Light and Shadow

May 27, 2020
May 27, 2020 AllisonM

Light and Shadow

Yesterday evening, as my son was leaving the bathroom (and I was following behind him) he stubbed his toe. I felt so badly for him — is there anything worse than kicking your bare foot into a baseboard at the end of a long day? Sigh…


I rubbed it and rubbed it some more, then got him a popsicle. He felt better. But I carried his pain around with me for about an hour before I stopped cringing. How does a mother survive witnessing all the cuts and scrapes and bruises, or God forbid, worse? How do any of us survive watching those we love suffer? I think most would agree doing that is much harder to get through than the suffering we do ourselves.


Turn over the rocks, look in the dark corners, and there is still no easy answer. If y’all read what I write regularly, then you know I read a lot of Richard Rohr. What he says about this topic is that we must suffer, and must witness others’ suffering, because it is only through it that we can be transformed — and that happens by being made to realize that we cannot fix everything, that we cannot outthink everything, and by being reminded that we are not in control. Okay. I understand that, and it’s sort of Human Condition 101. That does not, however, answer the question of how we get through it. I guess that’s where faith comes in.


It is a feat of the spirit and a pure miracle to emerge from a dark night of the soul with faith intact. We’ve all endured those times when nothing makes any sense — our fists raised and shaking toward the sky, ugly crying, screaming, raging, medicating with whatever we can find — feeling adrift in a sea of loss and grief is enough to make a person question everything. But somehow, there is always mercy somewhere, and somehow, we mostly find it and it soothes us enough to get us through to another day. Though it is part of life to suffer, it is also part of life to have relief, peace, and even joy on the other side. I suppose getting through the tough is as much about remembering how to wait for the tenderness that will inevitably appear as much as anything. The ebb and flow — we’re not in control of the rhythm of that either. Accepting that, regardless of how hard it is to do so, is called maturity, I think. Learning how to sit with discomfort without struggling to make it go away might be one of the most valuable skills we can learn. I’m the worst — I don’t like discomfort and it makes me crazy — at this point in my life, the best I can do is recognize that and work on dropping my armor, every day, for we are required to feel it all if we want to truly feel any of it. 


I had no idea that my son’s stubbed toe would send me into a whirl of thought about a never-ending subject such as this one. It isn’t something that can be covered successfully in a blog post and most answers lead to more questions. Again, that’s where faith enters — we have to lean on it when there are no satisfactory answers to be found. As my son grows, he will suffer. And as he does, I will take the blows right along with him, in my own way. I was thinking about his birth today, as I am writing a second book that has everything to do with him, and I thought about how connected we are and have always been. The only thing I know to be true, and the only thing I know that never fails is love, and I also know that that depth of feeling cannot be limited to only the fun and happy parts of life. If I want to watch him grow and be happy and fulfilled, and I do, then I must face his hurts and sorrows too. Just as I feel a white light between us, I have to also allow the shadow. 


Besides, without it, I might not even notice that I need sunglasses most of the time.


Peace and love and happy Wednesday, Y’all.