In Essays & Poems, Faculty Voices, Special Topics, Voices

Dark Times

by Beth Anne Boardman

Well, it’s been quite a five years. Quite a six years. Quite a year. Two years. However long you trace your suffering back, I hope you have found some rays of hope, some ways to cope. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this much powerlessness and despair, praise all the saints and angels. I am in a place again, though, where I’ve made myself sick with worry and feel absolutely helpless to make anything in the world really better, faithless that things will actually get better. These thoughts trap me, weigh me down, and darker thoughts follow on in.

I have friends, family; I have shelter, food, transportation, and medication. I have no personal, physical reason to despair. I am connected to you though, to the world, and I cannot live according to the advice some have offered me: “Just don’t watch the news.” “Think happy thoughts.” “If you put a smile on your face, it tells your mind to feel better.” “Live and Let Live.” “Let go and let God.” Some of these suggestions may work for some people, and some of them work for me, sometimes. The events of the last several years, though, have challenged every coping skill I’ve ever had or developed.

I can start somewhere.

Thich Nhat Hanh talks about “useful thoughts” and “unuseful thoughts.”  Remembering that does help me, from time to time, redirect my thoughts towards something that I am doing or seeing or experiencing that uplifts me and/or others.  One treatment.

I can listen to music that helps me feel any and all of my emotions, while I go about my daily tasks. I can watch videos that move, motivate, interest, or heal. More treatments. I call a friend, take walks, rest, exercise, work. All excellent treatments.

At the end of every day, when I turn out the lights, the realness of the dark falls again, and I am helpless to stop the turning of the earth.

A friend asked me to write about this. I told her I had nothing. Less than nothing. And we started sharing bits of old sayings and writings that have helped us in the past. In my most terrified time, even though I was not raised deeply Christian, nor am I now, I would repeat some verses from the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer like mantras, and they would really help me get to sleep. I am grateful for learning those by heart as a child.

Today I remembered a file I made years ago entitled, “Ultimate Quote Collection.” The words of poets can touch and soothe my heart more than any other medium. I hauled out this file, deeply buried in my Charlie Brown thumb drive at the back of a tangled desk drawer, and I’ve combed out a few gems. I hope some of them might shimmer into your minds or hearts in just the way that you need right now.

 

____________

 

“Sometimes the ache in my heart can only be released through poetry.”

~~~Nelson Mandela

 

 

“Once you enter into the spiritual path

you never get an afternoon off.”

~~~Traktung Khepa

 

 

“There will be a time when you believe

everything is finished.

That will be the beginning.”

~~~Louis L’Amour

 

 

“Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps; no one can stop the river of the dawn.”

~~~Pablo Neruda

 

 

“If you cannot refuse to stay down,

lift your heart toward heaven,

and like a hungry beggar,

ask that it be filled.”

~~~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

 

“Because I know I am made from this earth, as my mother’s hands were made from this earth, as her dreams came from this earth […] all that I know speaks to me through this earth and I long to tell you, you who are earth too, and listen as we speak to each other of what we know […].”

~~~Susan Griffin

 

 

“Progress then and now comes from the collision of powerful forces within the hearts of those who strive for it. Anger and charity, love and hate, pride and shame, broken down and reassembled in an igneous process that yields a fierce resolve.”

~~~Sidney Poitier

 

 

“Something opens our wings. Something makes boredom and hurt disappear. Someone fills the cup in front of us: We taste only sacredness.”

~~~Rumi

 

 

“If we live our life in fear

[…] love is our resistance.”

~~~Matt Bellamy

 

 

“Your job is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.”

~~~The Buddha

 

 

“People that you don’t even know — that you’ve never met — are leading lives of real dignity and goodness.”

~~~John Stewart

 

 

“Out in the garden,

everywhere I look,

small resurrections

pull at my bones like wishes.”

~~~Terry Ehret

 

 

“Trust above all the imminent return

of the small but persistent

impulse to sing.”

~~~Fred Marchant

 

 

“All the valley stretches out. The little wind

is prancing on its ridges.”

~~~Federico García Lorca

 

 

“Listen to the stone-people — they are full — they are empty — they have been here since the beginning of time.”

~~~Gene Stone

 

 

 

“I am at a loss, oh my God, whether I should write about the suffering of mankind or the dreams.”

~~~Obaidullah Aleem

 

 

“Now Hafiz is infinitely rich,

but all I ever want to do

is keep emptying out

my emerald-filled

pockets

upon

this tear-stained

world.”

~~~Hafiz

 

 

“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. […] To display the lantern of soul – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.”

~~~Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

 

“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.”

~~~Kahlil Gibran

 

 

“The sacred surrounds us, no matter how damaged or changed a place may appear to be.”

~~~Leslie Marmon Silko

 

 

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

~~~Elie Wiesel

 

“Even in the deepest sinking there is the hidden purpose of an ultimate rising. Therefore the most important thing is not to despair.”

~~~Hasidic Proverb

 

 

“Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer utters itself. So, a woman will lift her head from the sieve of her hands and stare at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.”

~~~Carol Ann Duffy

 

 

“Fresh courage glimmers from planets.

And lights the map printed with the blood of history,

a map you will have to know by your intention, by the language of suns.”

~~~Joy Harjo

 

 

“Your curiosity and your hope has to be greater than your fear. The better world belongs to those of us who believe it’s possible.”

~~~Dante Terrell Smith

 

 

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic – it is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty – but also of compassion – sacrifice – courage – and kindness.”

~~~Howard Zinn

 

 

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”

(Lord’s Prayer)

 

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

(23rd Psalm)

 

______________

 

Beth Anne Boardman

Myth 2012

 

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