Arlene is on the SCENE

The Dark Side

Posted on: January 16, 2012

I read a comment today written by someone with Charcot-Marie-Tooth, and it stuck with me.  She was trying to talk about the sense of loss she feels with each passing day that brings a little less movement, a little more pain, a little less independence.  The response to her was: it’s not “loss,” it’s change.

She didn’t agree, and went on to vividly articulate what this loss feels like.  Sure sounded like loss to me.  Problem is, she points out, that because of her own inner strength she figures out a way to cope with this loss, and then all of a sudden people admire and applaud.  She’s become an inspiration, and the loss is replaced by change, which I dare say is an effort to normalize it.  As the writer points out, until you have lived with your independence being slowly stolen from you, day in and day out, don’t label it, please.

Which brings me back to something my friend/co-author Marybeth and I have talked about a lot, something that I’ve dealt with often in my work and that I have talked about here.  We all seek to cope with life’s pitfalls, and in doing so we all try to find the silver lining.  Marybeth tells me, though, about the dark underneath that silver lining–the anger, the frustration, the disgust.  And she’s one of the most spiritual people I know.  It’s not about denying there’s a silver lining, or not acknowledging our blessings along with our burdens.  It’s about standing in the dark for a minute, for ourselves or with a friend.  Uncomfortable and frightening as it is, it serves a purpose.

I was talking with a young client of mine today.  He’s been in foster care a while and has had quite a difficult time of it in his eight short years.  “That’s cuz I’m bad,” he said.  “I’ll always be bad, everybody in my family is bad, we just bad people.”  The “You’re not bad!” response almost made it past my lips before I had enough sense to shut my mouth and wait a minute.  I paused as long as I could.  Just tried to sit in the dark a moment.  I asked him why he thought he was bad, and he went on to express his anger–no, make that pure rage–at me, the judge, the social worker, everyone that had anything to do with his situation.  And we sat in the dark some more.  And frankly, he seemed relieved.

Now, he’ll go on and continue to cope, continue to perform to the applause of all of us adult onlookers.  But I’m glad I followed him into the dark, just a few steps anyway.  That underside is indeed dark, scary, and probably lonely.  Those traveling it could probably use a little company, and not always just to be led out.

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