Category Archives: laughter

Life …

is a continuously unfolding journey.  For twenty five years, I have been working as a nurse.  It feels odd to say that as I don’t really feel old enough to have done anything for twenty-five years.  In the beginning, back in the day when nurses still wore hats, I already had a truckload of baggage to carry.  Painful and distressing things that, at times, threatened to destroy the very life I was trying to make for myself.  I had so little to offer the people that I came into contact with for I was so broken and so very vulnerable.  Vulnerability is a handicap.  I know that  it has its place in the perpetual turning of pages, but it makes it no less difficult.  As I sat and listened to the fears and sorrows of patients I came into contact with, I wanted to help them.  I wanted to reach out to them, to comfort them with gentleness and compassion; to tell them everything would be right with the world again.  My problem was that I didn’t believe it and when people have hit the bottom of the world as they know it, they can spot a fraud a mile away.  I wanted to believe it, but so did they and because of that, I could not help them.  I could not comfort them, I could not share any part of myself because I simply didn’t believe that, through my brokenness, I could make a difference in their lives.

As years passed and God continued to refine my life with experiences that were so full of beauty and sorrow and disappointment and pain, something inside me began to change.  A new vision began to emerge.  With each life-changing moment that I encountered, I found that, once I came out the other side, there was both less and more of me.  I was still vulnerable, still insecure, but somewhere along the way, strength began to build inside me.  I began to relate to people on a more personal level, to be able to look them in the eye and try to comfort them with what was born in my heart from my own experiences and know, even as I was saying it, that I could trust it; that the patterns of my life had shifted yet again and an understanding that I simply couldn’t share before began to take shape.  I found that I no longer looked past their pain so I wouldn’t have to share mine, but faced it head on.  I held the hand of a woman who had lost her husband and two sons in a car crash and we cried together.  I hugged tightly the man who just found out his wife of thirty years was dying and he shared his sorrow with me.  I touched the face of a young man who had tried to take his own life and I felt as though I knew his thoughts, for in my own head, the same thoughts had circulated.   I’ve taken so many of them home with me.  I hear their sobbing, see the disillusionment on their face, feel their sorrow in my heart; I pray for them.

This time of year is difficult for so many people.  Those who dread the long days and empty nights, the thoughts and imaginings that seem to come unbidden even as they watch the celebrations going on around them.  They plant a smile on their face, a smile that never reaches their eyes, and try to be part of what is going on because the other choice is just too painful.  Sometimes it is easier to deny that we have pain in our heart than to share it with others.  It’s everywhere.  The worry, fear and anxiety that comes when the rest of the world is coming together in fellowship and joy, celebrating life and happiness.  It is so easy, at this time, to forget to be true to ourselves.  To let the memories flow, the sorrows burst through, the pain shatter again, even if only for a moment.  Without the purging there can never be healing.  And well, for those of us who are vulnerable and so easily hurt by words and actions, it is a bit more difficult.  But nothing lasts forever.  Not sorrow.  Not happiness.  Not youth.  Not life.

When all is said and done, this is the only life I have to live and while it may be imperfect in so many ways, there are moments that are so beautiful that they take my breath away.  It is these moments that I cling to when I feel that there is no one who understands me.  I remember the people I have cried with, the ones who have shared their burdens with me and it brings me comfort to know that even though I am vulnerable, I am not alone.  The world is full of us and sometimes, just having someone to listen and know, that as they listen, they understand, is as close to a miracle as we can get.  Let what you’ve done and what you’ve experienced help to define you in some way, but don’t let it consume you.  There are people who need to know that you have been there and that you can relate to them.  Our lives decorate the lives of those around us even as they decorate ours.  This year, during the “season of giving”, give what only you can; a little piece of yourself.

When laughter won’t come

I can feel it coming on.  The darkness.  First, only around the edges, creeping in like a dense fog that I know will, if it continues, consume me and completely separate me from everything except the thoughts that swirl in my head.  Thoughts that taunt me with hurtful things and imaginings, making me cry, then weep, then become angry in a way that I cannot grasp.  Words and faces become harder to focus on and forgetfulness struggles to keep me bound within the prison that is rapidly surrounding me.  The walls close in and yet I cannot bear the thought of getting out because then the vastness of space overtakes what bit of sanity I feel I have left.  I look around at the beauty I saw only yesterday and find it colorless and lacking and am even more saddened that it holds no interest to me and for that moment in time, I can’t find it within myself to care about anything.  Music, which is a source of great enjoyment becomes, instead of melodies, waves of noise that threaten to send me over the edge.  I become isolated by my own insecurities and emptiness and there is nowhere to go and to no one that I can turn.  At least that is how I feel during these dark days.

From one end of the house to the other, I pace, pace and pace some more.  Food doesn’t appeal, and all I can think of is how angry I feel.  There is never any warning before these days come, they just come.  Sometimes the darkness lasts for a day and others for several days.  I can’t sleep or think.  Working is a chore as it takes every fiber of my being to do my job without screaming, crying or just collapsing in pile of despair. I hope the phone will ring, that someone will call just so that I know there is another human on the planet that cares about me and at the same time, I can’t bear to talk to anyone.  There is nothing to say and no way to say it without sounding like a complete nut.  Forcing a smile becomes second nature for without it, there are the questions of what’s wrong? Are you ok?  Why are you so quiet?  And there are no answers to these questions.  What could I possibly say?  That I just want to disappear into a mist of nothingness until whatever it is that is consuming me goes away?  And then comes the niggling thought that maybe I’ll feel like this forever and that the laughter will never come back into my life and the despair overtakes me.

I spend a lot of time avoiding God, or at least trying to.  While I try to run from Him, He is steadily waiting for me to come to Him.  I find that I cannot out-wait God.  His mercy and patience far exceeds anything that I can even fathom.  I cry out to Him to take this darkness from me because I cannot fight it alone.  It is a scary place to be, where screams won’t come, laughter is lost and there is no release from the constriction that threatens to suffocate me.

And then, a ray, small at first, but a ray … and then a note, then a melody, then a bubble of laughter.  The darkness opens up and hope shines through, a bright beacon in what has been a harrowing space in time.  The smile becomes genuine and my heart, once heavy and burdened, becomes lighter.  The mercy and grace from a patient and loving God opens the door and I am able to walk through, safe again from the depression that would, if it could, destroy me.

It is usually at this time that I crash, sleeping twelve or more hours at a time, waking to feel groggy and hung over, but better nonetheless.  After the crash comes the healing.  It isn’t possible to explain to someone who has never experienced spirals of depression how it feels.  It is not possible to explain to a Christian how I can be so hopeless and still believe in a marvelous God.  Just because I cannot find it within myself to come out of the darkness doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the light.  For now, the moment has passed.  Maybe it will be years before it happens again.  Maybe it will never happen again.  Or maybe I will wake up in the morning feeling as though the floor of my world has fallen away and I, too am falling into nothingness.  But until then, I will glorify God, shoot my Pentax and bask in a life worth living.

If you suffer from episodes of depression, you are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed about.  While it may seem that you are in a world of one, you are not.  Hope doesn’t desert us when we give up on it, it just waits until we are able to look for it again.  And, as always, it is there and with it comes the laughter.