I have never been good at waiting. But that’s all I’ve been doing the last few weeks. Waiting in long lines at airports. Waiting in numbing car rides to reach destinations. And yesterday, waiting with my mother at the ophthalmologist office for her eye procedure.
The waiting has been, and continues to be, a great spiritual teacher for me. My ego self, or small self, has always wanted to press forward, to get things done.
But sitting there — as my mother and others waited for eye drops to be administered, as their vision became blurry and as they waited for it to clear — I came to “see” that I, too, was waiting. And in some kind of darkness.
Yes, I meditate. But even that, in some strange way, had become another “doing” for me. Somehow, my authentic self had been lost in the crisis and chaos of the last two-and-a-half years after dad had his stroke.
Somehow, I had been caught up in the necessary practicality of getting things done, of making sure doctors’ appointments were scheduled, that a myriad of duties were performed to meet dad’s care, and now, my mother’s.
For me, that “waiting room” in the doctor’s office became exactly that — a space of waiting and a moment of unraveling and insights. I came to understand how far apart duty and love are, how somewhere between the two — between Martha in service and Mary in love sitting at the feet of Jesus — I had lost my balance. And that waiting revealed the shocking depth of my spiritual and physical fatigue.
And it could not make itself known until I had stopped. Truly stopped. And was ready.
Jungian analyst James Hillman says that our “soul is the patient part of us.” My soul had been crying out to me for some time and I had not been listening. I had felt a deep stirring that “something” was yearning to be birthed in me, something born of the pain and anguish of the last few years. But like many of the patients in the doctor’s office, I saw nothing. Only blurred vision. And darkness.
Despite my belief in the Divine or a Higher Power, the last month or so that holy presence had felt totally absent in my life. But of this process, monk and author Thomas Merton writes:
“This is where so many holy people break down … as soon as they reach the point where they can no longer see the way and guide themselves by their own light, they refuse to go any further … it is in this darkness that we find true liberty. It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night that empties us.”
I had felt the beginnings of emptiness. And the pangs of readiness. Ready to let go and truly wait on the Divine to work within me, to do whatever was needed in my life. I had written so many times of letting go, but I knew this time it had to be more than just words. “The fruit of letting go is birth,” wrote mystic and theologian Meister Eckhart.
But could I truly let go? And would there even be birth? As this dark night descended on me, it felt like a deep purging. It still feels that way. I am in the midst of it even now. It is authentic. Real. Painful. And I want it to go away. This darkness, however, is part of my spiritual journey and I believe our collective journey if we have the courage to risk it — and to wait. And as I said in my first sentence, I have never been good at waiting.
In this darkness, it’s often easy to lose hope. I have. Many times, but especially the last few weeks when the Divine’s love has felt absent. I still have no answers, still don’t know what’s ahead for me. And right now, I tremble with the thought of who this new creation might be. Or will she even be there at all? But I am called to remember the words by author Sue Monk Kidd:
“Too many of us panic in the dark. We don’t understand that it’s a holy dark and that the idea is to surrender to it and journey through to real light.”
As mom and I sat there in the waiting room, mom’s vision finally cleared from the eye drops. My heart-and-soul eyes, however, were still in the shadows. They still are. I still sit with the “unresolved” within me. But I can only hope this darkness is another peeling away of all that is not authentic. I can pray that I am shedding yet another layer of the many counterfeit selves I have created over a lifetime. And as painful as this all is, I am asking — not without trepidation — to surrender to the darkness of the present moment in the hope it will reveal the light and treasure of my true being.
But I can only wait. And see.