cry with tears staining my cheeks in sorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Julia, it's Jami. Just thought I'd tell you I'm reading your blog. Hope you're all having a good day today.
    Jami in WA