The Anatomy of Light
In November, the light can be as clear and crisp as the air to show the mountains cutting into the sky across the water.
In November, the light can slice through heavy clouds to flame yellow leaves still clinging to trees.
In November, some days never emerge from twilight, and the rain is unceasing.
Three Novembers ago was the hardest.
With my husband back to work, a new nanny, three four-month-olds, one of whom struggled with eating, I had slowly made my way from angry to numb.
November is the accumulation of chilling and dimming and turning inward that September begins. In nature. In me.
How to explain the weight of exhaustion? The sense that I had stripped my life of everything non-essential and built a precarious house of cards out of all the essentials. And then two more Big Things got piled on top, and what was left to let go?
My cycles–downward spiral followed by clawing back up to the light and resting, only to spin downward again–got closer and closer together.
I was very, very tired. Of fighting my kids to cooperate when I didn’t have the energy to be creative and playful and make everything a game. Of breathing that felt more like hyperventilating. Of fighting so hard to regain my center.
It took a long time to talk back to the voice that told me, Why is this so hard for you? Don’t you dare fall apart. Not in front of your colleagues. Not in front of your kids. Not in front of your neighbors. Keep it together.
It got heavy and dark. There were moments of light, but I couldn’t make them hold. This November reminded me in so many ways of the previous dark November.
I would not go back.
This time, I asked for help before I fell too deep into shame and paralysis.
I trusted true and beloved friends to catch me as I fell.
This time, I understood that the shame is a myth that I created, like the Ideals that I try so hard to live up to. That the bravest thing I can do is to reach out for support from a place of worthiness and strength, not weakness or failure. That reaching my breaking point is an opportunity for more light to come through, not what defines my value as a parent or as a person.
As November ends, I am coming back to myself. Probably not in a linear way, but still. Progress.
My friend and neighbor wrote this to me:
“Somewhere along the line you will learn to navigate these turbulent waters instead of waiting for calmer ones. There will be more storms but with a healthy you, you will be able to marvel at how big and beautiful the storm is and not be holding on for dear life. I pray for peace, for hope, for you to be able to weather this storm. Until then, I am here.”
I am slowly learning this anatomy of light. How the color, texture, brilliance changes. What it reveals and what it hides. I am learning to love whatever light there is.
I don’t have to wait for spring, or for calmer weather.
I will whisper a prayer of light, my version of the loving-kindness meditation, to my own soul as I whisper it to my children as I tuck them in after they’re asleep:
May you find peace.
May you find comfort in loving arms.
May you forgive and be forgiven.
May you speak and act with love and kindness.
May you cherish the light in you.