“In a dark night of the soul all the ways you have become accustomed to tasting the sacred dry up and fall away. All concepts of the Holy One evaporate. You are plunged into a darkness so impenetrable that you are convinced it will never lift. You may flail about for something — anything — to prop you up, but you grasp only emptiness.” Mirabai Starr
I am a mystic lost in a dark night of the soul. On November 9, 2012, when my doctor called to tell me I was pregnant, I shut God/Universe/Sacred/what-the-fuck-ever out of my heart. Or maybe the Universe turned its back on me. Or maybe I realized the Sacred is just a story we made up to make the traumas of life bearable. Whatever the truth may be, I’ve been adrift ever since.
This never happened to me before.
I’ve been a God Lover since I was a little girl growing up in the church. I remember how much I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart at 5 years old. I felt held by Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, Goddess the Mother, Cosmic Consciousness, the benevolent Universe, and the Beloved over the course of my spiritually driven life. My perception of who/what was holding me evolved over time, but my knowing that I was in a loving relationship to something bigger than me was constant. I don’t remember having one moment of doubt, no matter how hard things got. And my devotion was a deep force in my life, shaping my story in significant ways.
Yet the past three years I’ve been flailing about, hiding from the deep pain of getting pregnant and how it altered the future I dreamed of my entire adult life. I tried to prop myself up with our family’s beautiful love story. I propped myself up on being perceived as special (enough for a national reporter to notice me/us), strong, inspiring, courageous, generous, and all the other qualities that people see in the narrative of triumph I’ve been telling the world. I tried to create meaning by intellectually framing this whole experience through my path of radical mysticism, including my birth mother grief.
Simultaneously I haven’t been myself. I live in denial and avoidance. When it surfaces I stuff my pain back down with food, television, wine, and weed. I am unusually quiet, speaking and writing little about my journey. I express little creativity, which is traditionally a spiritual practice for me. Other than going deeper into my relationship with my fiancé, I don’t feel deeply connected to the people in my life, or to my greater community. I avoid getting more intimate with people when opportunities are offered, or even when connection is needed to keep the relationship healthy. Everything I do feels sort of empty, as if it doesn’t really matter. I can’t seem to find meaning and purpose anymore. When I do, it soon slips away and I am back in this emptiness.
Can you imagine how difficult it is for me to hear from people that I am courageous, strong, amazing when inside I actually feel shattered, lost, and that I’ve failed the people I love by not being present?
I am amazed at our capacity as humans to repress the most painful emotions from ourselves. Now I am consciously aware of the fog of denial that I’ve lived in the past three years. Now I recognize the grief that feels so big I’ll drown, and the confusion that causes constant low-grade anxiety, and the terrible anger.
I can’t describe in words the rage I feel toward God/Universe/Sacred/what-the-fuck-ever that I’ve been repressing because I am supposed to be a Radical Mystic, head over heels in love with the Divine. This is the identity and the meaning that carried me through all of the previous trauma I experienced in my life. So what happens if I’ve shut God out? What if I’m not in love with the Divine anymore? Or what the Sacred is just a concept we’ve created to make life bearable? Where does that leave me and everything I’ve believed about myself and my place in the Universe?
At this moment I don’t believe God, if there is one of any sort, has my best interest in mind.
I don’t feel held. I feel betrayed.
I will never ever say that our son is an accident or mistake because I chose to give birth to him. I sat with all of my choices and I deliberately chose to bring him into the world. I am grateful that I made that choice every single day. He is an incredible little human and the world is brighter because he is in it.
But getting pregnant was an accident. We made a mistake not using birth control that one time. And this seemingly little mistake put me in an impossible situation. Finding out I was pregnant was traumatic. In my case, under our circumstances, every choice was traumatic. Every choice would involve immense grief: either the grief of killing a baby (at 18 weeks he was a tiny human); the grief of giving away my baby and the privilege of being his Mommy; or the grief of everything I would lose to motherhood again, the freedom and autonomy I had been dreaming of for 20 years. The only possible happy ending is the one I would forge because I am talented at turning really fucked up circumstances into beautiful narratives of triumph.
Except I am fucking weary of crafting narratives of triumph.
I am tired of being resilient and strong and overcoming.
I am sick of grief, the heaviness and the chaos of it.
I am hurting more than I ever anticipated when our son was an abstract idea moving around in my belly. Now he is a quirky and clever little person and I am head over heels in love with him, broken hearted that I cannot – chose not – to be his Mommy. I can’t say I regret my choice, but it’s harder to overcome the chaotic emotions that storm inside me than I ever thought it would be. There is a biological grief, a grief in my body that tells me I am supposed to be taking care of him and protecting him, like my cells are whispering “mine, mine, mine” when I am in the same room with him. My body and my heart wish that things could be different, even though my mind says this is exactly how it should be, how it needs to be.
I am lost.
I am going to therapy to try to process through this phase of grief. I am reading the writings of others who have experienced the dark night, including a modern translation of the original Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross. I am trying to find the meaning in God giving me a lifetime of grief. And while I am raging at God, I am also connecting with non-traditional Christians through memoirs and podcasts that are resonating with me. As if in some strange way I am being led back to my faith of origin.
I know I’m full of contradictions and I am ok with that. I am forever in process. Am I still a radical mystic? I don’t know. I’m allowing myself to fall apart and take the time to put the pieces back together in a way that feels healthy and good to me. I have no idea where God and I will end up on the other side.