I love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.
Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that’s wide and timeless. -Rainer Maria Rilke
On my 18th happy day now. You chance on a moment, take a snapshot, and shout out #100happydays to the tiny world you carry around in your pocket. Except. What about those days when it’s an ordinary day and no matter how much filter you use, the color’s a drab gray? What about #100ordinarydays #nofilter?
Bright hues, smiling faces, a perfectly composed day in the sun. But I reckon life happens mostly in the grays. In between the bright and beautiful. In between those days when things fall from heaven. Happy is a second, maybe 20 minutes. But dull, muted, unremarkable, even ugly, miserable, dark, those are spent in hours, in days, and I am often there.
And why can’t I shout that out?
How my plates and bowls are chipped in parts and I don’t have enough cutlery for a party. Or that the garden is now overgrown with weeds and barren in patches; that the vegetable beds are parched and dry; and that I am still waiting to prop up the climbing vines we had planted a year ago. Or even that I can’t smile without creases and folds or the decades of suntan showing up as sunspots.
And what about less than ideal? That I snap at my adorable daughter who knows exactly how to smile as though all is well. Or that I can get so tired of living by the rules of rhythm so that on some days, my children have nothing to do but linger. And that they have plastic toys. Or eat pizza.
Go darker than gray. Life happens on those days when I wake up wanting to slip quietly back to dreamland. Days with nothing to show for except that I lay waste time on my screen, wondering about purpose or having none at all. Dull days when I want to jump into a painting or step into a puddle: “please take me elsewhere.” That I sometimes wish there were less birdsong or whispering trees so I could just drown out life without guilt. That maybe I have squandered days despairing on what’s not there. Half-awake. Didn’t witness the gloaming as the sky changed into a luminous pink. Dismissed my children’s “Look mama!” with a glance and uh-huh, forgetting they were even there. That one can repeatedly slip, break, get entangled, and that I occasionally prefer to stay in the shadows. Ho-hum.
We live in muted tones. Our stories happen in the gloom, in tear-stained faces, in unkempt homes, in shabby pajamas, in next best things, in the dark. And #100happydays? That’s the exclamation point, the highlight, the bit shouted out.
Otherwise, we’re rolling with humdrum everyday, and the humdrum adds up to years, to chinks, and wrinkles, and age spots. We endure the chipped and broken, live with choked and overgrown, make the best of the marks that prove time at the beach or smiling. Less than ideal, we are most often there. So we compromise, we settle, and we concede. And then live with the day after. Swallow the alcohol, the sugar, the pizza, and then attempt wholesome tomorrow. Remember to glance up and pay attention next time someone calls: the sky, your daughter, life itself.
“Our emotional life maps our incompleteness: A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger. But for that very reason we are often ashamed of our emotions, and of the relations of need and dependency bound up with them… So people flee from their inner world of feeling, and from articulate mastery of their own emotional experiences…We are all going to encounter illness, loss, and aging, and we’re not well prepared for these inevitable events by a culture that directs us to think of externals only, and to measure ourselves in terms of our possessions of externals.-Martha Nusbaum”
I don’t want to lose the dark and the gloom unlived. I will talk about it. How frightened I am on some days, how vulnerable, how tired, how needy. Happy doesn’t cut it. Those bad days when I wish I could swim to the ocean floor and padlock myself? They put the bright and beautiful into perspective. Those days give a different hue, the contrast to stark white. Days of bliss, days of dread, days of seemingly nothing, they make up the fullness of life. So I’m shouting it out. #100ordinarydays #nofilter
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar