“Trying to understand is like straining through muddy water. Have the patience to wait! Be still and allow the mud to settle.” -Lao Tzu from Tao Te Ching
I read Tao Te Ching about 10 years ago and it struck a deep chord in me but it wasn’t until the events with my daughter unfolded that I really could see the words and understand fully their meaning. The darkness of the days that surrounded her wish to end her life and subsequent hospitalization felt like the kind of darkness that not even a flood light could illuminate. At the time I asked silently and sometimes out loud to nobody “Why”? Why was this happening to us? Why was this happening to her? I needed to know why. Was it because I cheated on my French regents exam (we all did by the way off of the kid who lived in France and was fluent)? Was it because she fell off the changing table in the mall when she was 9 months old? Was it because I ate soft cheese while I was pregnant and tuna fish? I kept asking why and all I got was silence.
I was asking the wrong question. The why now seems so easy. In order to know light we need to embrace the dark. In order to know how to navigate the rough waters of life we must learn to do so blind with no life preserver to save us when we go over board. What I should have been asking is what do I draw from to aid me on this journey in the dark. Where do I gather strength and comfort and resolve to get up each day, put my big girl pants on and find my way with a blindfold over my eyes in the middle of a hurricane. The question never should have been why but how. And really the question was not how because I already knew how even though I didn’t think I knew how. Because of course I knew how somewhere deep down inside of me. When you love somebody so much you know that you will do whatever it takes to help them through the illness and the despair and the hardship and the darkness. The question really should have been how long do I have to sit with this.
In order to know the light I needed to know the dark. In order to know the happiness I had to know the immense sadness. In order to see beauty again I had to swim around in the ugly. In the time that all of this happened my house went to shit, my body went to shit, my world went to shit. My health went to shit. I was literally swimming in shit. And it sucked really, really hard. It wasn’t until I stopped trying to understand and stopped trying to strain against the shit and just sat with it and allowed it all to settle that I could see the other side and make sense of it all. I am forever grateful to great thinkers who provide words around all of these immense feelings. I am grateful to my yoga practice and my friends and my family and my pets for holding me up while I sat in the muddy mucky shit for what seemed like forever. And let me tell you, the shower has never felt so good. So here’s to sitting in the shit for long periods of time and the beauty of the shower that comes after. Cheers.