There have been many horrible days in the last year, the kind that make you feel so totally broken that no amount of glue can ever put you back together again; the kind where the darkness is so deep, so heavy, so astonishingly loud but unmoving that you feel suffocated just to be awake.
There is no more light in those days. You want to find a light at the end of the tunnel but there just isn’t one. You don’t even know which direction to turn to, to face a possible opening. Those are the days where the darkness will seem to stay forever, where it requires an incredible, staggering, painful amount of courage just to try to open your eyes and see the outline of your own hand in whatever murky, milky glimmer there might be seeping through the walls.
In the worst of that kind of darkness, the only recourse was to have drowned myself in sleeping tablets, because at least there, the blackness of sleeping would be lighter, quieter than the unending blackness of being awake. If I couldn’t see past the darkness, I would simply join it, become it. Turn off the light on myself.
Have you ever been there? Because (and I’m being presumptuous) I don’t think you could ever really, totally know what it feels like unless you’ve travelled down to that same tunnel and had that same cloying darkness suck itself around you.
Thankfully, thankfully, I crawled my way out of the Dark Place and only so, because there were people out there who have believed, through all of the worst of it, that I was bright enough of a light myself to shine my way out the end of that tunnel.
They help you realise that you’ve got a match in your hand and whisper to you to light it. When you do, it’s just a flicker. It even wavers and shakes like it might blow off, but it’s enough to see that there are other candles around you. So you light one, and then another, and another, until you’re finally, finally able to light enough space to shape a path out.
Today, within 10 hours of each other, I came across two of the same messages. Too much of a serendipitous coincidence to be ignored, I think.
The first, from a friend in England, over that benign but awfully surprising space of an online chat. We had been talking about the silly things that girls do – racist hairdressers, London, the importance of manners – before she finally signed off to go to bed.
Her last message to me before the little green circle of her online status blinked to an offline grey was, “Remember, you are amazing. Go and shine at everyone.”
The second spoke to me through a new gem of a book I picked up today, one of those completely unexpected impulsive buys that you just know is going to be wonderful.
I rushed home, made myself a cup of tea and snuggled into the safe, bright spaces of my sofa to dig into this new gorgeous, deliciously-smelling book. And there it was again on Page 9, the last line of the introduction, which read, “Run towards the darkness, sweet peas, and shine.”*
It is all and always darkness, you know, until the right person (or people) comes along and reminds you that you’ve got that match in your right hand and you can choose to spark it alight any time you want.
Then, for that wonderful, sudden moment in that awful, sinking, suffocating darkness, you too – holding that tiny matchstick glimmer of light – become a light.
You light up.
You shine your own way out.
And then you can breathe again, feel the sunlight on the cold lapels of your shoulders and see everything just as it is and has always been, clear as a clear day.