Earlier this month, I went to a event here in Chicago with a group called Nuns & Nones. In those two precious hours I was introduced to a dozen beautiful people and a poem that’s served as an invocation to this month of my life: Sweet Darkness by David Whyte.
Since that day, I’ve been afraid to sit down alone with that poem. It is the kind of poem that seems to know where all the wounded, hungry places are within me and calls them each by name, so gently. It delivers that kind of comfort I often cannot accept from anyone else. That has always been my relationship with language, with art; It creates a space where I am welcome. Where there is always something anticipating me — a sentence or an image or a sound.
This month has been so very hard in ways that I don’t know how to fully feel, much less explain. Life has not been cruel to me. The people in my life have have not been harsh or absent. My body has not been sick. There is nothing bad I can point at as the impetus for the thing inside me that is inflamed with so much sadness. A mysterious sorrow.
So today I unfold the printed paper poem and cry. I let the words be a balm that soothes the invisible wound. They tell me:
“you are not beyond love.”
. . . and I remember the many people who have a space reserved in their heart for me. That this simple truth gives my life more meaning than I could ever try to ascribe it.
“the night will give you a horizon further than you can see.”
. . . and I remember that the future is dark only because we cannot see it. This blindness makes the possibilities endless and joy a certainty.
“your aloneness [is a] sweet confinement.”
. . . and I question my devotion to the sentence of loneliness I gave myself as a little girl and have been living out ever since. I crack the door to this self-imposed cage and let the room be filled with the fragrance of God.
“the world was made to be free in.”
. . . and I remember the goodness of Genesis and am convicted about the chains I place on myself and the chains I have placed on others. I humble myself to the delicate part of me that once perfectly understood creation and freedom.
“give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.”
and I tremble. I tremble because I do not know if there is a world in which I belong or if I have the courage to find it. But I yearn and I ache and I hope and I pray that it does and I can.
From this big little story I stumbled upon on Twitter, please receive (what I can only describe as) a benediction that Shira Erlichman gives at its end:
“When so many of us are often held in the maw of something dangerous: Isolation, desperation, ache . . . Wherever you are, I hope whatever aches you ‘just holds you there.’ That you feel this massive muscular beast decide you’re meant to be here in all your blues. You are. May you be given a touch of relief, a torch of belief, that in the midst of what could vanish you, you are held.”