Despite Very Little Joy, I Haven’t Quit, and I’m Not Alone

Slightly edited from my journal:

Monday, June 29

I had been looking forward to B talking about her spiritual journey.  I knew she had had a hard time in her life, and I was really hoping for suggestions for things I could do when I was having a bad time, or things that illumine the path.  But she didn’t talk about the bad times, only about when she felt joy.  

I told another friend I had been hoping for something that would help me in my struggle, and she responded in a way that really made me feel bad.  I can’t remember exactly what she said, because my feeling bad may have been my own judgement of myself.

Sitting here feeling like a complete failure and at the same time there’s a deeper knowing that that’s a misunderstanding.  Pieces of my journey all appear at once: the Chalice Well, the Ocean of Compassion — both experiences I had once, that could be recalled for a while and then faded into stories.  I felt that I had lost them, had failed to build them into my life, but perhaps they were built into a foundation that was deeper than I could perceive.  I guess what’s most discouraging is how long it takes, how the same experiences keep coming back again and again.

Also in my head is Julie Fowlis’ voice singing “O Sister, Beloved Sister” in Scottish Gaelic, and the animation of the two sisters.  The younger one gets wafted off by the fairies, and the older one searches for her until her hair turns grey.  She finally finds her younger sister, unchanged.  The younger sister takes the older one’s hand and starts to lead her.  They both morph into owls and fly away.  “Hair turns grey” brings back the line from Lost in the Stars:  “I’ve been walking through the night and the day, til my eyes get weary and my head turns grey, and sometimes it seems maybe god’s gone away…  and we’re lost out here in the stars…”  Pursuing my soul to the ends of the earth, with occasional glimpses.

I think of Ariel Burger quoting Elie Weisel: “The first moral choice is whether to look away or not.”  One thing I can say for myself, I have never looked away.  I have been ignorant, but as soon as something was brought to my attention, I was immediately on the side of the underdog.  I need to hear that even though I have struggled so much with darkness, still I have done some things right.

What I see is that I have been working hard to unfreeze my small bit of the whole picture, and that’s the best I can do, and it’s good enough, and my life hasn’t been wasted.  No sense of glory or joy or achievement, but at least a sense of “not-failure.”  A feeling of coming out of the freezing storm into a warm room, being welcomed by others, made to sit by the fire, given a cup of hot soup, and the soup tastes wonderful.  And finally really getting it that we are all engaged in a collective task, and these are my fellow soldiers and only now do I realize that they’ve been there all along.

Yes, I am a failure at living, unable to find and enjoy small joys.  And a failure at relationships, finding it difficult to sustain a conversation unless it’s about deep experience.  Unable to keep up with old friends because of severe depression.  But it doesn’t matter, it’s not important.  What does matter is that I’ve never quit, never let down those who suffered, never let down my fellow soldiers.

Tuesday, June 30

It was a day of ordinary pleasures.  It rained all day.  I typed journal and did puzzles.  Also listened to Julie Fowlis singing O Sister, Beloved Sister, and watched the animation.  I find it so moving.  Thinking about the image of the older sister growing old and tired while searching for the younger one.  The young one has been stolen by the fairies and remains young.  With those images in my mind’s eye, I see Aging Jenny searching through her journals to find Younger Jenny who has been stolen away by trauma.

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