Lessons in the Dark

Those who don’t love themselves as they are rarely love life as it is either.  Most people have come to prefer certain of life’s experiences and deny or reject the others, unaware of the value of the things that may come wrapped in plain or even ugly paper.  In avoiding all pain and seeking comfort at all cost, we may be left without intimacy or compassion; in rejecting change and risk we often cheat ourselves of the quest;  in denying our suffering we may never know our strength or our greatness.  Or even that the love we have been given can be trusted.

Rachel Naomi Remen. Kitchen Table Wisdom

This was something that I did not understand, the first time I read this quote, years ago.  How could there actually be value, in struggles and difficult times?  I saw the dark times in my life as simply things I’d gotten through, for better or for worse. 

It is only now, as I am much older than I was when I first read this, that I understand what it means. I’ve been through many more dark, trying times, and I’ve emerged much wiser and much stronger than I was before.  I remember, during a particularly difficult time, a friend told me, “Your struggle is beauty.”  I may have thought he was out of his mind, at the time that he said it, but now I can definitely see the beauty.  The beauty is the knowledge and wisdom gained, the change in perspective, and the ability to give back so much more. 

Don’t just embrace and learn from the good times; the bad times have just as much–if not more–to teach you.  Here are some lessons that I have learned, from the trials that I have faced:

1.  We need each other more than we realize.  I’ve talked about our disconnected society and the need for community, many times before.  It’s in the difficult times, that we realize that we weren’t meant to go it alone.  No matter who you are, there reaches a point where you can no longer handle it on your own. 

2.  Through our own suffering, we can come to understand the struggles that others face.  We’ve all heard it said that hurt people, hurt people.  But, only after we’ve seen darkness ourselves, are we able to recognize it when others are dealing with it as well.  My struggles have changed how I view and deal with people who have caused me pain.

3.  Losing the illusion of security gives us freedom.  “Safety” and security are fake.  And only when we’re faced with losing it all, do we really understand that.  Then, we no longer have the need to play it safe, and rely on our ability to maintain this “security.”

4.  Some things are worth fighting for; some things are not.  Losing possessions is not as devestating as facing the loss of loved ones, or relationships with loved ones.  Dreams are worth fighting for, but fancy cars and master suites are not.

5.  The worst case scenario isn’t that bad.  The worst happens, and we survive it.  We see that our ability to endure, to make something out of anything, is greater than we realized.  We no longer need to operate in “survival mode,” compromising our principles and core values in order to save our hide.  We are truly free to be the wonderful people we are.  We are able to give more.

6.  We are stronger than we realize.  Taking a horrible situation and making something wonderful–better–out of it allows us to see our true strength.  We are all capable of so much more than we realize, and sometimes we have to be forced to use this strength.

7.  After the winter, the spring is that much sweeter.  After experiencing complete despair, desperation, and hopelessness, joy is all the more beautiful.  Everything good seems more meaningful, more precious.

So many people I know are facing challenges this winter.  If you are one of them, remember to look for the beauty, the opportunity for strength, love, and growth.  There is always another side of the situation, where you will be able to look back upon it.  As another of my friends often says, “Winter never lasts forever.”


P.S.  Please check out my guest post “Living Simply With Children,” at Loving Simply Living.  Thank you, Lorilee, for allowing me to share!

8 thoughts on “Lessons in the Dark

    • I was thinking of you and about 10 other people…But the lessons were from my own recent experiences. It’s pretty much been a sucky winter for everyone!

  1. great post today. I am going through a particularly difficult time right now (separation/possible divorce after 32 years of marriage) but I do know that things will get better and they already have. What you posted today are certainly words to live by. What I have discovered is you have to have faith in the face of adversary and a positive attitude does not hurt. Have a wonderful day.

  2. I think it’s a given that we won’t understand something until we are ready and have experienced what we need which will allow us to relate to it. Life is a struggle, but we get through it. Your friend is wise who remembers that winter doesn’t last forever.

  3. Our winter has been long as well, the past summer in the garden was a four month drought and we are feeling the effects now. Just yesterday we found a 4 year old single jar of sour cherry chutney hiding on one of the pantry shelves…and relished in opening it to find all well and flavorful inside. There are ups and downs in life, ask any homesteader, ask anyone, we all experience the same each in our own way. How we handle it and move on is up to us.

  4. It occurs to me that like any winter there are dark cloudy days with sleet and rain, and then glorious sunny ones too. I think my dark times are like that puctuated with beautiful connections usually with frinds or family who are helping and supporting me. The other thing that has helped me a lot is a friend who reminds me that what feels like breaking donw is usually a breaking through. X

  5. Pingback: 2013: Looking Back | Journey to Ithaca

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