I have been writing for a lot of year about December 21 being may least favorite but best day. It has the least hope, the least light, the most darkness of any day of the year,
Tomorrow is a brighter day.
There will be incrementally more light tomorrow than today.
Today is as dark as it gets.
I think of December 21 as so low that down is up day.
The day that marks when you’ve gone to the bottom of the pit and to move in any direction is up.
I find winter hard. Generally.
And this-the winter of 2020 happened.
The year that was a train wreck inside of a dumpster fire wrapped in a tsunami.
And to be at the bottom of this pit for many this year isn’t relief. For many, during this time of pandemic, it feels like we hit bottom…
…and then a trap door opened and we fell through still lower.
During the pandemic, many have hit bottom–and are still falling lower.
It’s heartbreaking for those in free fall. Some are not just finding it hard, it is excruciating. Painful. Bleak. Desperate. Darker than dark. It was hard–felt it couldn’t get any harder–and then it did.
It’s a desperate feeling to be as low as one can go–and yet fall still lower.
It feels desperately bleak. Hopeless. Like this might be the pit from which there is no emerging. This will be the pit that will finish a person off.
A therapist colleague was telling me about an acute health crisis her husband had a few months before we spoke. When he arrived in hospital they worked quickly to save his life. They were told that if he had arrived 10 minutes later, he would have died.
It could have been later–they were in a faraway country with difficult roads and inconsistent travel. He was alive–and very fortunate to have made it.
She told me, “If he had died, I couldn’t have gone on. I couldn’t have made it. It would have killed me.”
She meant it.
Or at least she thought she did.
I have an honest relationship with her and us therapists–well, we can get blunt sometimes when the situation calls for it. So I called her on it.
“Nope. I don’t think so. It wouldn’t have killed you. It only felt like it would have. Feeling like you wouldn’t make it and actually not making it are two different things.”
I went on to remind her of how we had each sat with people in the pit of despair–convinced they wouldn’t make it. The KNEW they would never feel better. Sometimes, after the death of a spouse or a child. Sometimes with depression. Sometimes with a combination of tragedy that would take their breath away. They knew they wouldn’t make it. They expected the despair to kill them.
But the desperate anguish did not kill them. It was excruciating. It felt unbearable. But they bore it–because, well, that’s what we do when we humans are in excruciating circumstances.
And they don’t feel like they are getting better. But when we look back months later, they realize that it still isn’t easy, but they made it through.
I have witnessed hope after despair often enough that I trust it.
People can do hard things. We can bear excruciating pain.
It feels like it will last forever.
But it doesn’t.
When I spoke with her, she nodded slowly. She remembered again–it would be hard to live life without her husband–but she would make it.
Lois Lane forgets that sometimes, “All you have to do is look” can sound condescending. Looking for the hope is really hard sometimes.
Maybe you don’t have to look today. Maybe you can just trust me that although you might not feel like you can see hope, it won’t last for ever.