Have you ever felt its shadow swoop over your head like an eclipse of the sun, sending a shudder through your bones? As kids we remember the first time we went down in the dark damp cellar without light to get mom some potatoes. We felt our heart pull us back like someone grabbing a knapsack. Instinctively, we felt the urge to run, retreat and return to the light.
In a moment of time during COVID-19 social distancing, after soaking in the tub of disastrous news of the world around me, I felt an eerie, evil presence of darkness, like a shadow of despair, death and loss. It came and went without conscious thought. I knew it. I mean, it was familiar to me. I knew I had been introduced to it before, somewhere along life’s journey, and I closed my eyes and bowed my head in learned submission to its power.
I guess it is always lurking in the shadows of our happy lives, just out of conscious sight but still real, still dark. Like last year holidaying in the Bahamas, walking all alone on an isolated breathtaking, pristine beach that was stained with thousands of bits of plastic debris. Pristine and debris!
A picture of our lives. Pristine with glorious dreams and incalculable possibilities, shadowed with dark fears of sudden loss, accidents, heart attacks, pandemics, bankruptcies, loneliness, divorce and death. Anyone that has felt depression can sense despair a mile away.
Despair and hope are travel buddies. Certainty and uncertainty are siblings. Togetherness and loneliness are two sides of the same coin.
It does not matter which side your focus is on – the other paradoxically is still present. Just out of conscious awareness but very much present, possible and probable . . . eventually.
Hope like despair is an old friend of mine. All three of us live together like roommates trying to get along. Experience has shown me that each deserves very high respect for their fierce power to kill or bring to life and, hence, challenge me to the core.
We live daily with the paradox of light with shadows, life with loss, and endings birthing beginnings. It is the tension of the yin and yang of daily existence. If we live trying to ignore the ‘invisible other’, it will teach us a very hard and painful lesson.
If we only see one without the other, we will be most miserable.
Despair and Hope!
Like oxygen and carbon when bonded together allow us another breath . . . another moment of precious life.
Kim Christink, is the Executive Director of the Bayridge Counselling Centres. That is just a minor role he plays he in life. He is a simple man that has experienced some hard lessons that has invited him to lean into hope despite despair.