When Mary Oliver says, “Someone I loved gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift,” she is not suggesting that we not rage against the darkness, that we do not own our suffering, that we stand by and passively say, ‘oh thank you so much for hurting me’, or that we rise above it in one breath. To do so would be what is referred to as a spiritual bypass – the acting like everything is good and fine and sweet, while encapsulating the difficult so that we never have to experience our own shadow…The wanting only the lightness without acknowledging that the other side to light is dark. The bible says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” There are times we should be angry, weep, grieve, feel our vengeance, resentment, rage, or whatever emotional state arises. Our job on this planet is not to become so enlightened that we leave this plane of existence. Our work is to live into the question “how can I become more fully human?” There is no right or wrong, no good or bad in an emotional state. When we make friends with our emotions, when we can sit present with them, eventually, the intensity softens and we sequence through them. It is the wisdom of Robert Frost stating, “there is no way out but through.”
Note that Mary Oliver says “it took me years to understand this, too, was a gift.” The assumption underneath this statement is that in those years there was a processing of the darkness happening. And, that it was only in the healing and deepening nature of time that she was able to receive the gift of the darkness. This is not to say that she asked for it, or that her loved one’s intent was one of gifting. Rather, that she came to the understanding that it was a gift. We have all been wounded, and most deeply wounded by those we love, for it is those we love who have the greatest access to our vulnerability. At some point, after the grieving and raging have been lived and honored, we then get to make a choice to ask ourselves, “what learning did I or can I receive from this?” We can languish in our emotional states indefinitely, we can resent and feel ourselves the victim, or we can choose to find the good. There is a dicho (adage) in Spanish that says, “no hay mal que por bien no venga,” which literally translates into, “there is no bad out of which good does not come.”
It is the truth of I would never wish my childhood on anyone, however, because of my childhood suffering I have a huge capacity for compassion. Because I not only survived, but now thrive, I can hold the hope for those who are still suffering from the aftermath of trauma. It is my compassion and healing that allows me to bear the light to others who are still in the caves of darkness. It is the truth of though it was painful, three years of dating and having a series of men emotionally high-tail it, that I was able to work through the next layer of my abandonment issues. Through those experiences, I became thoroughly familiar with my resiliency and stopped turning rejection inward or doubting my worthiness.
We all have been gifted a darkness. None of us, myself included, would willingly choose it. But darkness is as unavoidable as light. So when the darkness arises, we can choose to not be afraid of the dark. To sit present with the dark until the dawn arises. And in the light of a new day, we can choose to leave the darkness, there, in the past, and fully enter into the warmth of a new day and a new way of being.
Sabrina Santa Clara / Authentic Alchemy x3
Integrated Spiritual Counseling