Maybe a sunset is just a sunrise observed from behind …

(verse from a Romanian song by The Motans)

A few days ago my son asked me to find a video from his early years. His early years were not an easy time for me mentally but those memories are not just mine. They are his as well and I saved all of our photos and videos from the time he was born. Since his father is no longer, these digital inprints are the only snippet of their life together. So I felt I had no right to delete them.

Trying to find the video, I fell into a rabbit hole and started to spiral into my old life. I forgot that the brain cannot tell the difference between what is actually happening and what we are thinking is happening. I kept looking at myself in those photos, inspected my face, listened to my voice and remembered the events captured – factually. I knew they took place. I remembered the facts but … I kept thinking “that isn’t me.” The me of today, was somewhere crouched into a corner of that existence, hidden even from myself, cautioned constantly to shush, keep things to herself and not show her true colors. I looked at the face my brain knew to be mine in those photos and my heart did not recognize that stranger. And that same heart was deeply grateful to the stranger on the screen. For hanging in there, for taking all of the darkness in, for staring it in the face and being patient enough to hope and wait for the light.

From a place of being completely myself and utterly enjoying the life I live today I watch the girl, teenager and young woman that I used to be with admiration, gratitude and a little awe. I am equal parts surprised and grateful that she hung in there. Now that I can taste the sweetness of truth, love and a life authentically lived I realize fully her courage, her visionary character, her faith. The faith that kept that faint light of hope always burning inside, the small but persistent belief in the prospect of “there must be something better out there”.

I would lie to say I hung on in the darkness on my own. The love of chosen family, my beloved and our son, a job I loved, medicine, committed doctors and therapists, all of these propped me when I could not stand up straight on my own anymore. I could drag myself from moment to moment by tying the thread of my fainting hope around one of them. And I am immensely grateful. If I quote some people too often today it is because yesterday it was their words that offered my soul respite, that nudged me forward to another moment and helped me end moments of hardship with a semicolon and not a fullstop. All of these helped me surv;ve.

I am writing these here as a reminder. For when the darkness is at its darkest we never remember that light is still out there. And when we bask in light, we forget our darkness is equally always present. It’s not that we need to anticipate pain and forbode joy. Gratitude for moments of light is the flashlight that keeps us going in the darkness – and viceversa. A while ago I learned of a practice that I have tried on myself: writing notes from one side of me to the other. Notes that remind me in moments of light that I should keep taking my medication, practice my gratitude and enjoy the present moment because when I am in the darkness I don’t remember any of the good and I decide tens of times a day that the present is overwhelming. So I need to build a storage of light to keep shining even when I cannot see it. And notes that remind me in the dark that I in fact do enjoy a sunrise, a kiss, that I love and I am loved, that I have so much to live for. I hide these notes in books, in my office, I keep them near.

On the precipice of a new and exciting stage in my life, basking in the joy of love alongisde my soulmate and our beautiful son, I look back with gratitude to the darkness and shadows that once threatened to engulf me completely.

And in anticipation of yet other tough times ahead, I am writing this here to always remember that I can do hard things, that the only thing I have to do is take the right next step, that the sun always rises somewhere. And to never forget that the engine that propells me through the dark is fueled by the joy I find in present moments of light.

Photo by Mel Elías on Unsplash

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