I sit in the rubble that used to be my life. I can’t believe what’s happened. Everything I had is gone. My life collapsed like a house of cards. It was all a lie—all of it.
Many stories fit this scenario: It turned out her husband had been sleeping around for years, and she thought they were the perfect couple. It turned out a wife didn’t even want another guy—she wanted another woman! It turned out that his career collapsed in an hour because of one careless mistake.
It’s devastation. Maybe we have tried for years to hold up a weak structure in our relationships or careers. But maybe, through no fault of our own, our world ends.
Devastation is the moment when everything changes. Life pushes me to my knees and then shoves my face in the gravel. And when I open my eyes again and look around, nothing remains except ashes.
C.S. Lewis describes it like this: “I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been—if you’ve been up all night and cried until you have no more tears left in you—you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.” (From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harper Trophy, p. 174)
I take a small breath and look around. My pain is so intense that I can’t take a big breath. That’s OK. For now, small breaths work fine.
People say to me, “Everything will work out.” I say, “Bullshit. It won’t.” They say, “Get up and get going. You’re being pathetic.” I say, “You have no idea what I am going through.” They say, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” I say, “Don’t say the word God to me. If God did this, I hate Him. If this is life, I don’t want it.”
Don’t talk to me about hope when I can barely take a breath.
I see complete darkness. If there were a light, I cannot imagine what it might be. That’s OK too. Darkness is fine.
The darkness is silent. All my little plans, all my thoughts came to nothing. An old thought runs through my mind and I smile bitterly. It means nothing.
My plans, my effort and my thoughts came to nothing.
Here is a turning point: I can think in completely new ways.
I am in a dark empty place, but at least I am free to think new things. I was really wrong about what I thought would work. Now, against my will, I am free.
I am not afraid any more because I have already lost everything. Life has forced me to be fearless.
My beliefs about what is true exploded in my face. What I thought about how the world worked turned out to be a lie.
I am empty. In my emptiness, a new idea could float in. I don’t see one right now, but I am done with the past. That might be good. I might be able to try something that I thought was utter nonsense just a few days ago.
I am free, I am open to new things and I can still breathe.
Ever since I was tiny, I have loved the sky. I’ve seen stars that look like white asters on the night sky, and dawns where I wanted to worship light itself. There were easy, sunny days when everyone was my friend, and hard blue days near a cliff when I was afraid.
Right now I cannot see the sky, but it must be there. My pain is intense and my past is finished. My world is black, something is hiding the sky but I know that the sky is always there.
I keep breathing. Maybe I meditate. Maybe I cry some more.
Things change because they always do. I keep breathing.
Maybe one day, I’ll be able to breathe in the peace of the darkness. Maybe some day I’ll see the perfection of the rubble, the perfection of the emptiness around me.
In this blackness, anything can grow.
It’s like black soil before a seed. Nothing has been planned or imagined. There is the free energy of pure potential. Anything can happen.
It’s like the black space after death. Beliefs have died, patterns have died and now there is a strange openness and freedom.
The blackness, the emptiness allows possibility that I never imagined.
My life is ashes. There is an ancient Greek myth of the phoenix. It’s a huge, gorgeous bird that can only be born from ashes. Such a radiant creature can only come from utter darkness.
I rest in the blackness, in the ashes, and I breathe. It is the instant after death and it is the instant before new birth. I don’t know yet that I am the phoenix, but in all these ashes, it might just happen.
by Jean Gendreau, reprinted from and with the permission of Elephant Journal, http://www.elephantjournal.com