Friday, August 27, 2010


The top ten ways I know I’m feeling worse again:

10. I only want to eat ice cream or pancakes with butter
(a problem since I don’t eat sugar or wheat, though my friend Sita makes the most amazing flourless pancakes)
9. Have trouble being alone
8. Am physically exhausted
7. Am not sleeping well
6. Nothing seems interesting
5. Nothing feels possible
4. I can’t find one thing to write about
3. I cry while walking the dog
2. I actively wonder what it is that other people live for...

And the number one way... (you know the drill...)

The dark hole feels easily within arm’s reach once again.

I had a window, a little one sure, but a window nonetheless. Enough of one that I can tell the difference between then and now. Where things looked a little brighter, the dark hole farther away. In the past few days, it’s clouded up again.

Tomorrow I up the dosage on my medication…

I was reading this morning about Mother Teresa’s long and harrowing dark night. How she lived nearly half a century—fifty years—in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. It began with her work in Calcutta and lasted, except for a five-week break in 1959, until her death. In letter after letter to her superiors and confidants, she wrote of feeling no sense of God whatsoever; of the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness,” “torture,” how the experience “felt like hell,” and how she, “doubted the existence of heaven and even of God.” She wrote that her smile was "a mask,” a “cloak that covers everything.” Of the many, many letters she wrote over the years, forty remain, and it is her words that tell her story in the book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, compiled and edited by Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk.

I have so many responses. Sadness. Surprise. Compassion. Resonance. Curiosity. But more than anything, I am blown away by her ability to be so honest, her fearlessness in putting her experience so simply, so eloquently, so permanently down on paper. In other letters, she nearly begs for all the letters to be destroyed, and most of them were, but enough remain that the picture is fully painted. Kept by those who knew her best because they knew that this was an integral part of who she was, and how she should be fully known and remembered.

And in a strange way (and maybe this is their thinking) I am inspired; stirred and encouraged to move ever deeper into my own experience. To look, seek, quest, wander, let go, dive in. As long as I’m here, why not make the most of it...? I will become a spelunker, I will don hard hat and carry a halogen lamp, I will bring ropes and picks, and I will climb, crawl, repel, dig, explore my way through this cavern that I find myself in. I will investigate the entire cave system; the emotional branch, the psychological branch, the chemical, the spiritual. I will endeavor to leave the resistance and drama behind, and walk, fueled by curiosity and wonder and as much objectivity as humanly possible. When I can, I will report from the scene with more simplicity and less flair, and with her as inspiration, with as much simple, gut-level candor as I am able to muster.

Though she and I had differing opinions over major things, I have long admired and felt humbled by Mother Teresa’s work. And now, more than ever. Not just because she suffered, but because she told the truth about her suffering. Again and again and again. In copious letters that filled more than one huge trunk she poured out her dark night, her soul.

"I am told God lives in me -- and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul"

Substitute any word for God and it is my experience. I am told that love lives in me… I am told that life lives in me… I am told that compassion lives in me... I am told that all things live in me... and yet...

I have been in a few caves. The big, commercial ones. Here are a couple of things I know: Only in complete darkness can light truly be seen and known; and, in those deep, dark, caverns is some of the most mysterious beauty nature has to offer.


  1. Nice post, Debby, and I even got a shout-out!

    I feel sad for Mother Theresa, that she suffered for so long.

    Good luck with the spelunking. I love the way you write and I look forward to hearing more about your true experience.

  2. Thank you, Sita, for the comment and for cooking me all those delicious pancakes. Glad you enjoyed the shout-out (and now I know what a shout-out is!! So far behind :)

    I know... I can't stop thinking about her, her wrinkled little apple doll face, all that she accomplished in her life, and yet such personal agony.

    Thanks for reading my musings.


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