Befriending the Darkness
The winter had never seemed so long or dark to me until our oldest child entered the world of high school swimming.
From November through January, we arose at 4:30 am three days a week for morning practice. My husband teaches at the school, so while he prepared for his day and Michael ate breakfast, I packed lunches and snacks. By 5:15 am, they bundled themselves and their books, swim gear, and lunches into the car and set out in the cold and dark.
Occasionally I would go back to bed until the next wave of activity with our other two children, but most often the silence beckoned.
I’m not really a morning person, but having to be up created an opportunity for the contemplative solitude that I relish. I poured a cup of coffee, picked up the psalms and my journal, and sat down in our living room, turning the club chair around to look east out of the picture window.
This ritual soon became akin to slipping into a hot bath, a luxurious time to savor. Eventually I turn a lamp on low to read scripture and write, but always I begin with the enveloping darkness.
Michael’s swimming days are now past, but the practice of morning darkness continues as my mainstay of self-care while parenting teens.
Their lives are very busy with homework, extracurricular commitments, friends, family, etc. Such competing demands create periodic stress and require my help in myriad ways, often on short notice, from running errands for project supplies and library books, to delivering forgotten items to school, to taking up the slack on chores. Depending on the day, these mundane tasks seem more or less burdensome, but I know that doing them conveys love in a language that teenagers understand.
More challenging are the situations for which simple solutions are unavailable, like heartbreak over not getting the part or frustrations with a teacher. It is very difficult to witness your child’s distress and be powerless to affect it.
Tending to these physical and spiritual needs of my teenagers, I’ve learned that the morning darkness is in fact a necessity rather than a luxury. I simply must anchor myself if I am to provide any steadying influence for them.
During any upheaval, the best response for me is to sit in the silent dark and listen for inner wisdom.
When there were tensions in our daughter’s group of friends over plans for an upcoming dance, she felt very hurt by a close friend. Angry text messages were exchanged one evening, jeopardizing the relationship. I maintained relative calm with Kieran, but inside I was seething at this mean girl who had upset my child.
The next morning, ensconced in the nurturing darkness, I could allow the painful emotions to well up, elicit tears, and dissipate into a more rational viewpoint that naturally led into prayers for all the girls.
The light seeps over the horizon, and I’m ready for a new day.
. . .
Peg Conway is a writer in Cincinnati, Ohio.
She is the author of Embodying the Sacred: A Spiritual Preparation for Birth and blogs about life and faith at pegconway.com.