The darkest day

I suspect the desire to avoid pain is one of the most universal human traits. It’s the reason we don’t like dentists or vaccines. It’s written all over our faces as we walk across parking lots or down streets in mid-winter, braced against the biting wind and the chill that sinks into our bones. It’s the reason we don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving a significant loss in his or her life. We don’t know what to say or do because, to know, we would have to allow ourselves to enter into that same painful setting, and that is not something we are willing to do voluntarily.

The avoidance of suffering is one of the main tenets of Buddhism, which teaches its followers the way to overcome desires and, as a result, to reduce suffering. In Christianity, however, Jesus modeled suffering, which we, his followers, understand to be a time of spiritual growth and transformation for us.

Still, Christians, like most humans, prefer to avoid suffering. Even in the ultra-important story of Holy Week, we tend to skip quickly over the crucifixion so that we can celebrate the resurrection. The death of Jesus is painful to retell and, since we know what happened early Sunday morning, it isn’t something we allow ourselves to experience as grief. But we should.

I think it’s safe to say that, generally speaking, people who won’t dwell on the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and death also don’t allow themselves to experience the process of grief fully in life. It is extremely frightening to feel so hurt, so abandoned, so angry, so confused, so out of control as we might feel when a loved one dies. It is also extremely unhealthy not to allow yourself to process those inevitable feelings – whether it’s the loss of someone through death or some other significant loss. Culturally, we do not embrace physical, emotional demonstrations of grieving. Sometimes, however, whether publicly or privately, these expressions are not only appropriate, but are quite healthy.

candleToday represents the day between Good Friday and Resurrection Day in Holy Week. It is the darkest day. There are no signs of life. There is no sense of hope. Anywhere. There are only questions and doubts and anger and fear.

If we allow ourselves to sit with the emotions produced here, we also allow ourselves to make connections to painful life experiences and unresolved grief. A profound truth taught to me by my counseling professor, Dr. Mac Wallace, came with one simple sentence: “Pain, buried alive, never dies.” If we acknowledge the painful things in our past – name them and allow the feelings they produce to affect us – then we begin to move into a place where transformation and healing can take place.

Don’t be afraid of the darkness of this day. Instead, take this opportunity to do some of the preparatory work necessary for newness and wholeness to come into your life.

Me vs. DST

Every year around this time, I struggle with the onset of Daylight Savings Time (DST). Somehow, this change to our national clocks represents far more than one measly hour lost – or gained, depending on your perspective.

For those with a positive view of DST, it represents a gift that keeps on giving. Every evening, beginning with the first Sunday of DST, these happy people celebrate an extra hour of daylight by taking walks, working in the yard, or otherwise enjoying the outdoors. (Imagine smiling faces, couples strolling hand-in-hand, games of croquet, fetching dogs – all in dramatic slow motion.) You get the picture … and don’t miss my rolling eyes.

For those with a less-positive view, DST represents a stolen hour, robbed under protest and flaunted every morning as we are forced to rise from sleep and begin our workday in the darkness of pre-dawn. This cruel distortion of time lingers in our bodies throughout the rest of the two impacted seasons like a chronic case of jet-lag, leaving us tired and irritable with one daily dream: to catch up on our sleep.

I haven’t done a formal study on this, but my theory is that those of us who despise DST are more concerned with the way things begin than the way they end. We are cyclical thinkers who see most everything occurring in cycles. If a cycle begins badly, then it recurs badly. If it begins well, then it has a better chance of being good when it comes back around.

On the other hand, those who love DST are, in theory, more interested in endings than beginnings. “All is well that ends well.” These are more linear thinkers who see things with set beginnings and endings. Every day is a chance to start again. And a good ending signals a good day.

To unpack that a bit more and put it in different terms, as a cyclical thinker, I don’t really see relationships as having true endings. For me, once you know someone, you always know them. Some of my relationships cycle back together often and some only rarely, but I don’t ever see a relationship as having ended. (I don’t even believe death ends relationships entirely, but I won’t follow that thread here.) To a linear thinker, relationships begin and they end, then new relationships begin. If an old relationship is re-established, it is seen as a new beginning and not as a continuation from the previous relationship. These would be the friends who say, “That relationship is over, now move on.”

If you look up the concept of linear thought versus cyclical thought, you’ll discover this is a very old discussion. I just might be the first one to relate it to DST.

Rather than to fight about it or struggle through it, perhaps the best answer for someone like me is to move closer to the equator. Manaus It would be the best of both worlds, really: days are longer than our North American winters, yet shorter than our North American summers. Plus, it’s the equator – the biggest circle we have on earth! (Don’t tell me you call that a line.)