Tuesday, 20 January 2015

I'm Scared of the Dark - Day 52

Day 52 (21st January 2015)
52 cards in a deck of Playing cards (excluding Jokers)
illustration - selection of antique playing cards c 1790-1800 by Hunt, London
It is claimed that 52 cards represents the 52 weeks in a year 4 suits represents the 4 seasons13 cards in each suit represents the 13 weeks in each season12 Royals represent the 12 months2 red and 2 black suits represent the 4 different solstices

Today's post is by Jo Stephenson who works as a Learning a Development Manager for Addaction and is passionate about positive change - she genuinely has made the world a better place - for example she can demonstrate that the training she has devised and delivered has made a measurable difference to the service provided by substance abuse practitioners. She believes in being kind and loving freely, in her own words "nice is underrated". You can follow her on Twitter (her handle is @joeystepho ). Jo, whose personal sanctuary is yoga, is mindful, which is indicated by the name of her blog Growing in the Komorebi. "Komorebi" is a Japanese word meaning the dappled sunlight that filters through tree leaves - the interplay of light and shade - an apt word, given the theme of the below post... 

“Out of our deepest memories come the forgotten forms of the past,
given new life by the living sentience of an ancient and eternal forest.”
                                                                                                              - Robert Holdstock


I've enjoyed reading these Advent blogs. Mostly because of the personal touch, truth and emotion expressed within. A glimpse into what life is like over there. Some celebratory, some bravely writing about the not-so-merriness, and some showing how life often has both - at the same time. If you chose to see it.

I've been publicly blogging since Sept, and not really thought about audience. Then after committing to writing this one I got a bit lost in thinking it had to meet some standard, and maybe guard my head-spill a little more. Unfortunately that meant I wrote something awfully contrived

so I gave up and I wrote this:

I'm scared of the dark.

A life loving dogs has always meant walking, often alone, often for hours. Something that I now realise is precious. Like in the morning when the sun is coming up and it's cold and quiet and through the whole walk you don't see a single other person. A piece of time, just for you. Magic. 

But I never walk alone in the dark.

It's not a fear of attack or monsters as I've tried to explain many times. It's the not-knowing. The corner over there, the path ahead, and that vast space to either side of me. I can't see what's there!

In response my heightened senses, I seek to see, and my mind hallucinates to make sense of the unknown. In the woods by my house in the black of night there are elephants in wheelbarrows, black panthers, lawnmowers, sea lions, a clothes-horse and once I'm certain there was a piano. This doesn't scare me more, but (the adrenaline and) imagination required is tiring.

Arthur Rackham frontispiece for Comus
This attempt to make up the missing pieces and fill in the gaps with something more sure. More comfortable and fitting. Human memory does this a lot. Do you want the truth or something beautiful?

The human brain is very good at filling in the gaps

I get to work with some amazing people at Addaction, who save lives through the work they do. I was live-supervising a colleague in December delivering a learning session on Domestic Abuse. My role was writing feedback all day (as strength based maps, not assessment scores) watching and listening. It was remarkable - a topic of darkness, emotion and problems we can't solve for others. She enabled safety, to shared bias, beliefs and facilitated opening up to new ways of thinking - with compassionate and timely injections of humour against the seriousness. An evocative topic handled with care. At lunch I confessed I was left feeling flat, and low from the topic. So I questioned how she aimed to start after the break and up-lift us. Like it was her responsibility. She didn't have a plan to do that, and explained that part of the learning is the discomfort with the darkness, because that's what people experiencing abuse live with. Part of being a good practitioner is the ability to sit with that kind of share.

On Christmas Day night we played Cards Against Humanity - it's not for the faint hearted. It was my fault because I bought it for my bro-in-law. I heard my mum read aloud scenario cards that left me howling with laugher, and she awarded me points for being obscene. At the first deal of the white cards my Mum's partner's hand included the cards "dying" and "brain tumour". Then he later pulled "hospice care" from the deck. He's post-op disabled and in the very late stages of a terminal grade four cancerous brain tumour. Hospice care is imminent. Could you write that hand? You have two options. Or you're presented with a third where you're laughing and crying in equal measure and not sure which to give way to. But you do have the choice.
I love this obnoxious game. It gave me the opportunity to laugh till my belly hurt, with my family, as friends. I was afraid of the darkness that this 'last Christmas' would bring, but we took that darkness and owned it. We were winning!

I'm hearing about optimism a lot. As a desirable trait, a strength, a must have leadership quality and applied positive psychology. I also recognise depressive realism. True optimism doesn't come with delusions, mania or inbalance. It comes from the opposite; an ability to experience the dark and the light. Not being afraid of the unknown or afraid to really shine. And allowing both to change you for the better, whilst knowing what 'home' is for you. I think I prefer the term resilience, however that looks for you.

This year I've been learning the ability to fully experience the darkness life brings, without fear. And to always notice the brightness that emerges from it. There's being solution focused, but doing so without avoiding the complexity of the problem and the conversation that's needed there too. There's leading to towards conflict and handling this with full regard of the difficultly and discomfort it may present. With no intention of romanticising, when I see people struggle I also see their true colours, what really matters, and their strengths shining through. When I see people realise time is precious I also see their love, the verb.

I used to be scared of the dark. I still am. A fear of not-knowing. But I'm comfortable with the discomfort because sometimes we need to be able to sit there. Sometimes you have to walk through the dark of the forest to truly experience the komorebi.

One of my favourite things in this world is other people. This year has been about people. Thank you for changing me 2014. I'm ready for 2015.

"There's a light in the darkness of everybody's life....."

1 comment:

  1. Catharsis is a remedy for many of life's painful elements rather than holding bad stuff within. It shows itself in gallows humour in hospitals and we seem to have lost our grip on allowing people who deal with dark matter to find ways of releasing the tension through humour. Your card game is right up my alleyway. Thanks for this post Jo.