It has been the most crushing and disappointing of years I can remember. There have been some solemn years, but none like this. None that have gone on this long. It’s been as though someone has been holding my head under water. All I can hope for is some oxygen. As anyone reading this can probably relate, this storm, this pandemic that has ravaged the world and our species has left many of us in a pit. And that pit is deep and black.
We’ve been here for some time now. We’re angry, we’re frustrated, and we’re broken. Many of us haven’t seen loved ones for extended periods and we are unable to do what we love like travel and socialize with friends on the weekend. Some of us have reached a point where we feel hope is all but fleeting. And yet we continue on living in this pit.
I’ve struggled to pull myself out of this pit numerous times this year. Feeling like a broken marionette, strings tangled and pins displaced. I feel the redundancy of my own efforts. I’m no stranger to struggle and pain. I’ve endured much before, so much that it feels like a familiar friend. When I’ve faced difficult circumstances in the past they have dragged me down, but it’s never for long. I do eventually get back up. But this time it’s been different.
Finding the Flow
Last year, after finishing a long 3 years at Bible college in Australia, I found myself set out on one of the greatest adventures of my life, thus far. I was caravaning through one of the most interesting places on earth: Southeast Asia. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and India. It was the trip of a lifetime. My goal was simple: begin in Vietnam and make my way to the India-Pakistan border by land (bus and train) and in one piece. I’ve travelled to many destinations before — Europe, Russia, Africa, Australia and South America, but never have I been to a place quite like this. It was a though I had opened a book and fallen into it. The colours, the smells and the tastes were better than I had expected. Southeast Asia was all that people had made it out to be: magical.
Throughout the course of my journey I made my way through urban jungles, mountains and valleys, rice patties and vineyards. I climbed to 5,643 meters to Kala Patthar and stared down at Everest like it was in my backyard. And then I met the love of my life. A beautiful Naga girl with the greatest sense of humor, sweetest smile and a love for me like I didn’t know was possible. The moment we first met was perfect. I have no doubt it was God’s timing. That timing sure has been a long time coming. As the adage goes, “Good things come to those that wait.” If you were to ask me last year how my life was going, I would have without hesitation replied that, “Life was very good!” In fact it was remarkable. The bad in my life was behind me, and the best was ahead. I genuinely felt I had earned this privilege. Finally.
Stuck in the Ebb
They say, “When life gives you lemon, make lemonade.” To be honest this line is hard to apply in times like. Sure, having a bad day it’s easy to switch gears, but to realize life simply has dramatically shifted to a dark planet, it can be very challenging to find the silver lining.
This past year I’ve been living back in my hometown of Victoria, and at my parents. It’s been challenging to say the least. Sometimes I wonder whether God has allowed this. My intention had been to be here for no more than 3 months and then head to India to be with my girlfriend. But as the pandemic slowly unpacked itself to the sheer terror we know it is today, my whole world felt like it had been torn apart and my heart ripped out.
Seeing other couples, with their children, happy and living their life despite the struggles of this environment the pain inside deepens and widens. I had thought this would be my chance to live a similar story. Waiting has once again become the mantra of the day in my life. But that waiting has felt like a knife in the back that I cannot reach at. Mental health, a delicate provision, something we often taken for granted, can fade with time when life gets hard. It’s like holding onto an ocean liner leaving port. Eventually you get pulled in and you realize your efforts were meaningless.
Grasping for Straws
When I think about the course of this year, my heart is filled with anxiety. It’s as though I have becomes accustomed to this dark space. And as the days grow shorter and the Winter closes in I’ve grown more and more weary. Some days it’s difficult to get out of bed, while others it’s difficult to sleep. My dreams are vivid and yet I do not have the energy to decipher them. One of the last blogs I posted was back in March, The Year of Awakening. It was an optimistic take on the situation we currently all live in. Back in March I genuinely had felt this year was going to be a great year. COVID was simply a minor inconvenience that would soon be overcome. How very wrong I was. It’s been like a 50,000 foot mountain has been dropped in my path, and all of our paths. I’ve tried to grasp for something good in this. I really have.
This past summer was nice with family and friends, and the outdoors were beautiful. But I’ve found a great degree of difficulty finding an ounce of who I was last year this same time and the joy in my living. Back then it felt like nothing could stand in my way or was too difficult to overcome. Perhaps I was simple and innocent, and did not understand what a long winter like this would feel like. When you are locked in darkness for a short period of time the effects are more or less minimal and recoverable, but an extended periods can and will do permanent damage.
It’s been 360 days since I last saw my girlfriend, I held her gaze and her precious hand, and was in the presence of her sweet smile and laugh. I’ve grown accustomed to staring into that black abyss every day now — wishing, hoping praying. To be honest it hasn’t gotten any easier. The black feels ever so empty, and I question, “Where are you God?” The despair cuts at me relentlessly. But I hold on. Surely, there will be better days ahead.
Hope on Rainy Days
Currently, I reside on the West Coast of Canada. It’s a beautifully green and pristine, but there are days, weeks and months during the Winter months where the sky is covered in dark clouds. It rains without signs of sun. It’s an all too familiar feeling. Some might find it comforting, but I find it downright crushing to soul. When I look up at the sky I watch as the rain drizzles down slowly and the clouds hold back the sun. That in a someway is how this year has felt. As though the clouds have closed in and there’s no end in sight.
I recently watched an interview with Matthew McConaughey. He spoke about how he had recently locked himself up in a little shed for nearly 2 months to write his latest book, “Greenlights”. Throughout the book he touches on how many of us don’t like the yellow and red lights — we much prefer the green lights. To write the book he pulled out all of his old diaries from the good times in his life. As he dove into each of them he searched for what it truly meant to be in his element.
McConaughey claims his secret to getting out of a rut is to go back to the good old days or “find your frequency” as he puts it. Perhaps that’s the secret to getting back on top? Digging up the old archives and remembering who we are. This has been a trying time for everyone, and many of us don’t know how much longer we can go on living this way. But perhaps that’s not the point. As McConaughey so frankly put it, “We will be changed people coming out [of this]… [but] we must face what this is.” His mentor once told him, “Once you know it’s black it’s not nearly as dark.” Perhaps that’s part of the secret sauce: acceptance. That perhaps should be part of many of our strategies in this difficult season — an acceptance that there will be an extended period of rain and darkness. We mustn’t fight or resist, but rather let it flow over us as water flows over driftwood as it makes its way down a river. We must accept what we cannot change, embrace the turmoil and remember who we were before because this version of ourselves is temporary. Eventually, we too will reach the sea.