“The good road and the road of difficulties you have made me cross. And where they cross the place is holy.” Black Elk
Everybody knows a place where it is easier to see clearly. Outdoors, on a mountain, at the sea, in a forest, at a park. Or perhaps in the confines of a library. Or coffee shop. Wherever it is, that is the place you like to go when your need to understand is greater than your need to enjoy.
A friend of mine has endured far more tragedy in her life than she should ever have been asked to bear. Her life up until one point had been quite nice. A content childhood was followed by an education accomplished at a fine university. Marriage, followed by children, an advancing career, then the harvest of a good life reaped.
Until one day, and another, when life along the good road came to a screeching halt. The road of difficulties intersected with the good road. She was suddenly up against a roadblock so punishing that she could barely make one step forward without falling. But eventually she did just that. A few steps forward, plenty of steps backwards. Arduous progress along a steep incline, but she progressed.
I have seen her go through lots of backward slides. I have watched her make tiny steps forward and then suddenly take a giant leap back. Then, almost imperceptibly to the outside observer, there was a change. She seemed to become whole again. Though she was different from the woman she once was, she was no longer broken.
I asked her not long ago if there was a specific time when she knew that she would be able to enjoy life again. Did somebody or something help her to heal?
She told me that for a very long while she had operated under the false assumption that she would someday be able to forget the pain and be free of the past. She thought if she worked hard to forget–busying herself, caring for others, trying to re-make her life just as it had been before her world collapsed–she would be able to erase her hurt.
One summer day, she watched a thunderstorm in the distance and could see that it was raining in the mountains. She could see the top and the bottom of the highest peak but everything in between was covered in clouds and fog. It stayed a half-hidden mountain for most of the day and she found herself drawn to glance at it on and off, to check whether she was able to see the whole of the mountain again. It was toward sunset that the skies cleared and as she looked she saw that the part that had been hidden all day was now highlighted by the setting sun. It glowed, pinkish.
She paused and said to me,“It was as easy as that.” She continued by saying that she had seen that particular mountain obscured as it was that day, many times before. This particular time, however, she was nudged to understand that the gloomy part of her was clearing and what she needed to move forward was already there.
It was not as easy as that, mind you. She found her holy place that day–but not before covering a lot of tough ground. Looking at the mountain somehow helped her to find that part of her she had not been able to feel for so long. She came to know that she was whole, with pain, happiness, and everything in between. And she could feel it all, once again.