As it so happened, I learned about the dark night of the soul right as I was going through my own.
As it always happens. And I can never really say whether it’s because we are simply seeking out what we need, or perhaps God/the Universe puts things in our path right as we need them. But I can say I prefer the second concept way more than the first.
I learned about it from two separate places, from two different avenues, at almost the exact same time — and both on the eve of it all, right as my night had hit dusk. Around the same time my father was rushed to the ER and curveballs had been thrown my way and precious items were starting to tumble from the shelves. When I was desperate to run from the darkness, only to find myself running deeper into the twilight instead.
Dark night of the soul. By definition, a complete and devastating eruption of your life. A collapse in everything you once thought was true and infallible and unshakeable. What was once a 16th century poem is now the term for when it all falls apart and you’re left wondering how you’ll ever redefine such key terms again.
In an obscure night
Fevered with love’s anxiety
(O hapless, happy plight!)
I went, none seeing me
Forth from my house, where all things quiet be
That’s when I learned about it. Right when everything was collapsing. When I was 27, right on the eve of my Saturn return, no less (of course it had to happen at the same time as a Saturn return. Why not get hit from both sides of cosmic continuum. Perhaps it all would’ve been easier if I just believed in shitty luck, if I had adhered to just the former of the two previous concepts).
Dark night of the soul. Nights so tough I would wake up at 2 and just know that sleep had abandoned me. Evenings where my defense mechanisms would abandon me and I would be left sitting on the floor shaking, so hysterical that I couldn’t even make a sound, let alone cry — evenings that showed me a new level of anxiety and panic, that showed me just how debilitating both can be.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart.
They don’t tell you that the night can last years — that you can spend your time in the witching hour, waiting for the sun to rise, convinced that, yes, finally, this time around, I will see the sun, only to find the time stretching on. Your soul is left in the dark for a little while longer.
But the name still fits. The dark night — a reminder that every night is temporary, no matter how long it draws out. The sun also rises, given enough time. Dawn comes if you can wait out the dark, moving forward even if you feel like stopping.
It’s a few days into spring, now. Even in the blistering cold and sudden snowstorms, there is a theme of renewal. In the fall, it will mark two years since my father passed. In the same season, it will be one year since both my brother-in-law and my older siblings’ mother have passed. My little brother now walks without a cane and has, for all intents and purposes, healed from the motorcycle accident.
The parts of my life that tumbled from the shelves — the things that shattered alongside the same timeline — have been slowly pieced back together. Other parts have been deliberately left as fragments — done with attempting to glue them together, or denying that they weren’t broken beyond repair in the first place.
And other things I have decided to take down from the shelf, realizing I no longer have a use for them — realizing that they had lost their meaning in the midst of the tumults and tears.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
I’m on the mend. I can’t count the number of people I’ve said that to. Those who’ve checked in, who continue to check in. I’d surrendered to the eruption and the changes, surrendered to the annihilation. I continue to surrender to the plan in place for me — and continue to have faith that I am on a path, destined and created by God/the Universe Himself, and that the things that were not meant to be on that path have simply been ripped from the dirt. I have faith that I lost what I needed to lose, even if it still leaves me in a state of imbalance.
Because that’s the idea of the dark night, the Saturn return. If you can hang tight and pull through, you will emerge on the other side transformed. If you can utilize the destructive force, you will rebuild better and more authentically you. It’s a trial by fire that burns away the things that never should’ve been there in the first place. You just have to be ready to abandon what needs to be abandoned and confront what needs to be confronted. “There is no rebirth without a dark night of the soul,” – a quote from Inayat Khan.
“Birth always feels like death from the inside,” – I’m positive that’s a Stephen King quote, but I’ve yet to be able to find it anywhere online.
I had spent the last three years waiting for the sun to rise. And as the dawn toes in, softening the world around me, I stare off into the horizon, appreciating the glow with a new set of eyes, and ready like hell to make use of the day.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.
excerpts from Dark Night of the Soul, St John of the Cross