Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Walking Through the Dark

Today, I’m considering the whole process of stepping out on faith and walking through the darkness when you can’t see your way before you. I've been here many times. Yesterday, the failed CEO business exec hired to run the university system where my husband works sent out a memo to all, threatening layoffs and unpaid furloughs. (He ran his former huge corporation into the ground this way.) Also, my daughter called to say she and her significant other are packing up to leave Phoenix and come home since he's been laid off and can't find a new job down there.

It seems that there are so many times like this in life. You go along aiming at your goals and planning your next moves for quite some time, just humming along like a top. Then, something happens -- maybe illness, loss of a job or an important relationship, financial problems, or natural disaster, whatever. Suddenly, night has fallen. Your old goals, plans, directions may or may not still be valid. You don’t really know, because you can’t really see what the next day will bring. Heck, you can’t see where the next step is or where it will take you.

It’s all too easy, under these circumstances, to just stand paralyzed. And sometimes, that’s what we have to do at the beginning. Usually, these kinds of situations are a sign that we need to go within ourselves somehow. However, we may need to take some kind of immediate action to stave off further disaster even as we try to look within ourselves for some future guidance. Not always the easiest thing to do.

When this kind of night plunges your life into darkness, the first thing to do is to stand still and take inventory of your situation. Are there immediate emergency steps that need to be taken? Has the situation fallen all the way to the bottom yet, and if not, are there things you can do right now that might stop or cushion the drop? For example, if you’ve been laid off, what transition options can you get from your company or local agencies? If you’re in sudden financial difficulties, can you work through a consumer credit counseling agency or on your own to contact creditors and arrange temporarily lowered payments? If your home was flooded or burned, check to see if you will be able to salvage anything of the structure or the contents. Often, these immediate, emergency steps consume us, and we obsess over them. Why not? They keep us focused on doing something and away from looking at that impenetrable dark horizon that our future has become.

Once immediate emergencies have been dealt with, it is important to make some time to mourn the old path from which life has so suddenly knocked us. The path ahead is usually shrouded in night at this point, and the first step toward finding our way is to establish where we came from, what it meant to us, all the good it brought us. It is only natural to mourn such things. As a part of this process, however, we must move on to realistically seek out all the harm our vanished situation caused us, all the opportunities lost, the ways in which it limited us. This gives a more realistic context for our mourning process and begins to close it out.

From this point of realism, we can know truly where we are standing and become aware of the possibility that, although we may never find this exact situation again, we might find something new that provides what the old withheld from us.

One thing I've learned through the years is that even what seems to be an unmitigated disaster usually turns into something good--ultimately. It takes faith in the process, faith in the universe or God or whatever term you use. It's where our whole country sits right now. In the long run, it will lead to something even better than the shortsighted greed in which we've been living. Change is the only constant in life--and as it never stays sunny and bright forever, so too does it never stay dark forever. Soon enough, light once again dawns. We all just have to put one foot in front of the other, tentatively and experimentally, testing the ground we cannot see, but that's the way we'll make it to a brighter future, one step at a time through the dark.

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