A post by Peregrine.
Today I look back on it as my first of two Dark Night of the Soul seasons. At the time, I despaired my plummeting capacity to even be alive, my desperation for support, understanding, and air in the suffocating heat, my experience of myself as only a burden on those I dared to invite into my support community.
Our first month in India we had lived with a dear family in their slum home, receiving care as if we were their real kids and joining fully into their family. I loved it, was in awe, humbled, grateful. By the end though I was just a little desperate to start my own home space, having control of the food I’d eat above all.
From there, I proceeded into my crash by moving into a far-from-sustainable little room we called the “Pink Dungeon,” which was supposed to be our “rest” spot as we also began a month-long city search for a more permanent home. The lack of available space in the densely-populated slum led us to land in a windowless room, the sole door leading to a communal washing room which in turn connected to a one-person-wide alley bracketed by walls twenty meters high. Temperatures reached 120 F as hot season peaked, the electricity disappearing and fans stopping for several hours every day and night. At one point the intermittent water failed to come for three days and we had to carry it in with buckets from a city tap. This was a great burden in our exhausted, limited capacity, but also a relief in a manner for Stranger from the stuffy humidity that filled our room when the washing room water was running. In my distress, I didn’t notice the relief.
As fresh newcomers we were just barely getting words together to start communicating and understanding the world in which we were living, adjusting to culture, and building new relationships with other foreigners trying to do the same thing. As a person who thrives on routine and stability, I had nowhere internally or externally to root. I didn’t have much insight at the time, but my capacity drained down more and more until I could no longer join Stranger and the others in their travels, spending most of each day simply laying on the relatively cool concrete.
Finally, on the recommendation of the our friends in the slum, we took two months out for counseling and rest at a heavenly place in Thailand where I slowly revived in the beauty, rhythms, and care available there. Through counseling I became able to see that my old rigid ways of being, which had only been slightly challenged by my early life in the U.S., had totally broken down and crippled me in the difficulty of what I was trying to do. I had to embrace the God I had only glimpsed and intellectually known as Grace, Abundance, Spaciousness, and Beauty. I had to stop only wearing hand-me-down itchy clothes that I felt frumpy in and stop comparing myself to our foreigner friends who had already been thriving in slums for seventeen years. I identified lots of practical ways of facilitating healthy rhythms for myself, time to play, places of beauty, exercise, and rest. Mostly, I just expanded inwardly which affected my vision of the external and my demands on myself.
The building of myself had collapsed and I became willing to sit in the rubble. Eventually, I found flowers and grass springing up, and realize I am meant to be a living, evolving garden instead.