H. A. Byrd

Baby Sees Its Shadow For The First Time, Again 

What is this darkness attached to my feet—and could I be a frog? This confusing world places the unknown in my path all the time. Shadows and mysteries are part of life, often accompanied by pain and frustration. But unlike the baby in the photo, I have the wisdom of my age to illuminate the shadows for me.

This week I could have used that wisdom to recognize the signs, to see it coming. But I didn’t. I’d set out to write another book review. It was all good fun. I picked out a fantasy written by a famous author known for the lyrical beauty of her work. Coffee in hand, cats crowded on my lap, I leaned back in happy anticipation. I liked the feel of this book already. But my joy faded quickly, and then I fell.

Even with the benefit of experience, things come full circle to show me that I am a child. In this instance, I endured a short dark night of the soul. Had this been a book I found by chance somewhere, when done I would have reviewed it as constructively as I could, given it three stars, and moved on. After all, this author has obvious skill and there is a lot about the story that I do love. But this is a five-star author. Everybody loves her work. The public, the literary critics. What is wrong with me?

My darkness grew. I sought the comfort of dear friends. This helped me to put the book in perspective. It’s okay if my opinion goes against the grain. Some light crept back in, enough for me to write the review.

But the next day, I fell apart. In the black, foulest part of my depths, I was completely broken up. What hypercritical thinking I have! Who am I to criticize a successful, popular author. Am I that insecure? And this isn't the first time. I’ve gone to the book store and cried my way home. What is wrong with me? I sank deeper and down.

Across the cultures of the world are teachings about what happens to the human soul during times of challenge and the resulting growth. In most instances there are allusions to destruction of our old ideas and the rebirth of our capacity for thought. This week, I was dismembered by gremlins or maybe hell-hounds. Torn apart; I was done. I meant it. That’s it. No more writing. No more fooling with an activity that’s obviously way too much for me. I’m an embarrassment. An utter idiot. From now on I’ll just watch TV and eat chips, and sleep. I reached the point that, in childbirth, they call the transition. It’s the hardest part of labor, but it signals the birth is near. It's when moms tend to yell, “I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to do this!”

And yet, here’s the part I should have seen coming, because this isn’t the first time I have ridden this pony. As soon as I made the declaration, “I’m done!” the optimist I am, hopping in on lucky rabbit feet, lifted my inner lamp, inspired, probably, by a kind word from my son. Judging myself so harshly was doing me no good. The silly rabbit got me to remember that I can catch the thoughts that trouble my mind—pull them right out of the air and examine them. I can clap my hands and break them into harmless pieces. Often it’s the thoughts that need to be broken to pieces, not the person.

I am not going to allow conditions which I don’t understand or can’t control to darken my mood and dominate me. There is always something I can do. In this case, I can learn from others. Like the baby in the photo, I have the wisdom of the ages available to help illuminate the shadows for me. I have a lot to learn. But I have a lot to say along the way.

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