Molly Fisk: A Dark Night in the Daytime

6552706807_b5b9f7f78e_zPhoto by Caroline via Flickr (Creative Common License)

I’m not sure what’s come over me lately, but I feel very divided . . . as though part of me is perfectly happy to continue on whatever path I seem to be on: teaching poetry, canning pears, eating dinner with friends. But another part is standing still, looking around, saying “Why would anyone keep doing all these things? What does it matter? Does anything matter? Who the heck am I, anyway?”

I’d call this a “dark night of the soul,” as Saint John of the Cross, the Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic did, except it’s 11 in the morning and I don’t know what souls actually are. It does feel dark, though, whatever it is.

Let me say that I’m not suicidal, in case you’re starting to worry. I don’t feel suicidal at all. This is kind of worse: a stoppage of everything right in its tracks. I’ve felt suicidal a few times in my life, and that seems to have energy in it, a kind of push to avoid pain, which is why it’s something to worry about. The energy might lead to action.

This isn’t avoidance. It feels more like standing still and letting the pain hit you full force. There’s nowhere to go. At the same time, however, one of my cats is barfing in the living room and there’s laundry in the washing machine that needs to go in the dryer. I haven’t made my teaching plan for this afternoon’s class, and have nothing in the house for lunch.

I expect, if I did even a tiny amount of research, I could find many volumes  describing this feeling. From Thomas More to Eckhart Tolle. From Anne Sexton to Mary Oliver and millions of places in between, others have tried to make sense of it. But I’m stuck here, unable to crack open a book, or punch the word “Wikipedia” into my cell phone. My arms don’t want to move. My brain is sure I’m the only person who’s ever felt this bereft and alone.

It might be the holidays looming that brought this on. What with my not-fun memories of childhood and lack of a personal nuclear family, the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s trifecta always feels remote, no matter how hard I try to engage myself singing carols, making presents, and admiring the twinkly lights. It might be because I’m looking closely at giving up one of my long-time companions, sugar. Maybe Pluto is in my House of Mirth, and went retrograde.

I’m a sucker for reasons. If you can figure out a reason, then you can explain to yourself what’s going on, which is — for some of us — soothing. But I’m not sure there’s a reason here, or rather, there are so many it’s impossible to choose.

If there is a God, perhaps he or she rotates the human burden of grief and this is my month to help carry it. Or maybe a coral-pink tree frog deep in the Amazon just went extinct, and I’m the person assigned to mourn.

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  • Carol Hoorn December 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Ah my dear Molly. I can always believe, and have confirmed in print(we have yet to meet, hope to rectify this next Spring) that your thoughts and feelings of the moment will be honestly set down.
    At 81, I have experienced depression, suicidal longings, great joy and humdrum days. If I were more organized, let alone, disciplined, I might have sometime in my fifties(hormonal changes) begun to chart these mood swings which have been with me all my life, perhaps to recognize a pattern. However, I have continued to swing and sway each day, week, month or year, as if I were on board a rudderless ship, never knowing where I would land, or for how long I would stay. One saving grace that has taken years to learn is that in the last 20 or so years(probably when Breast Cancer almost took my life) I have learned to fully and completely embrace the emotion at hand(with self destructive safe guards always in place). If I am sad, I put on Leonard Cohn, and wail away till I am too weary and can welcome sleep. Anger means I can play Wagner and beat my bed with a plastic baseball bat screaming obscenities till I am hoarse. Happiness means Fats Waller
    or other jazz, and I dance with out my cane and sing till tears of joy come flooding. Laughter and silliness can come at any time with my granddaughters. Just now I am dealing with low energy, threat of possible Bone Marrow Cancer. and on going(lamentations of Job) skin problems which are ugly and enervating. Ah well , Mehitable, there is life in this old girl yet. I will plug in my year round white indoor Christmas lights, and stealing an idea from Molly, forget a tree this year, and create my own tiny display. I will make myself
    with kindness start to eliminate the physical clutter here, which may help to de-clutter my mind. I resolve each day to include laughter, kindness to myself and a stranger, and a bit of dancing which surprisingly I can do without my cane. Best wishes, that if we each truly embrace the “blues” in a safe way, they will not linger past their designated time.

  • George Roberts December 5, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    “If there is a god…”

    That’s a pretty big “if.”

    If there is no “God,” then we need not worry about a capable, all powerful, compassionate entity sleeping through such sadness.

  • WENDL in Manhattan December 5, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    I don’t know what it is, either, Molly. But I’ve been there a few times over the years. Lately I attribute it to low-grade despair that the jubilant Dawning of the Age of Aquarius didn’t come off when and how we thought it would.

  • Susan McCauley December 5, 2015 at 11:35 am

    The enlightened mind is open to the woes of the planet.
    I’m sure the author knows this.
    This is a gentle and heartwarming truth telling story.

  • mary orovan December 5, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Dear Molly Fisk,
    Ditto. Brilliant–so your, and my mind, is humming, while not purring, even in these darker, more alone than anyone else, time of year. That’s a hallelujah. Mary Orovan

  • Shirley December 5, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Could be winter blues? I am one who is affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Try to get early morning light to up your melatonin level. My doctor poo-poos it, but it is real.

    Thanks for writing about this. There are many who feel as you do this time of the year for a variety of reasons.